How John Smedley stole a march on knitwear

In September 2017, we visited the John Smedley factory in Derbyshire – home to what is difficult to argue against, some of the world’s finest knitwear. The site at Lea Mills was founded in 1784 and has been handling fine fabrics ever since. And it’s this niche that makes their knitwear so good. Focusing on one area, one category, this makes by default and experience – an expert. And the end result – some of the world’s finest knitwear. This alone isn’t always a recipe for commercial success however – a business needs a talented Managing Director, an modern design team, skilled staff, marketing abilities and much more. Fortunately this is something John Smedley have – a handle on twenty-first century business, and this combined with a first class product, is the recipe for success.


View from the John Smedley factory at Lea Mills

And there is no better of example of this, than in the brands’ Spring Summer 2018 collection – seen for the first time at John Smedley‘s inaugural catwalk show at London Men’s Fashion Week, the Derbyshire brand launched its ‘Precision/Fluidity’ collection. Containing many firsts for the brand, the collection is packed with new development, yet still remains true to the heritage of the company. A perfect blend of my opening paragraph.


Everyday items are seen in their most essential forms and functions, and are largely kept simple and free from distractions in order to retain the focus on the most important aspects. This allows the shapes and materials of the collection to be finely tuned in order to provide an elegant balance of pleasing aesthetics and simplistic practicality. The juxtaposition of the high concept of the collection alongside its low maintenance aspect gives an added sense of sustainability.


In menswear, new collar and shirt shapes have been introduced, and one of the high points of the collection includes the John Smedley menswear suit, which is tailored to give a sharp impression and feature’s John Smedley’s extra fine merino wool and wild silk lining. The signature style will be available exclusively from the brand’s Jermyn Street store, which celebrated its one year anniversary during this year’s London Men’s Fashion Week.


John Smedley’s archive provided much inspiration for the collection, particularly within the theme of fluidity. An Asian influence sees the emblem of the season being derived from an original watercolour of Japanese Koi, which was brought to England by John Smedley 11 in the 1930s upon returning from his first trip to Japan.


John Smedley’s knitwear products are renowned throughout the world, and the business is still family owned to this day. The company is still based at the same site at which it was founded, and continues to innovate while also retaining the traditional techniques it has been using for more than two centuries. All we can see is – we look forward to the next two centuries.


The Spring/Summer 2018 ‘Precision/Fluidity’ Collection, by JOHN SMEDLEY

Chris Beastall

Chris is the Founder and Editor of Ape to Gentleman. His interests lie in men's style, male grooming and leading a better lifestyle - through minimalist, basic and clean design.