Interview With C&H Fabrics, Western Rd, Brighton
C & H Fabrics Ltd was started on 1st April 1933 by C.W. Hamblin and Mr H. Closs, and has now grown into a huge store over several floors with a great selection of fabrics, wools, haberdashery products and many other household and gifts items.
We had the fantastic opportunity to interview Diana Hing and James Hamblin, the manager and Personnel of the store, to learn more about the store and the products it sells.
What is the main audience of your business?
Up to 5 years ago the main audience was aged 45 and over and predominantly female, but in the last few years this has lowered to age 35 and over. Also many more young people has been buying products for school projects,which is encouraged by the10% discount to products for school work.
What do you think are the popular sewing products bought?
On the whole the product sales are very even, although C&H do sells huge numbers of scissors, people really appreciate good fabric scissors. The most popular editions are the Fiskars scissors, these are very good quality and last up to 10years before needing to be replaced. They also sell a lot of velcro, Wundaweb, and fabric dyes. The increased sales in fabric dyes has been quite recent, and is probably related the rise in young people buying from the store, and also the recent tie dye trends. A greater number of dyes are sold in the Brighton store than other stores across the country, which Diana believes is due to the greater interest in crafts in Brighton, as well as the outlook of older people here is in general younger and funkier.
What are the different types of fabrics that you sell?
Interestingly the customers often follow the advice and ideas of the staff, as opposed to having fixed ideas themselves. They also find that wool is very popular, which may be as it is a natural fabric and also very easy to work with, as therefore popular with less experienced stitchers. They have also seen a rise in crafts and with this a shift towards the use of fabrics for craft projects as opposed to dress making. People coming to C&H expect quality and something different rather than simply cheap and cheerful.
Personally what have you sewn or made that you have been most proud of?
James, the area manager of C&H, isn't a regular crafter and stitcher, but when training for his position he knitted a scarf with the help of other members of staff in the store. Whereas Diana sews a lot, creating a variety of clothing and pieces for the home. Her favourite creation was the silk curtains and matching silk roman blinds she made for own home, and feels very proud when seeing them within her home. She also makes a lot of clothing, particularly skirts, which she makes from scratch without any pattern!
Sewing, knitting and crafts are very fashionable hobbies now, what do you think has sparked this?
Crafts and sewing became fashionable when celebrities like Julia roberts and Gwyneth Paltrow started knitting 6 years ago. Kirsty Allsopp has also been a massive influence, especially following her an episode of 'Kirstys Homemade Home' in which she made pom poms, C&H sold out of pom pom kits. Also Gok Wan brought embellishing into fashion, helping to set trends, and also increase the sales of materials to embellish clothes from home. Usually as well as materials for dress making, C&H also sells a lot of fabric and wool for creating dog beds and coats, which mimics the trend of pet fashions and clothing.
Do you think that the Great British Sewing Bee has had a big major affect on the sales of sewing and craft materials? And how?
The Great British Sewing Bee has been a great influence on sales of fabrics and dress making materials. People nowadays want to be different and individual, especially with the increase in mass produced cheap fast fashion.
How do you think that young people could become more excited about sewing and crafts?
Diana believes that by getting young children to touch and feel fabrics, such as angora and velvet, they would become more interested in fabrics, craft and sewing from an early age. Also teaching people more about the background of fabrics and the technical aspects, for instance that silk draws up more colour, thereby looking more vibrant. We also need to raise awareness that young people can create something and get a result they are pleased with , they just need to go for it! People are put off be crafts and sewing as they see it as complicated, but Diana says people ought to “just get a lovely fabric and go for it!”.