One of Derry’s last traditional shirt-makers to close
Up to 34 jobs to go as bespoke shirt firm Smyth & Gibson loses ‘key customers’
Michael Fassbender was a customer of Smyth & Gibson. Photograph: James Alcock/Fairfax Media via Getty
Derry’s Smyth & Gibson, one of the last traditional hand-made shirt firms in Ireland and the UK, is to close its doors because of “an increase in production costs and a drop in retail sales”.
But the company said over the last year it had lost a number of “key customers” and that it had been unable to replace this revenue.
At one time Smyth & Gibson produced 1,000 hand-made shirts every week, not just for its own label but also for clients including Marks & Spencer, JW Anderson, Fred Perry, Tiger of Sweden and Margaret Howell.
Two years ago the company secured a £500,000 loan from the Invest NI-backed Growth Loan Fund to expand its business.
At the time Smyth & Gibson said it wanted to grow its export markets, particularly in Canada and Germany and extend its direct retail channels.
However, on Wednesday the company said it had no choice but to close its factory in Derry, with the loss of 34 jobs.
Out of these job losses the company said it has been able to find 20 of their staff “permanent employment” with O’Neills Irish International Sports Company.
Smyth & Gibson has also proposed entering into a company voluntary arrangement with its creditors.
The closure marks not just the end for one shirt firm in the North but also the end of another chapter for Derry and the city’s long textile industry tradition.
Derry was once the European capital for shirt manufacturers, with the sector employing an estimated 18,000 people in the city in the 1920s.
Sam Morrison, director of Smyth & Gibson, said it would be a “very sad day” when the company closes this month.
“For many years our factory in Derry has been one of the last remaining traditional hand-made shirt makers in Britain and Ireland,” he said.
“We have taken every step we could to avoid the closure of the factory. However, we are facing a volatile retail climate, which has meant that our current business structure is simply no longer viable.”