I recently had my first opportunity to chat to Michael Hill about his takeover last month, with Mark Cho, of the Rayner & Sturges shirt factory.


Rayner & Sturges is the last independent factory in the UK making quality shirts. Other notable ones, such as Turnbull & Asser and Emma Willis in Gloucester, and Hilditch & Key’s small operation in Scotland, do not make for other brands. For a long time R&S has therefore been the go-to factory for companies looking to have shirts made in England. Clients have included Dunhill, Paul Smith, Jack Wills, Ede & Ravenscroft, Thomas Mahon and Crombie.


The factory has been in trouble for a while, with director Charles Boyd-Bowman accused of tax fraud earlier in the year and his charismatic father Robert (known simply as ‘Boyd’) selling his share in the business.


That business also included the bespoke tailor Alexander Boyd, which shut down earlier in the year. Head cutter Clive Phythian moved to Sims & McDonald on Lamb’s Conduit Street – which was good news for Clive’s clients, a reader observed at the time, because Sims is a fair bit cheaper!


Mark Cho, of The Armoury fame, bought Drake’s when Michael Drake retired three years ago. He and Michael Hill have now taken on the challenge of Rayner & Sturges.


The factory, in Chard, Somerset, has 35 workers and makes both readymade and bespoke shirts. It will begin offering private label shirts again from September, and Michael plans to relaunch the old Cleeve brand, which Rayner & Sturges owns, as a shirt line for Drake’s later in the year.


“I wanted to make a great English shirt, with our sensibility, that we could be proud of and sell all over the world,” says Michael. “We have inherited a great workforce and we’re excited about celebrating the factory as well as integrating it into the Drake’s family.”


Given how great Mark has been for Drake’s – keeping its aesthetic and London construction, even investing in a great new factory (post coming soon) – this can surely only mean good things for Rayner & Sturges.
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Shaya Green

Sad for Rayner & Sturges but great for Drake’s and the Sartorial world. Thanks for the post, Simon.

mack11211

The Evening Standard article in the link reports

“He has sold two factories — in Chard, Somerset, and Chatham in Kent — to upmarket British men’s accessories brand Drake’s and tie maker Mustard Ties.”

What was the difference between the Chard factory and the Chatham one?

Anonymous

I don’t believe that’s correct. What I was told (as a longstanding bespoke customer) is that both were shirt factories, with Kent being where the bespoke business based. That has now been shut down and the bespoke business transferred to Somerset, but not without a number of teething troubles it would seem (as evidenced by my last order…), as there is quite a difference between manufacturing a job lot of RTW shirts and doing one-off bespoke pieces…

Mai Sunshine

The Kent factory now only makes ties and the Somerset factory makes both bespoke/CMT shirts.

Glenn Ludlow

Anonymous is actually correct – whoever he may be.

Anonymous

Hi Simon,
Sorry, this is a quick request squarely off-topic. I just want to know what you think of the resurgence of Wildsmith’s shoes.
Quality wise, I know the products are fine, because they are made by AS. Hence, this is not the topic I expect you to elaborate.
Thanks in adavance.
John

Darius Pocha

Rayner & Sturges made the first collection for my brand Blake London. Amongst all the people I’ve had dealings with in my business life Boyd was one of the most honourable. I wish him and Helen all the best in their retirement.

Anonymous

Thomas Pink 170s and 200s still say Made in UK. Does anyone know which factory produces them?

Selena Gibson

Hi Simon, we make the Thomas Pink Imperial Collection along with their made to order and our own brand, Smyth & Gibson. We would be delighted if you came to visit us as we are one of the very last traditional British shirt makers.
Best wishes,
Selena Gibson.

Anonymous

It could be Smyth and Gibson who make shirts in Northern Ireland. Does anyone have experience / a view on them?

Anonymous

I (anonymous from 11Aug) have several 170/200 Pink shirts. I appreciate them for being light as you’d expect from the fiber count. Funny enough while some are very easy to wrinkle- again as you’d expect from the fiber count- others are not, which is a pleasant surprise.

You have the usual handicaps of an ‘english’ shirt, i.e, cheap buttons and no handwork. The collars are OK (fused i believe)

Generally speaking top italian RTW is better than english RTW, ( T&A, H&K), but there is no good place to buy it in London AFAIK, so internet is the way for me

Anonymous

I know where to buy main line and diffusion Canali, Pal Zileri, Corneliani and Zegna in London. But these are not what I would call top-end RTW Italian shirts. Their quality is not better than T&A or H&K (they are different but not better)and the prices can be outrageous in particular with Zegna in the last few years. For these generalist brands only the top lines (e.g Zileri Sartoriale, Zegna Couture) are worth it quality wise, but the prices are 3 times a T&A shirt, so cant compare

Kiton is in my opinion a bad idea since for the price you better go MTM or bespoke.

I was talking about Borrelli, Mattabisch (smart man’s Kiton), Truzzi, Finamore etc. I dont know of a place that stocks them in any quantities. A few years ago Selfridges had a bunch of Truzzi, but customers seemed not to know anything about it so they didn’t sell and I never saw them again.

Anonymous

Kent made all bespoke shirts Chard only did stock and stock specials i know as i made all their patterns and was made redundant at the end April and am still waiting for my redundacy money

Anonymous

Such a shame. I read the Drapers article too. Do they really think the Factory Manager, Mr Barker can do his job?! He has made a mess of our orders! (speaking from my own experience) delays, incorrect sizes, bad quality control, disaster patterns etc and he always seems to pass the blame to someone else. The Somerset factory do not know how to manage themselves.

Van Dang Hong

We are a factory in Vietnam, making shirts for RS over 3 years. Charles BB still has a share in our company in Vietnam. In the worst case, he is in jail, don’t know what to do. They have messed up everything. They owe us and other suppliers a lots.:(

gary byrne

van dang

contact me charles caine shirts on face book

Anonymous

Does Mr Anonymous know if Catherine Rogers kept her job at Chard? I dealt with her 3 yrs ago, a v efficient & charming lady.
Whats going to happen to the Cravats tie concern?

Anonymous

We worked with both Nigel Sturges (RS) and Bob Moore at Cleeve (cravats) Both good shirt men The guys that took over knew nothing about shirts lets hope the new guys do?