Wensum Tailoring

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Wensum Tailoring's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Wensum Tailoring is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Savile Row heritage and
Great British innovation
& design
Norwich-based Wensum Tailoring was originally part
of Horne Brothers plc, a high street retailer of men’s
tailored garments. In 1988, Wensum was the subject of
an MBO and relocated from London to Norwich. A year later,
after continued expansion, it floated on the London Stock
Exchange; then employing 350 people in the UK. The Wensum
team decided to offshore manufacturing operations overseas to
Mauritius, and ceased producing tailored garments in the UK
in 2005. Today, their Norwich and Mayfair offices still handle
the sales, design, marketing, development and management
elements of the business. Managing Director Jaspal Calotier tells
TheParliamentary Review
more about the Wensum journey and
discusses the garment manufacturing sector at greater length.
In 2006, less than a year after offshoring all manufacturing operations, our business
was sold to the Hong Kong-based Wing Tai Group, who at that time also owned
the leading Savile Row tailoring house Gieves & Hawkes. At that time, our turnover
was around £2.5 million – this has increased nearly fourfold in the past 12 years, to
a figure approaching £10 million.
The Wensum process
We work with luxury British tailoring brands and discuss the types of suits, jackets
and trousers they would like us to manufacture going forward. This often includes
us working with their in-house design and creative teams to develop styles well
ahead of the current fashion landscape for future seasons.
»Managing Director:
»Founded in 1988.
»Based in Horsham St Faiths,
Norwich, as well as Mayfair,
London and Mauritius
»Services: Design and
manufacture of men’s luxury
tailored suits, jackets, trousers
and overcoats
»No. of employees: 25 in the
UK, 450 in Mauritius
»Thomas Pink was one of the
principal sponsors for the
last British Lions tour to New
Zealand. Wensum Tailoring
worked with Thomas Pink and
manufactured all the players’
and officials’ tour blazers and
Wensum Tailoring
Highlighting best practice
Each employee at Wensum Tailoring has a credit card-sized reminder
of our company values – the “Wensum Perspective” – and these are
as follows:
»Our clients come first in our decision-making
»Our attitudes to each other and our company determine the quality
of service delivered to our clients
»Our attention to detail is critical to success
»We keep our promises
»We talk to each other, not about each other
»We bring solutions with problems
»Initiative is always encouraged
»Growth and development necessitate courage
Following these design and development
discussions, we then produce a number
of prototype samples. These are, in turn,
reviewed on professional models by both
our team and the client in question,
to ensure that they remain in line with
the design and creative team’s often
stringent requirements.
Once approved, the prototype sample
is further developed and suitably
“commercialised” – meaning that we
produce a variety of different sizes and
prepare it for release to the marketplace,
both in the UK and in a number of
international markets such as New York,
Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong by the
brand in question. During this phase of
development, we also source the fabrics
that will be used. It is important to note
that we only source luxury fabrics from
either British or Italian mills to ensure the
highest-quality garment possible.
Once everything is sourced and
finalised, the designs and specifications
are sent to our manufacturing
facility in Mauritius. Final approval
comes through soon after, and our
manufacturing operations begin. Upon
completion, garments are shipped to
the UK and internationally for onward
delivery to the brand.
A challenging import and
export environment
Our clients are based in the UK, a large
percentage of raw materials are sourced
from Italy and our manufacturing base
is in Mauritius; tariff arrangements are
and always have been something that
would naturally affect us.
After the referendum, we were hit with
the currency fluctuations. When the
value of the pound dropped against
the euro, for instance, all of our buying
costs for raw materials went up, and
we weren’t able to pass many of these
additional costs onto our clients. This
also came at the same time as an
increase in the Mauritian rupee against
the pound – our manufacturing costs
increased, too.
The duty-free arrangement Mauritius
has with the EU set a precedent for
a potential future trade deal with the
UK, which was signed in early 2019.
Although we will have to keep our
eyes open and remain proactive, we
are confident that our international
work will likely remain stable.
Recruitment of skilled labour
remains the biggest challenge
European concerns aside, there is one
challenge we have faced and continue
to face, and it is of critical importance.
We make a luxury product, and
before offshoring manufacturing to
Engineered for a perfect
We liaise with
luxury British
brands and
discuss the
types of suits,
jackets and
trousers they
would like us
Mauritius, we worked with brands
such as Marks & Spencer, Ralph
Lauren and Aquascutum. When we
decided to move, we found that we
couldn’t compete with other offers
they were receiving from elsewhere in
the world – namely China. To remain
competitive, we knew we had to move
our manufacturing offshore.
To this day, both in the UK and
Mauritius, however, recruitment
remains an issue. The process is
changing, but the skills have largely
stayed the same. Those luxury tailoring
manufacturing skills are lacking, and
that’s where the sector’s gap is.
Lots of young people are taking
courses in fashion and design,
but often that doesn’t cover the
manufacturing side. We struggle to
find younger people with these key
skills – many of the people we come
across, even in Mauritius, are over 50 –
and as the sector disappeared offshore
some years ago, this need is more
present than ever.
Compare that to Norwich in the
1980s. When we relocated from
London, there were a lot of shoe
manufacturing businesses in Norwich.
That gave us with a pool of available
labour to tap into, but they have since
grown old and have retired. Now, it’s
predominantly a city that deals with
financial services, and the skills we
need just aren’tavailable.
Difficult circumstances – but
we’re confident we will
innovate past them
Our close relationship with a number
of Savile Row houses, where clients
can try on suits before they buy them
to ensure everything is as it should be
in terms of fit and sizing, may prove to
be a difficulty as the trend of moving
online increases. The issues faced by
our clients will affect us.
Similarly, minimising the effect of
issues such as climate change – with
a manufacturing base offshore in
Mauritius – may prove to be a difficulty
in the years ahead.
The last trend that may affect us is the
simple fact that people are dressing
more and more informally – even in
many banks, where staff historically
would have worn a suit, business-
casual is starting to become the
predominant style. Once stringent
dress codes are becoming increasingly
lax and this naturally means there will
be a reduced demand for suits.
Our client base is getting older, and we
are selling more and more to people
who are over 35. Everyone below that
age threshold seems to be dressing less
and less formally.
In spite of these difficulties, however,
we are confident that things are
positive. Our rich history of innovation
and flexibility has seen us through
tough circumstances in the past, and
it will see us through those we are
encountering today.
Our rich history
of innovation
and flexibility
has seen us
through tough
circumstances in
the past
Moving towards a more
contemporary, modern


This article was sponsored by Wensum Tailoring. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster