Archive for March, 2013


Posted on: March 21st, 2013

The First Time


When first approached by the Format Photographic Festival, the plan was hazy, it involved perhaps photography, music, film, and sound but certainly a factory.

The factory was the starting point and a number of reconnoiter trips took place up valley and down dale, starting in Derby heading up the Derwent and many a tea room was visited in the good name of intense research.

The John Smedley factory at Lea Mills stood out early on. It is not a museum, nor is it a sentimental nostalgic yesteryear recreation in need of sympathy and support.

It is a world-beating active hybrid of all that has been learned over some 200-plus years coupled with the latest technology and marketing weaponry that befits such a successful product.

So a factory tour took place: up stair and down tunnel, through interlinking buildings and low-ceilinged rooms we walked through history of the past and a future.

Immediately a direct correlation emerged between the music, photography and film on the one hand and a John Smedley piece of clothing on the other.

In the latter the raw material arrives from all over the world and it is prepared  for manufacture. It passes through the hands of designers, knitters, assemblers, finishers getting packaged and advertised and sold in chosen outlets.

In the former the music arrives from players the world over and passes through the hands of producers, tape operators, engineers, mixing engineers and mastering studios getting packaged and advertised and sold in chosen outlets.

The mistake commonly made is a view that the item of clothing was processed by operators less talented and skilled than the staff of a recording studio.

Not a bit of it, the knitting machines are but gigantic mixing desks, the overdubs come in the form of machinists, the mastering in the guise of the pressers.

If people knew how much thought, skill, time and talent went into an album release by John Parish they’d no longer bleat that CDs are ‘too expensive’ just as the cost of a Smedley garment may be deemed too high until you have that factory tour and you leave  wondering how come their garments are so cheap….

My only hope is that we can turn out something of equal age, beauty and skill, John Smedley have had a 200 year head start, we start on April the 1st, reminded of what  particular folly that date signifies.