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The Merchant Fox

PUBLISHED: 08:00 14 June 2013

Archant

Fox Brothers, the renowned woollen and worsted cloth mill, was founded in Somerset in 1772 and over the centuries its luxury cloth has been used by the top fashion houses and worn by the likes of Sir Winston Churchill and Hollywood legend Cary Grant.

At its peak the company employed some 5,000 people and owned and operated nine mills and factories in Somerset, Devon, Galashiels and Oxfordshire.

During the Boer Wars, Fox Brothers developed khaki for the British Army and in the First World War supplied 852 miles of cloth to the MoD for soldiers’ leg puttees.

Many of the people who work at Fox Brothers in Wellington today have followed family members into the business, and the highly skilled weavers are still producing a range of luxury woollen and worsted fabrics for the world’s most discerning and demanding clients.

In 2009, the company received a new lease of life when Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden and her friend and textiles expert Douglas Cordeaux bought the company.

They set about searching for British made luxury goods to complement the wonderful cloths manufactured at the Fox Brothers’ mill.

The Merchant Fox - a sister company to Fox Brothers - opened online in October 2011 and in March this year they opened the showroom as a shop.

Situated in the historic counting house across the road from the mill, it houses a collection from The Merchant Fox brand, which includes accessories made in the finest Fox Flannel fabric, such as caps, scarves and gentleman’s slippers.

A selection of elegant leather pieces are lined with Fox Flannel including iPad sleeves and wash rolls.

The first of Fox Brothers’ clothing collection, the Reefer jacket, made from delightful Fox Brothers cloth, is also available along with The Merchant Fox cufflinks and silk pocket squares.

These are complemented by luxury leather satchels and clutches for ladies.

Investment gifts for the home range from Fox Flannel cushions to bespoke upholstered furniture.

Some of the items are made in workshops, some will be created to order by lone craftsmen working in small studios tucked away in corners of the British Isles, others are made in factories and mills, but the common theme is that each item has provenance, made in this country by genuine craftsmen and craftswomen.

Also on show is Fox Brothers’ historic archive, some of which provides the inspiration behind items created today.

And customers looking for a bespoke shopping experience can help create fine British crafted goods tailored to their own personal preference and made to order.

This exciting new development at the Wellington site comes after Fox Brothers found success with a temporary store in London, as Retail Manager Jo Neades explains.

“We had a pop up shop in December and it was really nice to meet the customers and get their feedback.

“So we opened the shop here on 1st March where customers can see the products. We wanted to have the showroom here because this is our roots.

“The shop is an expansion of Fox Brothers and we are utilising craft from elsewhere and, where we can, we put Fox Flannel in; so our leather iPad case is lined with Fox Flannel making it unique to The Merchant Fox.

“We look for high-quality makers and crafts people in the British Isles, so the leather is from a tannery in Devon where they use traditional methods to tan the leather in oak bark.

“It is about keeping British craft alive.”

The design on the silk scarfs is a recreation of an original artwork discovered at Fox Brothers’ woollen mill and hand printed by silk printers who have been printing fabric in England for more than 300 years.

And the log baskets, hand-woven by Somerset Willow makers, are lined with a traditional waxed cloth from Fox Brothers

The traditional striped blankets, made from the highest quality pure wool yarn, were also inspired by the archive and will keep you wonderfully warm in winter or on a cool summer’s evening.

The stocked range of exclusive Fox Brothers’ Flannels are available, offering bespoke options for those men seeking an individual style.

Dressing gowns, made in collaboration with Budd of Mayfair, can be hand embroidered with initials.

A recent purchaser from Scandinavia expressed his delight with the service and finished dressing gown on his internet blog!

Other examples of collaborations include the stylish Globe-Trotter cases, made exclusively for The Merchant Fox and lined with Fox Brothers’ classic grey flannel lining woven at the Somerset mill.

“Our customers take time in their purchase to make sure they are getting it right.

“It’s an investment to buy something here,” adds Jo.

“The products we sell are pieces that are made to last. We like to think that customers can pass them down to the next generation, so they turn into an heirloom piece.” n

For further information visit the website at themerchantfox.co.uk; call 01823 703907; email:enquiries@themerchantfox.co.uk

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