Take Your Hat Off To Walter Wright
20th November 2015 Paul Andrews
Making hats the traditional way at Walter Wright for over 200 years...
In 1889 the company, Walter Wright, hat manufacturer, was formed on the wedding day of Walter and Minnie-Susan Wright. a unique union of two, long established, hat families.
Walter Wright was from a felt hat producing family, who originated from the Huguenots who settled in London after their expulsion from mainland Europe in the 17th century. Minnie-susan was the eldest daughter of a Hertfordshire family whose origins were firmly established in the local straw hat industry.
The combined knowledge of Walter and Minni-Susan, their experience and attention to detail rewarded them with the success and a reputation that led them to become leading suppliers to the larger wholesalers and shops and, eventually, to the new concept of retail: the "chain store", such as Marks and Spencer and later British Home Stores and John Lewis Partnership. Walter and Minnie-Susan went on to bear seven children and establish severn factories...one for each child.
Philip Walter Wright, after serving in the army in India, succeeded his father, Walter to take charge of the original business. Philip or "Mr. Phil", carried on the family tradition of volume, quality production, often purchasing the entire annual production of raw material suppliers from England and Italy to satisfy the demands of his English customers. A great supporter of the local Luton football club, "The Hatters", he became a director of the club in the 1950's. In the meantime, between his responsibilities to the hat factory and his 1000 staff, his family and his football club, he still managed to find time for his passion for cards, once winning the title deeds of a hat shop in London at a game of poker!!! (The family still wonder what his stake had been!!!)
Walter Philip, the son of Philip Walter and Charlotte Elizabeth Wright, a dress maker and millinery designer from London, after successful career in the army, first worked for his uncle as a director of one of the families factories, Walter Wright and Sons. In the late 1950's, when Philip Walters health declined, Walter took over the control of his father's factory at Albion Road.
Demand for hats since the 1940's had declined due to social and lifestyle changes, consequently Walter Philip focused the production of the factory on satisfying the demands and high standards expected by the chain stores of England and Europe, enabling him to minimize production costs with volume orders. Superior quality, craftsmanship and Walters ability to react quickly to the ever- changing demand resulted in the continued success of the family firm. During a time of difficulties in sourcing dedicated staff and industrial hardships in the 1970's and 1980's Walter Wright remained a market leader in England's hat production.
In the 1970's a fire totally destroyed the premises at Albion Road and the grand interior of Luton's first custom built factory, along with the historic machinery and artifacts. Walter Philip continued to trade, reducing the output of the firm to correspond with the size of the premises he could occupy until the original factory was refurbished.
In 1982, Philip Ian Wright, after gaining experience working in London, joined his father at the Albion Road Factory. Like previous generations, Philip's experience of the trade went back to his early childhood. With his formative education, Philip gained early success in national millinery design awards.
To satisfy his passion for contemporary design he attended the London college of Fashion under the tutorship of Madame Marie O'Regan, subsequently being presented to his Royal Highness, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales as an aspiring young hat designer. When Walter Philip's responsibilities as Master of the Worshipful Company of Feltmakers of the City of London required him to direct his attention to his Livery duties, Philip Ian took charge of the running of the factory. In 1999 Philip took formal charge of the family business and in 2004 incorporated the company.
Whilst the method of hat making has changed little in the past 100 years the styling and design has continued to become more diverse and varied. As the volume hat manufacturing industry has been "exported" to the Far East, Philip has been allowed to dedicate himself to the art of expression that he loves in the creation of quality headwear, which he makes, with his team of highly skilled milliners in Luton.
Philip is passionate about reflecting the character, personality, humor and style of customers who wear his designs, whether they have had the hat created personally by him exclusively for themselves or have purchased one from a boutique or hat department across the globe.
Another Great British Family Business.
Sign up to our newsletter for email alerts