John Smedley



Robinsons of Bawtry, authorised stockists of John Smedley, carry a rich range of fine quality knitwear from the respected designer brand. Made in Great Britain, tailored with tradition and proud holder of a Royal Warrant, John Smedley stands for timeless style and high quality and refined luxury, appealing to the more sophisticated, more discerning customer. Idyllic, softly sumptuous, and colourful when it wants to be, the storied UK label is stooped in traditional techniques, offers a high level of craftsmanship that cannot be found elsewhere, and is continuously innovating in its pursuit of perfect knitwear, meaning no other brand is able to imitate the exquisite excellence that comes with the Smedley name. Though offering a great variety of men’s knits, Robinsons are also able to order many other styles on a next day delivery process from the John Smedley stock service if you cannot find what you are looking for in store.


Established in 1784 and still run by its founding family, the designer knitwear label takes pride in its Derbyshire roots and is renowned for being a royal favourite and a luxury leader within the fashion industry, possessing a proud history of manufacturing the finest Merino wool and Sea Island Cotton garments across Great Britain. These fine luxury fibres offer exceptional fineness, luxurious staple length and high tensile strength thus setting it apart from other fibres. Maintaining an excellent relationship with the Merino woolgrowers who are based on the alpine pastures of the South Island in New Zealand, all John Smedley’s wool can be traced back to the individual sheep stations. A soft and luxurious yarn that is naturally warm, comfortable and easy to maintain, this fine quality wool alongside Smedley’s Sea Island Cotton is a key element of the elegant and eminent brand. The cotton is hand-picked, allowing it to mature thus maintaining its purity and avoiding the use of a chemical defoliant. Ethically produced and turning out world-class designs, the finest raw materials are used throughout Smedley’s knitting processes resulting in a unique and luxurious feel of exceptionally soft knits, meaning it can be worn and washed again and again.


Granted with the Queen’s Royal Warrant of Appointment in recognition of its quality construction and craftsmanship, John Smedley has also been supplying the royals with its services for a numerous amount of years. The Queen, having visited its landmark factory at Lea Mills in Matlock, Derbyshire, buys items directly from the cherished brand, whilst managing director and seventh generation to head the company, Ian Maclean, states, “It’s fantastic to have such a public acknowledgement of the excellence of our’s a great reward for the efforts we put into making things we really like”. When discussing the underlying values of the company, he explains, “If you don’t start with the best materials, you’re never going to end up with a great garment. Even the spring water we have in the area is integral to producing dyes that are very colourfast, so the performance of the garment is excellent when you’re washing or using it”. This effectively enables the label to produce signature statements and incomparable distinguished items that stand as true investable pieces.


Its constancy and rich heritage of a 230-year Derbyshire history is what makes this illustrious company a sought after staple and a key essential within British elegance. Co-founded in Derbyshire by ancestor of Florence Nightingale, Peter Nightingale, and the First John Smedley in 1784, the knitwear marque initially specialised in producing muslin and spinning cotton as an enterprise at the original mill in Lea Mills, with the start of this lineage allowing the company to expand and develop into what it is today. This was inspired by Richard Arkwright who had pioneered the factory system 13 years earlier, whilst Lea Mills was the perfect and ideal setting due to the brook that runs through the village providing motive power and a consistent source of running water. Using local spring water, the distinct washing procedure of John Smedley knitwear is a vital part of production processes. The water comes from 3 underground springs that rise from the millstone grit of the Derbyshire Peak District National Park, with its softness and purity creating a luxurious feel whilst enhancing the shrink resilience.


