Following my interview with Deborah Meaden, I travelled west to the home of Fox Brothers in Wellington, Somerset to visit Douglas Cordeaux, Meaden's business partner and managing director of the renowned cloth weaver.
The takeover itself was serendipitous. Cordeaux initially approached the previous owners in an attempt to licence the name for a ready to wear collection. One thing led to another and he and Meaden found themselves the owners of the company.
Current operations are in an industrial unit just up the hill from the original mill which lies in a state of decay however plans are afoot to reoccupy part of the original buildings in the near future. Between the old and new locations lies the Counting House, a beautiful building that Fox still occupy, using it as a showroom. It houses the immaculately kept archive from the distant past as well as 'The Merchant Fox' collection, their collaborative project that works with and celebrates local artisans by creating limited edition pieces.
As discussed previously with Meaden, Fox once upon a time employed up to 5000 people, now the work force is just 24. As high volume weaving has moved to the lower wage parts of the world, the company has adapted to become a smaller provider of exquisitely made cloth. Under Cordeaux's stewardship it appears to be succeeding; the recent addition of two new £250k looms shows the owners' commitment to investing in the business and greatly increases productivity.
Former Anderson & Shepherd tailor Brian Smith is resident at the factory; he visits London and the US and can be contacted through the Fox Brothers website. Cordeaux tells me that a Japanese gentleman recently flew in so he could personally hand pick the cloth for his wedding suit. Preserving its reputation earned in the past two hundred years is what will enable the company to thrive for the next hundred.
-Text and photos by Christian Price