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.