Camilla Hibbert

Meet the Maker: Our New Silk Collection

by Camilla Hibbert Global Stories 10 Mar 20

A word from Caryn: 

I have always had a love for art, drawing and painting but as I pursued an education and career in medicine, drawing became something I did when I was a little girl.  

It was only a few years ago I started drawing again, picking up a pencil and rediscovering a passion that I had forgotten. Starting with little doodles of roses, dahlias and ferns, my son Charlie saw the drawings and asked for them to be on the back of his Ox Barn menus. This endorsement gave me the confidence to start spending more time creating what are now our ‘Patterns of Nature’. 

Each drawing is inspired by the botanicals that grow in and around Thyme, the farm, gardens and the wild spaces.

A word from Camilla: 

Since Thyme was founded, the ambition has always been to create something that is more than a place, a brand inspired by nature and centred around botanical patterns. As soon as mum began painting and illustrating, the opportunity to do this was apparent. Our returning guests come to Thyme now and exclaim “it’s amazing to see you doing what you have always spoken about!"

The silk wear collection has been a long time in the making - the process has been more than 18 months since we decided upon the three founding prints and seeing the illustrations translate from paper to silk has been exhilarating. 

Needless to say, choosing the right factory to work with was definitely a daunting decision.

India has a rich history of exquisite, artisanal craftsmanship from fabric weaving to embroidery. Today, the sustainable production of fabrics and clothing is booming in India, with producers eager to meet the requirements of global certifications and the demands of conscious businesses. India is one of the largest producers of raw materials such as cotton or silk and, with a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, they are leading the way with disruptive fabrics such as recycled synthetics, environmentally kind viscoses or fabrics made from waste. 

We made the decision to look here for our production partner for a number of reasons. 

We were put in touch with Sam, who owns a factory outside of Delhi, and were delighted to find a business that has such synergy with our own ethos. It is a family business with the highest quality and sustainable business practice at its heart. 

The factory is small and the production is kept under one roof, meaning we could meet the people cutting, sewing and ironing on our visit.

Walking around the factory, there are smiles and chatting from all around and looking after his workforce was clearly front of mind for Sam. Working hours are restricted with a mandatory lunch break and everyone out the door before 6pm. 

Although, in true Indian style, the factory is a little rough around the edges, health and safety is an absolute priority. The walls are covered with information on safe working practice and the floors labelled with tape to ensure people moving around the factory floor don’t get too close to those on the machines. Sam was particularly proud that all the water in the building is drinkable and of the impressive fire suppression system throughout.

The team are also meticulously aware of being energy efficient, with signs to switch off lights, printers and machines on doors throughout the factory. 

The journey has been wonderful and we have built a strong working relationship with Sam and the team in India. We're on WhatsApp daily discussing everything from packaging, button placement and needle size to Indian festivals and holidays!

Because of this close working relationship, we have been able to push Sam on the things that are really important to us. One of those was removing single use plastics from our production. Sam sourced beautiful Fairtrade cotton bags to send the finished products in and we were delighted to hear he has been suggesting this to his other clients. 

The other was the quality of the finished product. Sam bought in especially fine, sharp needles to ensure the stitching was perfect, and a specialist in to gauge the machines before starting production. Seeing the tailors work on the sewing machines was mesmerising, moving with such precision and care.  

We asked Sam a few questions to give you a little insight into his world.  

A word from Sam: 

As a Father & Son business, can you tell us a little about the story behind the factory?
When my father started the company in 1990, the seeds of a family business were sown.  For several years we were a liason office for a number of brands overseas, helping them source garments, accessories and handicrafts from Indian shores, ensuring they received the highest quality, price and service. In 2000 we took on the rental of a small factory for manufacturing and, driven by an underlying passion for the garment business, I became involved.  The ethos of quality assurance with which we had started drove the manufacturing business: increasing our size, buying more machinery and purchasing our own factory in 2010.  Slowly over time, through word of mouth and the continued support of customers all over the world, the business grew; although we were steadfast in a policy of working with a small number of clients to ensure they receive the highest quality service from what had become a father and son team. 

