Listen to our latest conversation for the The Kathleen Project – collecting stories about Manchester’s industrial past, in the words of those who lived it.

In our sixth conversation for this project, we chatted with Margaret, who started work in the textile industry aged 15, in 1951.

Margaret worked for Edna Glyn, a haute couture womenswear designer based on King Street in Manchester, later opening a shop on St Ann Street and moving the salon to Deansgate. The company’s King Street premises had a showroom on the first first floor, and a workroom on the second floor.

Margaret started out as a dressmaking apprentice in 1951. She worked her way up into the salon, finishing up as salon manager in 1989.

The company created two collections per year, and was run a husband and wife team – Edna did the fashion, and Mark did the business side.

Wealthy and titled people bought their clothes from Edna Glyn – some lived in castles, including Hornby Castle and De Hoghton Towers. The company’s clientele came from all over the north of England – Manchester, Lancashire, Cheshire, Cumbria, Yorkshire.

As a haute couture business, Edna Glyn clients were able to choose designs from a particular collection, as well as choosing their fabric from swatches. The service included 2-3 fittings as their orders were being made up. Fabrics were ordered according as needed, with no fabric stock kept on the premises.

They worked almost exclusively with natural fibres and bought many fabrics from the UK, including wools from Yorkshire and Scotland and cottons from Lancashire, along with Italian pure silk, and jersey from France.

An Edna Glyn suit, 1959

Margaret noted that as time went on, the business adapted and began selling ready-to-wear clothing, rather than solely making couture garments. The clothes were still made in-house, but customers would choose from set sizes and could request a fitting at an additional cost. After some years, the company started buying in expensive ready-to-wear clothes for immediate purchase. This continued until the business closed in 1989.

You pressed as you went along, and that’s the secret of good sewing. Press as you go along.



The Kathleen Project, episode 6: In Conversation with Margaret

The Kathleen Project, episode 6: In Conversation with Margaret (full episode)

Thanks so much to Margaret for sharing her story with us! If you know anyone who worked in Greater Manchester’s textile industry and would like to take part in the project, please do ask them to contact us.

Listen to all of The Kathleen Project Conversations

The Kathleen Project is led by Stitched Up and supported by Historic England.

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