You may have noticed from our social media channels that Wearwell has a big birthday coming up – just a little later this summer we’ll be celebrating our 80th anniversary! One of the things we’re most proud of is the incredible team that we have developed in that time, many of whom have been with us their entire careers. Some of our machinists and pattern cutters have been clocking in for work at the Wearwell factory for over four decades.
One of these longest serving staff members is Garry Clayton, Wearwell’s Production Director. Garry was recently honoured with a lifetime achievement award at the 2019 Professional Clothing Awards – an event where Wearwell also collected the title of Best UK Manufacturer for the second year running!
Garry’s award was given in honour of his 43-year-service to the textile industry, a service carried out entirely here at Wearwell. As we’ve been delving back into the archives in readiness for our 80th anniversary celebrations, we thought who better to ask than Garry about how things have changed in the last 40 years here at Wearwell? Read on to get to know our production director a little better!
Q: Could you describe your first day at Wearwell? What was your role and how big was the factory / team at the time?
My first day here really was like the first day of school. Like any new job it had that new school feeling. My first day was around 40 years ago and at that time, the factor was very busy with around 160 people hard at work. Everything was made in the UK at that time as offshore manufacturing hadn’t yet arrived.
I remember that on my first day, the owner of the business came and sat with me to eat lunch. He used to do that with all new starters.
I was taken on as a trainee cutter which meant spreading the fabrics we used to make Wearwell garments and cutting the fabrics into panels. In those days, the garments were things like plain boiler suits. There wasn’t the emphasis on comfort or style then like there is today. The product range too was much smaller than that we offer today.
Q. How does your job today differ?
I was 17 years old when I started. I was a cutter for about three years and then moved to design. I was really interested in the fabrics, the grading and the design of the garments. I stayed in design for 9 years and then was made production manager when I was29. At that point, I was responsible for a team of people, much like I am today.
My job title now is operations director. I’m part of the management team and a shareholder. While my day-to-day is different, I still spend a good deal of time out on the factory floor. I also visit factories abroad.
Q. What’s been the highlight of your years at Wearwell?
For me, the thing that stands out is becoming a part owner. Watching the evolution of the company too has been very rewarding. We now custom design products, we’ve launched a groundbreaking new range and some faces have changed but the methods of manufacturing have stayed the same.