Feb. 15 - As the fashion world looks to London Fashion Week, business is booming at Abraham Moon, England's last surviving cloth mill. Asian demand is driving a comeback for the UK wool industry, as the rising cost of overseas production encourages large fashion retailers to buy British. Ivor Bennett reports.
Things haven't changed here for over 100 years. Abraham Moon is England's last surviving cloth mill where everything happens on site. The wool is dyed, spun, woven and finished in a process that takes up to 14 weeks. But business here is by no means slow. In fact it's booming. CEO John Walsh. SOUNDBITE (English) ABRAHAM MOON & SONS CEO JOHN WALSH, SAYING: "We're constantly increasing the level we call full capacity. It se ems to be that demand both in the UK and overseas, is , certainly for us, at Abraham Moon is at an all time high." Turnover here's almost doubled in the last 5 years, going from 8 million pounds to 15 million. And it's unlikely to stop there. The company's expecting growth of 50% by 2018. SOUNDBITE (English) REUTERS REPORTER IVOR BENNETT SAYING: "There are 24 looms here in total, all operating at full capacity. Which means in one year, this mill produces over 1.5 million metres of cloth. Demand's so high though that even that's not enough." It's not just this mill. The whole industry is making a massive comeback. Britain's wool trade practically died out in the 1950s as cheaper synthetics took over. But the rise in overseas production costs means consumers are once again buying British. Fashion giants like Burberry, J Crew and Ralph Lauren are all now buying UK made knitwear. Last year Chanel even bought a factory. 70% of Britain's wool products are now exported, with China and Japan key markets. Rob Langtry from Woolmark International. SOUNDBITE (English) WOOLMARK INTERNATIONAL CHIEF STRATEGY AND GLOBAL MARKETING ADVISOR, ROB LANGTRY, SAYING: "What they're actually doing now is looking for the back story. They're looking for traceability, they're looking for heritage, they're looking for really why is it worth paying this amount of money. the difference is they have the money, and increasingly they have the knowledge of what's good and what's aspirational in terms of luxury products." When it comes to heritage, there's no shortage at Abraham Moon. Some of the machines used at the turn of the 20th century are still in use today And the wool spun here was worn by British soldiers in both world wars. The setting may be a far cry from the catwalks of Milan, but it's clearly something to be proud of.