Established in 1864, Halley Stevensons is a world–leading waxed cotton fabric manufacturer and specialist in weatherproofing canvas. They create outdoor fashion apparel fabric and quality luggage canvas at their Baltic Works plant in Dundee.
Jimmy Campbell, Managing Director of Halley Stevensons, says, “My interest in designing new products first started after studying at the Scottish College of Textiles in Galashiels, obtaining a BSc (Hons) in the chemistry of textiles and dyes. I graduated in 1991 and joined Halley Stevensons six months later, learning the business from its grass-roots as an apprentice dyer.”
The main products that use waxed cotton are jackets, hats and bags. However, there are many other uses such as trainers, laptop cases and reusable food wraps. Designer Nicolas Daley, whose work is forms a Michelin Design Gallery exhibition in V&A Dundee until February 2020, has also experimented with waxed tartan for kilts.
Dundee has a rich heritage of textile manufacturing and Halley Stevensons waxed products have strong ties to the local area linked to shipbuilding and sail cloths. These fabrics were used by fishermen and seafarers for sails before eventually evolving into weather-proofed garments such as the classic slicker jacket.
Jimmy says, “We are very proud of our textile heritage in Dundee, passed on by our early pioneers. Francis Stevensons, now Halley Stevensons, was awarded its first patent in 1910 for waterproofing textiles and this entrepreneurial spirit still drives the business to this day. It brings great satisfaction and pride to see our product used by so many leading fashion brands around the world.”
Wax is a naturally occurring protective compound found in everything from leaves to animal furs. Waxed cotton has stood the test of time, with jackets lasting over 50 years, passing down through generations. This unique material is breathable and water repellent, the wax adjusting its state depending on the conditions.
“There are not many synthetic products that can compete with these characteristics,” says Jimmy. “It is nature’s performance fabric. We are now offering organic cottons and our process methods are low impact on the environment. We consider wax jackets to be a good sustainable option for the future.”
Jimmy loves the challenge of creating new products with his team. He says, “Our in-house designer, Dorothy Arnott, studied at Dundee University’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, where she gained her Honours degree in textile design. We have an excellent team of people in the business who all have different skills, knowledge and experience to help our product development process.”
Five years ago, Halley Stevensons developed the ‘Salt and Pepper’ fabric which is 55% nettle and 45% cotton yarns. This material is a replica of the Swiss Army rucksack fabric used during the Second World War.
At that time, Switzerland could not import linens and flaxes, and had to experiment with different fibre types such as nettle. This was a challenging fabric to create, using multiple yarns twisted together to add strength. It has been used in garments from bags to shoes and travel cases.
“For us, design is our passion and primary core value. Design is what separates us from our competition and adds strength to our company brand. It’s also the fun part of what we do!”
We are delighted to welcome Jimmy Campbell as a V&A Dundee Design Champion on behalf of the whole team at Halley Stevensons, recognising their dedication to a traditional industry as well as innovating to create new textiles for modern needs.
To find out more, visit the Halley Stevensons website.
The V&A Dundee Design Champions are inspirational designers creating high-quality work and helping to enhance people’s lives, or champions of the power of design to improve the world.
V&A Dundee’s Design Champions project is working with Dezeen as its media partner.
Dezeen is the world’s most popular and influential architecture and design magazine, with an audience of 2.5 million unique visitors each month.