Manchester has an extensive list of exports, and it makes for fascinating reading. The northern city has turned out bands including The Smiths, The Stone Roses and Oasis. It’s been powerhouse of textile production since the Industrial Revolution, earning the nickname ‘Cottonopolis’. The region has even put delicacies including black pudding and Bakewell tarts on our menus. But the city’s most prominent export — and one that can be found across town from West Didbury to White Moss — is rain.
It could be mist, mizzle, drizzle or downpours, but Manchester is renowned across the world for its wet weather. Thankfully, with all these endless, onerous deluges to contend with, the rain-soaked city has also become one of the best at beating cloudbursts.
And a single brand, densely-woven and steeped in weatherproof history, is leading the charge. Private White V.C. is the latest trimly-tailored iteration of an age-old company; a family that has been creating coats and outerwear from fine fabrics for over a century. And it can be found, with CEO James Eden at the helm, doing its good work beneath the clouds of Greater Manchester.
“Manchester is commonly known as the rainy city,” Eden tells Gentleman’s Journal. “But it’s home, where I was born and grew up. And, for me, Manchester has absolutely everything you could possibly want in a city to settle and flourish. It’s got the feel of a capital, but also the warmth of a hometown. And, most importantly, it’s home to the Private White V.C. factory”.
Proudly championing the city’s legacy of garment-making, the Private White V.C. factory is a self-sustaining eco-system. Nothing is outsourced, and everything is handmade, checked, controlled and certified in-house. And the factory, found on Salford’s Cottenham Lane, has stood for even longer than the brand; Eden established the label (named for his great-grandfather, Jack, who was awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War) in 2010. But the factory has been in the family for generations — and was bought by Private White V.C. himself after he completed a post-war apprenticeship in pattern cutting.
“The factory is virtually the same,” says Eden. “It’s the same 127-year-old glorious mill and many of the techniques and traditions are strictly, loyally adhered to. That said, we continue to push ourselves forward embracing new technology and techniques to assist in the manufacturing and of course marketing of our products”.
The products are many. Whether shirting or sweats, trousers or T-shirts, Private White V.C. has a collection as wide-ranging and versatile as any modern man could need. And, as Managing Director Michael Stoll tells us, every decision made — from the design process to the final flourishes of a garment — centres on quality.
“90% of our raw materials are sourced within a 50 kilometre radius of our Manchester factory,” says Stoll. “That said, no decision is influenced by convenience or by proximity. It all comes down to quality. We are blessed to have some of the world’s finest weavers and spinners literally on our doorstep. Our wools are from Yorkshire and our cottons are from Manchester”.
"Many of the techniques and traditions are strictly, loyally adhered to..."
And it is one of these cottons that give Private White V.C. its rain-beating edge. ‘Ventile®’ cotton can be traced back to the Second World War, and was developed in Manchester — just a short walk from the brand’s factory at the Shirley Institute. It’s an incredibly dense Oxford weave, which uses ‘long staple’ fibres, and Private White V.C. uses the vanguard fabric to create many of its ‘Hero’ products.
“Ventile® was developed, at the direct request of Winston Churchill, for the RAF spitfire pilots during the World War II,” explains Stoll, “to give them an extra few minutes’ protection in the English Channel. It would be three minutes before they froze to death, but, by wearing Ventile®, their survival would be prolonged, and they’d get another 3 to 6 minutes.
“How it works,” he continues, “is the cotton expands once wet to form an impregnable barrier, and to stop water from seeping in. And, with our fabrics, we put a silicone finish on top, to give our garments extra water resistance”.
Breathable, durable and entirely weatherproof, the ‘Ventile® Collection’ at Private White V.C. is a one-stop water-repelling shop for men in Manchester — and beyond. James Eden calls the material “the most sophisticated 100% cotton in the world”, and this is why he’s decided to dedicate it to so many of the brand’s key offerings. There are smocks, shackets, hats and Harringtons crafted from the fabric, but the best-selling bit of stormproof kit is undoubtedly ‘The Ventile® Mac’.
Unlined and cut in a regular fit, ‘The Ventile® Mac’ is the epitome of form-meets-function. It’s got inset sleeves, a handsome ‘Vandyke’ stitched collar and etched copper rivets on the back of the neck. It fastens up with an 8-gauge, copper-forged zip and has stud fastenings to add yet another layer of protection from the inclement elements. It’s the perfect armour against any Mancunian squall — or wet weather anywhere.
Arguably, the most iconic and popular styles are ‘The Moleskin Bomber’, ‘The Peacoat’ and ‘The Wax Twin Track’. But, whilst these form the backbone of the brand’s ‘Heroes’ collection, you can expect the same obsession with quality across the whole range of the label’s handcrafted garments.
As Stoll told us, the whole operation hinges on quality, and a key way of upholding these standards is by enlisting only the most talented, enthusiastic craftsmen. There’s even a ‘Lifetime Repair’ service, to ensure your garments are mended by the very men and women who first created them. It’s all about doing things right, Stoll says, and having pride in both what you wear and where you buy.
“I’ve noticed,” says Stoll, “as the years have gone by, that men are more particular about their image; clothes and how they look in general. People are becoming more interested in the provenance of products, the ethos behind them and their style whispering rather than shouting. It’s why we’re obsessed here — obsessed with perfecting the fit, form, function and finesse of each and every garment.
“As I sit today,” he adds, “I must confess that I am as excited and as proud as I have ever been in my 50-year career here at the factory. The team has tripled in size over the past five years and, due to an ongoing herculean effort by every single member staff, we are producing arguably some of the finest luxury clothing in the world.”
It’s true. With the meticulous attention to detail and time-honoured heritage techniques, Private White V.C. garments are proudly zipped and buttoned up around the world. And yet, one northern city remains home. Because, despite the label’s loyal customers — wrapping up and surviving storms across the globe — the whole weatherproof endeavour wouldn’t exist without the charm, the grit and the rain of Manchester.
Private White V.C.
Want more iconic British brands? Introducing the dynamic, brand new Range Rover Sport…
Become a Gentleman’s Journal member. Find out more here.