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An Open Letter from the Director

Gee's Blog, Industry Trends and News
2016
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William Goldstein’s haberdashery shop in 1906, that became William Gee.

William Gee set up this haberdashery shop in 1906. At that time, there were hundreds of clothing factories in the area, and someone had to supply them with the goods they needed- such as sewing threads and fastenings. This was at a time when the UK was a thriving textiles workshop. People forget that companies like Marks & Spencers used to make their own clothing in this country.
William actually began in the building opposite us, where Arthur’s Café now stands, but moved because he needed larger premises to store all the stock. Before and after the Second World War the business was very labour intensive, so we had about 70 or 80 people working here, either in the shop or in one of our warehouses. Eventually Mr Gee merged with my father’s company in the 1960s, and some years later I entered the family business.
Sidney Gee & David Graham celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary in 1981

Sidney Gee & David Graham celebrate William Gee’s seventy-fifth anniversary in 1981

It wasn’t long after I started that things became a lot tougher for the business. In the 1990s through to the early 2000s, clothing manufacturers began looking abroad for cheaper sources of labour. They went to Eastern Europe first, then North Africa, and finally China and other places in the Far East. All of this led to a boom in cheap clothing, which is why places like Primark and the supermarket fashion labels took off. It became more difficult for makers of high quality garments that were made in the UK to compete, though hugely talented and creative designers made a huge resurgence.
The knock-on effect was that most of the big clothing factories in London and throughout the country closed down. You can still see remnants of the industry dotted along Kingsland Road, except now the former factories are wine bars, galleries and studio apartments. It took a while, but the Dalston and Hackney area has got back some of its vitality. The artists were the first to move in because the rents were cheaper at that time. They also had the skills to renovate the derelict buildings. No one wanted to look at living in Brick lane in the 1990s apart from the likes of Tracey Emin and Gilbert and George.
The warehouse round the corner in Forest Rd - not much has changed

The warehouse round the corner in Forest Rd, c.1980

 

William Gee staff in the 1970s, with directors Sidney Gee and David Graham

William Gee staff in the courtyard c. 1970, with David Graham on the far right and Sidney Gee on the far left.

The rents in Shoreditch soon went up, and people started to look for places to live further north along Kingsland Road- mainly to Stoke Newington which became fashionable. Dalston was considered too edgy (even dangerous) at first. But eventually it began to attract many young creative people, in part because of the newly built Overground Station. At one point the only attractions were the Rio Cinema and the Arcola Theatre, but now there’s a humming nightlife that brings people from all over London.
If development is well managed, then the whole gentrification thing can work…
But there really does have to be a conscious decision to look after everyone in such a diverse neighbourhood. The danger is that shops will get taken over by chains of estate agents, cafés and supermarkets, and if that happens then Kingsland Road will look like any other high street in the country.
We’ve been quite fortunate at William Gee. It’s true that we had many difficult years in the 1990s and early 2000s when the traditional businesses we dealt with closed down. But the smaller, independent designers that moved into the area helped replace a lot of that lost business and have become very successful, and because we were local to them they’ve been loyal to us. Some designers are still based close to us, like Alexander McQueen, Mary Katrantzou, Erdem, Roksanda Ilincic and Peter Pilotto.
In addition there has also been a move to bring clothing production back to this country. Gone are the days when someone asks for thousands of garments of a particular type, which is the reason why things were produced in bulk abroad. Now people are looking for smaller production runs and quick turnaround times, and that’s good for UK manufacturers. Shoppers are also looking for more unique styles from independent designers. Although styles may change, the basic components are still required – whatever the fashion – and we are always adding to our ranges to meet customers’ requirements.
In addition to designers, we work closely with fashion colleges throughout the UK, and also film studios such as Pinewood Studios, which filmed the Harry Potter and James Bond films. We can usually rely on West End theatres to call us on for assistance with their costume departments for their shows like The Lion King and anything to do with The Royal Shakespeare Company, English National Ballet and Royal Opera House. And we have helped supply the BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee with products for their incredibly successful series which helped lead to an increase in sewing schools everywhere.
William Gee Directors Jeffrey (left) and Adam Graham

Jeffrey (left) and Adam Graham, William Gee Directors

As for the future…
We took part in an exhibition all about shops and the shopping experience in our area in Hackney Library a few years ago. The organisers asked shopkeepers what they thought business would be like in 10 years, and without exception everyone said they were worried and lacked confidence. There was a feeling that the high street was in decline due to the growth of massive shopping centres, rising rents and business rates and more people looking to buy online. In my opinion the high street is changing but there is a need for a vibrant high street, full of indie stores, for the sake of local communities.
So how do we see the future for William Gee? We are expanding our online shop and constantly adding to our catalogue and there are exciting plans for future developments. My son, Adam, is involved with the management of the company and in particular growing our online site which has been most successful. After 112 years of trading, William Gee is still looking to adapt and grow as a company and to help all our customers – both in the clothing industry and with domestic customers alike.
Here’s to the next 112 years.

