Lear Browne and Dunsford - Conservative Classics
Background on Lear Brown and Dunsford (1895)
Based in Exeter, England, textile merchant Lear Browne and Dunsford is the parent company that encompasses the esteemed cloth making names of Harrisons of Edinburgh, H. Lesser and Porter and Harding. Having spoken of the quality of Porter and Harding's in our panegyric to corduroy, we wanted to learn more about Lear Browne and Dunsford and how they have prospered since 1895.
James Dunsford - Current Trends in Suiting Cloths
Mark and James Dunsford are the 4th generation of the Dunsford family to be running the business. Thanks to James for taking the time to speak with us.
We asked James how the company has stayed robust. "Three main factors. Family Shareholding only. Reinvestment in the business every year. Sticking to our guns when it comes to buying cloth. We basically only stock British material."
The UK is Lear Browne and Dunsford's largest market. Outside the UK it's the U.S.A., Japan, and Italy. British products are generally popular in the States, what with the historic and linguistic ties, but Italy and Japan are always mentioned when we ask about this sort of thing. The Italians and the Japanese are knowledgeable, seek out quality and demand the best - in a British sense that might mean a Brooks saddle for their bike or some real stilton. Quality will out in those markets.
Dunsford's best selling fabrics are Harrisons Super 100s Premier Cru (sample below) and H. Lesser 11oz suiting.
James says the company is looking to develop the business in China, India and Korea. A Made In the UK label will be eagerly sought-out in these new markets.
Tip - Check You Are Buying 2-fold
All Lear Browne and Dunsford's suiting cloths are manufactured 2-fold, meaning two threads are twisted together both warp and left to give better strength. James advises, "Today many cloths are produced single weft, which will make the cloth softer to handle but weaker in the long term. So your readers should check if single weft is used or not!"
Conservative Classics and the Changing Perception of Tweed
Lear Browne and Dunsford have a large archive of cloths from their subsidiaries and are aware of trends in taste, but, as James says, their strength lies in "selling conservative classics".
The company has made it a goal to preserve their heritage, but they have also adapted to change and embraced it. For example, James has noticed the change in perception to tweed. "Tweed at the moment is different, and we have a much stronger look than before with the likes of Glenroyal (top). We have seen the most notable change in end-user. The stereotypical farmer wearing tweed has long, long gone."
Tweedy's thought: As we've said on a few occasions, when mass culture means piercings, flip-flops, and throwaway fast fashion, hunting out quality and dressing smartly in conservative classics never felt more rebellious.