Trio launch new sheepskin business in Bungay to preserve traditional skills

Three Bungay women have started up a new sheepskin and leather manufacturing business called Fleece

Three Bungay women have started up a new sheepskin and leather manufacturing business called Fleece and Hide . Sally Gagen,Kelly Thompson and Hilary Mason. - Credit: Nick Butcher

It seemed that the era of sheepskin had been and gone following the closure of one of the country’s oldest specialists Nursey and Son of Bungay.

Three Bungay women have started up a new sheepskin and leather manufacturing business called ‘Fleece

Three Bungay women have started up a new sheepskin and leather manufacturing business called ‘Fleece and Hide’ .Kelly Thompson. - Credit: Nick Butcher

However reports of its demise seem to be exaggerated with sheepskin and leather back on the catwalks, capturing the imagination of leading designers around the world.

Now a former Nursey’s employee and two other Bungay women have come together to launch a new business - Fleece and Hide - to create their own brand of sheepskin and leather clothing for men, women and children, made famous by the likes of Del Boy Trotter and John Motson.

Directors Hilary Mason, Sally Gagen and Kelly Thompson are determined that Bungay will once again be seen as a centre of excellence for manufacturing, and that the traditional skills used to create such garments will not die out.

Mrs Thompson, a designer and pattern cutter who has worked for some of the UK’s leading fashion brands including House of Fraser and Laura Ashley, said: “There is a hunger out there for clothing and other goods with the ‘made in Britain label’ and with sheepskin and leather once again catching the eye of the world’s leading designers, we see Fleece and Hide as an opportunity to use the skills and experience that is here on our doorstep to create new and exciting products.”

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Based at a unit in Nethergate Street, the trio have taken on three highly skilled members of staff on a part-time basis, two of which are former Nursey’s employees.

As well as aiming for the high-end fashion market, Fleece and Hide will also offer a range of more traditional goods and services including coats, gilets, repairs and items for outdoor sports and leisure pursuits.

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Ms Gagen, who has a background in fashion and textiles and worked for Nursey’s for six years, said: “We are not naive about the challenges of manufacturing in sheepskin and leather, especially now that the British tanning industry is in danger of becoming extinct.

“Sourcing raw materials isn’t easy, but we have done our homework and made good relationships with suppliers. Orders and enquiries are starting to come in, and the response from everyone we have spoken to so far has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Fleece and Hide’s first customer was another Bungay company, Draganfly, who commissioned them to make bespoke vintage motorcycle seats. They have also had keen interest from customers in Europe, who they are in the process of developing ideas for.

Most of their materials are sourced from Spain and Portugal, although the women have been in talks with Britain’s oldest established sheepskin tannery - Devonia based in Buckfastleigh, Devon - who they hope to work with to develop an entirely British product.

As orders start coming in, the women also plan to take on apprentices.

Ms Mason, who is taking on the role of marketing manager, said: “With Nursey’s closing we just felt so strongly that the skills, knowledge and experience of this specialist form of manufacturing deserved the kiss of life. We plan to take our initiative and enthusiasm into schools to encourage young people to take up an apprenticeship so that the skills involved in sheepskin and leather manufacture have a future.”

For enquiries email or call Ms Mason on 07713162366.

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