What is the process in creating an item of clothing? 
There are over 16 points of contact from receiving the silks and linens to shipping the final product. It begins with receiving Thyme’s designs and prints, followed by a series of fabric quality checks, toiles for fit, and print strike-off checks. Once approved the process of manufacture can begin.

The fabric arrives at our factory in its raw form, it is then processed and made ready for dyeing and printing; it is checked by Fabric Technicians before being sent to the Cutting Department. Here the Cutting Head and his team layer the fabric for bulk cutting - a difficult process with silk as it’s such a slippery fabric!.
Each part of the garment: sleeve, body, front or back is bundled and issued to the Production Department, where it is stored ready for fusing by our skilled Interlining Technician. The tailor then stitches the pieces, after which the raw edges are overlocked. A Senior Quality Clerk checks the pieces to ensure they are within tolerance before issuing to the Buttoning Department where the team marks button spots against the pattern issued by the Pattern Maker, then button holes are made and buttons attached. Finally the garment arrives in the Finishing Department where it is sent into thread cutting, spotting, ironing, and a final check from our Quality Department before being boxed for shipment. The manufacture is a herculean task, executed passionately and with love.

What was special about making the Bertioli by Thyme silk wear? 
Everything!! On a personal level it was a pleasure working with the Caryn’s designs, her daughter, Camilla, and of course Stephanie and Sandy from the Thyme team.   Of course, the styles are unique and the attention to detail, stitching, fabric selection, fit, print selection, labelling and colour combinations made every step of the process a pleasure, with constant communication and collaboration. The prints are vibrant yet subtle and this is reflected in Bertioli by Thyme’s ethos, a brand dedicated to working on sustainable fabric and avoiding the use of plastics – it was an inspiring process; working with Thyme is an honour and pleasure. I would like to say they are not just garments, but are pieces of art, that we as a factory are very proud to have made.

What do you do as a business to be as environmentally friendly as possible and why is sustainability important to you? 
Every fabric is purchased from reliable, traceable sources; the printing mills we use are the best in India and adhere strictly to government rules and regulations.  We have ethical compliance at the heart of our business, rules that are reviewed and upgraded every year.  Working with Thyme, has prompted us to source compostable rice starch bags and cotton bags, which we are now promoting to all our clients globally. Thanks to Thyme we have another sustainable business practice to inspire thoughtful production and packaging.

What does ‘sustainability’ really mean for a business in India?
I can only speak for the way we work, but operating sustainably in India for us is about rigorous sourcing and ethical business practice.   We are dedicated to promoting the use of sustainably grown cotton and silk, in addition to carefully sourced viscose. We are striving to avoid polyester fabrics and other plastic-based products. Our factory is kept as clean as possible – free from dust to ensure a safe working environment for our staff and the machinery.  We are mindful of the washing process, water is a precious commodity and should be conserved.  We always strive to do our ‘bit’ for the environment and reduce our footprint as a manufacturer.

Ensuring a safe, happy working environment is so important. What steps do you take to ensure your workers are well looked after? 
Loads!! From following local legislation for factories and the wider guidelines from government. All water provided in our factory is safe to drink; our fire safety systems are up to date and extensive; coolers and air-conditioners are in place for the rigours of the Indian summer; and we have separate bathrooms for our male and female team members … importantly there is plenty of excellent Indian tea at breaktimes. We allow flexible working hours; and with a multi-cultural workforce are mindful to celebrate festivals such as Diwali, Eid and Christmas … our staff parties are about food, fun and frolic.

How do you find working as a family?!
Can I avoid answering this?  No, I’m is an extraordinary pleasure to work with my father.  It is basically the two of us in this business together ...  I have learnt everything from him.  There are of course occasional differences of opinion, but they are dealt with through healthy debate, with the business at the forefront of our thinking.  I was in London recently and got off a stop earlier than my destination, I asked an elderly lady if I was at the right place and she said, “you just need to keep moving forward for 5 more minutes, its not that bad as long as you keep moving forward in life”. That’s what we do: find solutions and move forward in life as best we can.