Jeffrey Graham
William Gee Director

feeling inspired by William GeeFeeling inspired? Head to our online shop and start planning your next project today, or be sure to follow William Gee's on Instagram for more creative inspiration from your favourite haberdashery!
Textile trimmings, Sewing Products, Haberdashery & Fashion Design Suppliers. Established 1906.

Comments are closed.

  • Very good service. Helpful staff with great knowledge. Hope to see shop.
    Pauline Rawlinson
    Pauline Rawlinson
    14:56 03 Jun 19
    Great being able to find all your sewing needs in one place. I placed an order for a few items & all were received quickly & at a great price.
    Jacqui Thomas
    Jacqui Thomas
    11:54 03 Jun 19
    Excellent customer Service. Had an issue with an order and it was sorted in minutes. Also got items in for me that I need on a regular basis. Good prices too.
    Joanna McCall
    Joanna McCall
    16:12 23 May 19
    My first experience of buying from this company. Good price, smooth transaction and super fast delivery. Would definitely recommend them for all your haberdashery needs.
    Christine Muttock
    Christine Muttock
    15:41 19 Apr 19
    Great products, I received my order (overlocker thread and dot & cross pattern paper) within 24 hours of ordering. Would definitely order again.
    Fiona Barnett
    Fiona Barnett
    08:15 04 Apr 19
    Managed to find exactly what I wanted at a fantastic price. Quick delivery. Very happy.
    Lara Lewis
    Lara Lewis
    10:33 25 Mar 19
    Wonderful old shop complete with original layout and fittings. Long may it last. Helpful service too.
    Anne Barron
    Anne Barron
    15:22 15 Mar 19
    Thank you very much for my order. I was able to choose the right products at a good price from an extensive range all in one place. Quick delivery too.
    CatsMistress
    CatsMistress
    12:10 18 Feb 19
    I'm very pleased with the items that I've purchased and they were delivered very quickly.
    jayne cooke
    jayne cooke
    07:25 31 Jan 19
    Not only do William Gee have an amazing amount of products at great prices their customer experience must be second to none! I placed my order at about lunchtime and it was in my house in Derbyshire by 8.15am the next day! Thank you.
    Di Kendall
    Di Kendall
    12:59 23 Jan 19
    Quick delivery, quality products I struggled to find a shop that provided all the products I needed and found this! Will order again.
    RADUTA ROXANA
    RADUTA ROXANA
    14:19 21 Jan 19
    A great little shop with a good selection of quality haberdashery from notions to lining fabrics. I bought a beautiful pair of William Whiteley Wilkinson fabric shears and they are excellent.
    Laura Haines
    Laura Haines
    09:57 10 Jan 19
    Had everything I needed. Delivery was very quick. Will shop with William Gee again.
    Richard Christian
    Richard Christian
    07:50 24 Dec 18
    Ordered two pairs of shears. Got an immediate telephone call advising that one item was not in stock but would be delivered as soon as available. Both items arrived within 8 days.
    David Brown
    David Brown
    15:08 29 Nov 18
    Brilliantly helpful staff, quick to respond to emails and to ship. Helped me find specific items not on the website and very easy to deal with and process. Will continue to use for future business purchases!
    Hayley Jones
    Hayley Jones
    11:22 14 Nov 18
    Excellent service and high quality products. Highly recommended.
    C Parfish
    C Parfish
    17:08 02 Nov 18
    My friend bought some Terko satin cotton recently and was very impressed with the excellent service, will definitely use again.
    derek richardson
    derek richardson
    20:33 29 Oct 18
    Excellent service - William Gee supplied thread for curtain making that I had struggled to find elsewhere and for a fraction of the price of the few suppliers I had managed to find elsewhere. Delivery was fast and reasonably priced. Would recommend and will be shopping there again. Thank you.
    Hannah
    Hannah
    09:48 26 Oct 18
    I ordered binding and was very pleased with it..Communication went smoothly very nice people Thank you so the sale .Annette from Nottingham. Will definitely buy again
    Crabbycheetah
    Crabbycheetah
    06:10 07 Oct 18
    Quick and efficient service. Very good quality products
    Mo Heywood
    Mo Heywood
    06:07 07 Oct 18
    Was more than pleased with the things that I ordered arrived very promptly and were packed well would certainly recommend and look forward to ordering again in the future.
    caren Tapley
    caren Tapley
    07:37 13 Sep 18
    I ordered a 150m. roll of Dot and Cross pattern and received the parcel the following morning, excellent customer service, thank you.
    Janet Megson
    Janet Megson
    14:31 29 Aug 18