In 1819, Smedley’s son, John Smedley the Second, became an apprentice within the company and went on to take over the helm six years later at the age of 24. 1825 saw him transforming the brand with his fresh vision and motivated energy, in which he set about modernising and expanding the business with cutting edge technology by developing the mill and installing new machinery. This machinery included the ‘Cotton’s Patent’ fully fashioned knitting machines, with John Smedley becoming one of the earliest companies within the knitwear industry to invest in them. Smedley Jnr reformed the brand to suit modern lifestyle, shaping it upon the ethos and values of prime production thus transforming the company from cloth manufacturers into quality designers, resulting in an unrivalled production line producing finished and ready to wear garments. Essentially, he laid the foundations of the strong reputation that the John Smedley Company still embodies today. Smedley died in 1875, and with no heir to the company it was passed onto his cousin, the third John Smedley. However, he died shortly after in 1877 and so the business was then passed down to his son, the fourth Smedley. This was the final John Smedley who spent a notable and significant 70 years at the forefront of the company’s operations, fusing the latest technology and age-old craftsmanship to create iconic garments engineered to last by applying the company’s long-standing values to suit the contemporary fashion industry.


Environmentally efficient and often featured in the world’s most prestigious fashion magazines, John Smedley sources ethically produced materials and adopts energy saving techniques wherever possible. The Lea Mills factory, located at the heart of a world heritage site and the brand’s manufacturing base, is socially aware that process is important to both them and all John Smedley customers, and takes pride in that it has been ecologically friendly for over 200 years. From devising ingenious solutions during the Victorian era, such as using natural light and moisture from the river, the company also uses water from the local spring, which is then recycled with strict processes in place making sure it returns to its source completely clean. John Smedley also possesses a Zque accreditation, guaranteeing that they have fair and ethical practices in the way in which they work with their suppliers and the way in which they treat their sheep, whilst ensuring the woolgrowers take an ethical and sustainable approach to farming.


In 1893, John Smedley extended its production line to manufacture fine gauge, fully-fashioned underwear, hosiery and outerwear. 1922 saw the company introducing Sea Island Cotton, which was used to knit underwear, and it wasn’t until 10 years later in 1932 that they introduced their first outerwear pieces made from the fine fibre. This saw the launch of three iconic items, known as Isis, the 3 button polo shirt, Leander, the long sleeved polo, and Pembroke, the roll collar, which still remain as prominent garments in the brand’s spring/summer collections today. 


The 1950s saw a shift in the focus of the John Smedley brand, with their attention moving from underwear to outerwear. This was fuelled by the introduction of central heating, which meant that insulated underwear became more or less unnecessary. 1955 was a cornerstone for the company as they introduced especially selected, extra-fine New Zealand Merino wool, enhancing and exuding the high quality on which the brand was built. The 1960s was an era of international popularity for the Smedley name as foreign fashion lovers began making the British label a staple name abroad. A prominent player in the fashion industry in Britain too, the 1980s saw a rapid growth in the brand as it began knitting collections for top designer names such as Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith, Nicole Farhi and Comme des Garcons. Constantly pushing the boundaries of their design and innovation of their knitwear, in 1993 the company introduced fine knitwear machinery from Japan for the first time, leading to styles that featured a wealth of texture and plush patterns.


The year of 2000 saw John Smedley opening its first retail store in a prime location on Brook Street, located in the heart of London. Their knitwear was already available online and sold in leading department stores and boutiques across the world, but the company claimed that they wanted to capture the magic of their Derbyshire mill by offering a truly unique shopping experience. 2006 saw the introduction of pioneering whole-garment technology, which produces unique, lightweight and seamless knitwear, whilst in 2008 the launch of the latest Shima technology enabled the knitting of 26-28 colours. 2009 marked 225 years of business for John Smedley, which was celebrated with the release of a special edition and an exclusive range of underwear. 2009 is also a prominent year for the company as it launches 13.5-micron garments using rare yarn that can only be produced by 0.0013% of the world’s sheep population. 2011 to 2014 are busy years for the business, with the launch of capsule collections consisting of statement pieces that have been sculpted to mould to the body, as well as a collaboration with Comme des Garcons where a limited 170 pieces were created worldwide, spun in super-fine Merino wool at John Smedley’s Derbyshire mill. Alongside establishing a line of care products to maintain and condition your knitwear, the collaboration with Umbro and also British leather goods brand CHERCHBI, John Smedley is regularly featuring at more fashion events in order to emphasise its creative and classic importance. Offering high quality, long lasting and true investable worth, John Smedley garments are the gentleman’s must have.

Robinsons of Bawtry are Official John Smedley Stockists - visit us in store for more information.