A Pendle shirt manufacturer is celebrating 40 years in business.
And the Chatburn family which owns Acorn Fabrics on Nelson’s Lomeshaye Industrial Estate can point to a tradition in textiles dating back 90 years and spanning four generations.
It all started with Arthur Chatburn, who was a managing director of Thomas Mason Ltd in Burnley Road, Colne, from 1928 to 1970. The mill was a major employer in Pendle at the time.
During this time, his son John joined the company and became a senior manager.
In 1975, Thomas Mason was bought by Courtaulds. John, who was still working for the company, did not like the direction the firm was going so took the brave decision to start his own business.
While working for Thomas Mason, he realised they had a warehouse full of fabric that was commission woven for specific customers but for various reasons was not wanted.
This left a varied miss match assortment of fabrics which has very hard to sell. So in John’s new venture, he decided to weave fabrics he knew could sell and that would look attractive as a collection. This meant weaving the fabric first and hoping to get orders for it, which was not without risk. However this stock service meant he could supply companies who only wanted smaller amounts of fabric and couldn’t match the minimum order quantities of the larger mills.
So Acorn was born in its initial guise as a small shop in Milnthorpe, Cumbria, offering a small range of fabrics.
It was during this time John began travelling down to London twice a week which was necessary to obtain orders due to the lack of communication technology at the time. This was also the time Acorn’s relationship with London’s bespoke shirtmaking community was established. The highest density of shirt makers and tailors at the time and still today was Jermyn Street and the famous Savile Row.
As the business grew, Acorn moved to Skipton then, in 1985, to a modern, purpose-built premises here in Nelson.
It was soon after this John’s eldest son Chris joined the company, then 10 years later the youngest son James joined the fold.
The three generations still work together trying to fulfil an ever growing global demand for fine quality fabric.
Making sure they still service the needs of Savile Row and Jermyn Street, Acorn’s customer base has diversified to designers, theatre and film costume departments, students and lately private individuals with the launch of their e-commerce website.