Kinky clothing keeping business buoyant

Gary Lowther and welder, Rachael Parkes with staff at PVC-U-LIKE
Gary Lowther and welder, Rachael Parkes with staff at PVC-U-LIKE
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Business is buoyant for a company that makes traditional plastic rain macs using original 1950s machines and methods.

But although the firm’s heart is in its high-end range of classical rainwear, it is an unexpected sideline that’s keeping the business afloat.

Those of a prudish disposition should stop reading now.

For as well as making fashion rainwear, Brackley-based PVC-U-LIKE has a growing trade in fetishwear.

Owner Gary Lowther said: “To try and keep a business going, you have to come up with new ideas all the time.

“Fetishwear is the mortar that’s keeping the bricks together.

“We’d love to go back to our roots and keep producing raincoats all day long but there just isn’t the market for it.

Mr Lowther added: “Costume play is a new area and we’re trying to tap into that market as well.

“The PVC can quite easily be made into a nurse’s outfit.

“It’s all good fun.

“With the advent of the internet, people can go online and order what they want.

“We’re sending goods all round the world but our main market is Europe.”

Mr Lowther began making PVC raincoats and protective clothing in his front room in his spare time in the 1990s, then moved the operation to a farm near Towcester.

Being made redundant from his job as a manager in the HGV truck rental market in 2001 gave him the impetus to try doing it full time.

“By that time, we’d already started supplying shops and boutiques in London with fetish clothing,” said Mr Lowther.

“At that time the internet was still in its infancy. We were actually advertising in Exchange and Mart.”

In 2002, the company bought the assets of an established factory called Marks Bros in Ancoates, Manchester.

And today it is still using the original 1950s high-frequency welding machines and sewing machines from The Old Mill factory at Ardwick.

“That gave us the ability to keep making classical rainwear,” said Mr Lowther.

“The old machines were very well built and they allow you to have the dexterity. They don’t make them like that any more.”

The company also still has the original patterns that were used to supply the liked of Marks & Spencer in the 1950s .

In August, the business moved into larger premises on Riding Road on Brackley’s Buckingham Road Industrial Estate.

And now Mr Lowther is looking to take on more staff.

An informal open day from 10am to 1pm next Friday is an opportunity to drop in and meet the team and try your hand at sewing, cutting PVC patterns or welding PVC clothing.

Mr Lowther said: “It’s a small company that’s expanding. It’s still manufacturing, which is a great thing in the UK, and we want to employ local people.

“As long as they’ve got that bit of dexterity, if someone’s got an interest in craft, we can train them.

“It’s a good environment to work in. It’s a group effort to get the goods out. We don’t pressure people to do too much because then you make mistakes. The emphasis is on doing a quality job and getting it right first time.”

See www.fashionrainwear.co.uk