As she made her way from Leeds to Lancaster, the Princess of Wales toured textile manufacturers, coming into contact with a personal and royal history.
Starting her day at AW Hainsworth in Leeds, Catherine was given a tour and met with employees. AW Hainsworth has familial ties to the Princess of Wales. Her paternal ancestors, Noel and Olive Middleton, owned a local woolen manufacturer and merchant William Lupton and Co., which was sold to AW Hainsworth in 1958.
To the employees, it was obvious Catherine had spoken to her father about their family’s history in preparation for her visit: “She had had a chat with her parents, and they had been filling her in,” Rachel Taylor, a member of the Hainsworth family whose father was the sixth generation running the company.
AW Hainsworth, which holds a royal warrant, supplies fabric to the royal family, armed forces and for household items. They provided uniforms for the coronations of Queen Elizabeth II and King Charles III. The famous red tunic that guardsman wear at Buckingham Palace caught the Princess’s eye. She was able to see how the garments are made from start to finish, including the red dying process.
One aspect of the work that fascinated the Princess of Wales was the age range of the employees. “She was really interested in the demographic in the mill,” Operational Excellence Director, Zena Al Mausawe says. “We’ve tried very hard to get succession plans in so we have quite a range of very young people and very experienced people, which helps us pass on knowledge and maintain that knowledge in the business.”
The final familial tie for the Princess of Wales was a blue maternity dress she wore when pregnant with Princess Charlotte. AW Hainsworth provided the fabric for the Madderson London dress. It is on display at the mill and upon seeing it, Catherine said: “Oh my goodness, I remember that dress!”
After leaving Leeds, the Princess of Wales headed to Lancaster and its Standfast & Barracks print works factory. The company dates back to 1914 and employs 160 people to produce its traditional prints and its newer, sustainable designs.
Catherine, who herself made an eco-friendly statement by rewearing a favourite green suit, was interested in the new technology that uses digital printing. This more sustainable technique allows each metre of fabric to be produced using approximately 80 litres less water than the traditional way.
Continuing the theme of sustainability, Catherine met the House of Hackney founders who collaborate with Standfast & Barracks, to pioneer sustainable, traceable materials in their work. On this endeavour, the Princess of Wales remarked: “There is a growing need, isn’t there? And some understanding, from the consumer, about where their products come from.”