Back in 1556, Queen Mary wasn’t yet an ocean liner—she was still a British monarch.
And yet today, tucked away high in the Pennines near the town of Holmfirth in England’s West Yorkshire countryside, there is Yew Tree Mill, a thriving wool weavers with a provenance harking all the way back to 1556.
But it is no relic. Far from it: the Moxon Holmbridge mill has not only survived more than four centuries, it remains highly influential as the producer of the world’s most premium textiles, primarily Merino wool.
“We buy our wools in Australia and we always look for the finest micron and the longest staple.” Firas Chamsi-Pasha
“Moxon weaves the finest fabrics in the world using very, very rare fibres and the finest of wools,” says Firas Chamsi-Pasha, whose family has owned the business since 1993. “They are woven in very, very limited quantities catering for the most discerning customers.”
Because Moxon pursues high-end craftsmanship and exclusivity, the clientele list reads like a who’s who of global pop cultural and political influence. The late Tsar Nicholas II, the last Emperor of Russia, was swathed in Moxon wool cloth, as were Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie and Emperor Hirohito of Japan, and more recently the late Frank Sinatra and Sir Elton John.
Little wonder British GQ pays tribute to the venerable weaving mill as part of its 25th anniversary issue.
When Moxon Holmbridge first began perfecting the craft all those years ago, there was no such thing as Savile Row—that was still a couple of centuries away. But when the famous street in Mayfair took shape, becoming the home of British menswear, the tailors of the strip sought Moxon, and other luxury UK fabrics to satisfy the exacting demands of their clients.
The company’s longevity and reputation was built through craftsmanship, innovation and more recently exclusiveness. The famed Savile Row tailor Richard James commissioned what would become known as the ‘Rainbow Pinstripe’ for a particularly flamboyant client.
“The stripes in the garment vary from one to the other, covering all six colours of the rainbow,” says Chamsi-Pasha. “That was bought by Elton John.”
Moxon was also the first mill to weave metal into cloth, creating a gold pinstripe cloth for Frank Sinatra. One of only two suits ever made from the fabric today sits in the wood-panelled archive library at Yew Tree Mills, Moxon’s elegant headquarters in West Yorkshire.
And the mill also pioneered a way to weave initials into the cloth instead of traditional pinstripes, giving the ability to personalise a garment in a manner most suited—no pun intended—to the calibre of the kind of clientele Moxon services.
To satisfy customers with incredibly high standards with the highest quality textiles—Chamsi-Pasha tells British GQ’s anniversary issue that Moxon takes 14 days to finish a cloth, a process modern mills can complete in just seven hours—one must seek out the very best raw materials.
Ironically, those materials come from a country that, in 1556 was still an “undiscovered island” in the South Pacific: Australia. Here, Chamsi-Pasha sources Merino wool with the finest micron—11.5, or a touch over one tenth the thickness of human hair—to weave into pure luxury.
These modern Merino wools are subjected to finishing techniques that date back 150 years. The ultra pure water extracted from the lake at Yew Tree Mills is the final ingredient to create exceptional wool cloths—worsted, flannel and everything in between—with a peerless lustre and soft finish.
There are few places in the world that can create cloth of such exemplary quality, let alone sell it for up to £11,000 per metre. But that’s precisely why Moxon has not only persevered for 457 years, it has flourished, attracting the custom of the world’s rock stars and royalty along the way.