    I placed an order for some haberdashery items. They arrived well packed and secure so there was no damage; and, earlier than I expected to receive them. Good quality products, will definitely be ordering again. Thank you very much!
    kemi watchorn
    kemi watchorn
    12:32 06 Aug 18
    Placed an order online to collect, was ready quickly and they called to tell me so. Through browsing online store it is probably the best stocked haberdashery in the uk, stocking harder to find and a lot of items for designers. Will definatly be using again.
    Thewilsonsdidwhat
    Thewilsonsdidwhat
    08:25 02 Aug 18
    Amazing service. Next day delivery. Good value.
    Janette Hall
    Janette Hall
    14:15 30 Jul 18
    Online ordering is simple; efficiency in recieving goods in a timely manner is superb. Will continue to use William Gee.
    Lara Kelly
    Lara Kelly
    12:26 28 Jul 18
    Have used them for a number of years both professionally and personally. Great prices, fast and efficient service and amazing staff who go out of their way to help.
    Catherine McEvoy
    Catherine McEvoy
    16:34 03 Jul 18
    Excellent service and quick delivery. The only place on the Web I could find Acetate Satin at the correct weight. Very pleased with the product and I will certainly come to you again when we need.
    Sifu K
    Sifu K
    20:39 30 Jun 18
    Everything I needed in one place and speedy efficient delivery, can't ask for much more :)
    Shirley Mather
    Shirley Mather
    15:55 22 Jun 18
    Lovely habedashery with very friendly and helpful staff. Easily accessible by public transport. Will definitely go again.
    Fatima Mirza
    Fatima Mirza
    14:35 17 May 18
    I placed my first order recently and I was very pleased with my purchases. Everything was as described, the quality was outstanding and it was all affordable. Their wide range of haberdashery is the best I've come across. I'll definitely be back for another haul.
    twenty.seven zero.three
    twenty.seven zero.three
    07:53 27 Mar 18
    Excellent quality goods and speedy delivery, can't ask for more! I'll definitely shop here again.
    Lisa Wightman
    Lisa Wightman
    22:34 02 Mar 18
    Excellent. I made a silly mistake when ordering. Phoned immediately and it was all sorted straightaway. Couldn’t have wished for better service. Thank you.
    Joan Clark
    Joan Clark
    09:57 25 Jan 18
    I visited WilliamGee store today. I am a new starter in sewing, so I had just a paper with a list of unknown words to me. Effie, the sales assistant, was very helpful, indeed. She explained to me what I needed for and replied friendly to my queries. So, I easily found all I needed and I am happy! I will definitely recommend this place.
    Natalia Kokla
    Natalia Kokla
    12:17 10 Jan 18
    Excellent service provided by this family run business. Not only are the prices superb but the delivery time is swift too. I shall be definitely using William Gee again and have recommended them to all of my 'stitchy' friends!
    Zoe Goodwin
    Zoe Goodwin
    15:54 03 Jan 18
    Great price and found exactly what I need, speedy delivery too. Will definitely be returning for more zips!
    WOSAT Group SC046663
    WOSAT Group SC046663
    09:44 20 Nov 17
    Amazing selection on their website - lots of unusual and hard to find items. Great prices and quick delivery. I will definitely be shopping there again just because of the extensive range of products.
    rosalind povey
    rosalind povey
    09:40 02 Nov 17
    Brilliant service. Really helpful when I telephoned them. My order was processed very quickly. Will definitely use them again.
    Jane
    Jane
    18:14 31 Oct 17
    A fantastic place for all haverdashery needs. I've been buying from this company for years. Excellent customer service, responds promptly to any issues. Shopping online is easy, but the shop is always worth visiting.
    Sonia Auyeung
    Sonia Auyeung
    18:56 06 Sep 17
    Placed my first online order with William Gee for my small sewing business. Web site very easy to navigate and use, good quality products and very speedy delivery. Very happy customer, I will be ordering again. Thank you.
    julie payne
    julie payne
    20:03 13 Aug 17
    Incredible sewing and craft shop, reminds me of long established sewing shops in Manchester growing up in the 80s. It's not a massive shop but they have everything you could ever want at very competitive prices. I also love their bargain bundles and bags.Staff are incredibly friendly and helpful too. I have done both click and collect online and bought from the shop in person, both great experiences but if you're easily tempted I advise the former option.
    Sophie J
    Sophie J
    23:39 11 Aug 17
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