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The world of Guillotine England

Guillotine is a British luxury clothing brand, designing timeless gilets tailored to the highest standards and made from the finest, ethically and sustainably sourced British fabrics.

Guillotine is all about:

  • trans seasonal, heirloom pieces that never date
  • producing quality clothing that is made to last both in style and fabrication
  • celebrating the best of British in design, sourcing and production
  • responsibility and sustainability in choice of materials and manufacture

Our story

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How it all began

Guillotine is a British luxury clothing brand, designing timeless gilets tailored to the highest standards and made from the finest, ethically and sustainably sourced British fabrics.

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The second gilet

Our story begins in the Arcadian landscape of Wiltshire, England. Jerome got ... the gilets are a creatively designed edit of a vintage 1970’s Afganistan gilet which was given to Jerome in 2012. This item of clothing became irreplaceable and the mission was to re-create it using higher quality materials, higher manufacture quality.

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The Guillotine Team

Our founders

Jérôme and Juliet Kitson, 2012

Chapter 1 - Inspiration for the first gilet

Our story begins at the home of founders, Jerome and Juliet, in the Arcadian landscape of Wiltshire, England.  A family friend had left the couple in custody of his collection of possessions from his travels around the globe and this collection included a rather beautiful and highly versatile piece of clothing: a vintage 1970’s gilet from Afganistan.  This piece became a wardrobe staple for Jerome and the inspiration behind the start of Guillotine.  Jerome and Juliet set out on their mission to recreate a luxury version of this simple yet elegant piece of clothing for the discerning modern customer.  They arrived at a design which represents a perfect blend of style, comfort and versatility.

Chapter 2 - The First Collection

After much tweaking of samples and pattern changes Jerome and Juliet finally perfected their cut achieving the flattering silhouette that
the gilets are now known for. They researched the British Mills and
chose to buy the tweeds from Abraham Moon & Sons Mill in Guiseley, Yorkshire.  They then took the plunge and booked a stand at the Burghley Horse Trials in late August 2013.  With their rented white
van, tent and kids in tow they drove up to Stamford for 5 nights
…… the gilets were a sell out!  Spurred on by this success Juliet came
back and added more colours and lambswool/cashmere blends to her
designs creating a solid collection including the ever popular
Primrose Hill and Club Guillotine gilets.

Chapter 3 - The Linen collection

The next stage was to find something that would prove to be popular during the summer months so Juliet designed a French blue hand dyed linen gilet.  The feedback from our gents was very positive as the gilet proved to be a great travel companion with the useful pockets for phone/wallets etc without the formality of a traditional jacket.
It was lovely to receive photos back from our happy customers on glamorous yachts !

Chapter 4 - Introducing Guillotine Ladies

Amanda Bannister joined the team in 2020.  Amanda is a business affairs consultant to the creative industries.  An intellectual property lawyer with 30 years of experience, Amanda’s clients include the renowned designer Roland Mouret.  Having been close friends of the founders since the launch of Guillotine, Amanda spotted the potential to grow the business in the luxury space and came on board to work with Juliet to develop the ladies range.  Amanda has a deep rooted interest in the British fashion and textile sectors, not least because her Yorkshire born father worked in the Yorkshire woollen mills in the 1950s. 

With her consultancy practice based in Notting Hill, Amanda met her namesake Amanda Thompson (Amanda Thompson Couture) whose atelier is in All Saints Road.

The ladies collection has been created by Amanda Thompson Couture for Guillotine.  Amanda Thompson's background isn't silk and cutting shears, it's dance. She performed around the world with the Michael Clark company before making the leap into women's couture in 2008. Choreography now finds its form in how Amanda works with textiles. She lets the natural drape and fall of materials instinctively lead her designs: "I let the fabric shape my thinking”.  

Amanda Thompson says “The aim is always to make something unique. Something lasting. Quality and craftsmanship never go out of season.”  It is precisely these values, shared by Guillotine, and Amanda Thompson’s deep knowledge of fabrics, fit and cutting that made Amanda Thompson our natural partner for the ladies collection.

Menswear

Initially the focus was on menswear. Guillotine has built a loyal customer base and their gilets are as popular in the local pub as they are in palaces and with celebrities.

The Guillotine Man has been particularly drawn to the combination of utility and aesthetic. They love the freedom of the design which is a highly versatile alternative to a traditional jacket whilst retaining the functionality of a jacket with four pockets (two inside and two outside).

Guillotine gilets are perfect for every occasion: enabling layering to create a formal or casual look. The finishing details with pops of colour are the unique features of a Guillotine gilet that instantly mark it out from the crowd.

Womenswear

The wives, partners and girlfriends of the Guillotine men often asked whether Juliet would design a gilet for women.  Over many ‘Friday night drinks’ in the local pub (the Beckford Arms in Fonthill), Juliet and her local friend Amanda Bannister (an intellectual property lawyer who advises clients in the design and fashion industries) began to hatch a plan to expand the Brand into womenswear.  They decided that they needed to bring in a womenswear designer with strong skills in classic tailoring but with an eye for ‘edge’ to create a unique and beautiful silhouette.

Amanda splits her time between her home in Wiltshire and her work in Notting Hill where she discovered Amanda Thompson Couture.   Amanda  B was immediately drawn to her namesake’s beautiful designs which she sells from her atelier in All Saints Road.  Amanda Thompson’s background in dance has given her a unique understanding of the female form, shape and fluidity.    She was the natural choice for a collaboration particular given that she shares the Guillotine values of quality and craftsmanship.

Juliet and Amanda B were delighted that Amanda T agreed to come on board and the new collaboration between them began just as the world locked down at the start of the COVID 19 pandemic.

There then followed a series of weekly zoom brainstorming sessions, mood boards exchanged over email and design meetings online between ‘locked down’ locations in Wiltshire and Wales.

The result is a truly timeless, elegantly tailored women’s gilet available in two lengths and in three choices of fabric.

Our fabrics - Abraham Moon & Sons.

We source our wool and cashmere fabrics from Abraham Moon and Sons in Yorkshire which was founded in 1837 and is one of the last remaining vertical woollen mills in Great Britain, with a reputation for consistent quality and innovative design.  The mill was chosen for its history, environmental and ethical credentials and the sheer commitment to the craftsmanship and quality at every step of the production process. All of their wool growers respect the five animal freedoms and are mulesing free.  Their journey of sustainability takes them from the farms of their growers and the natural benefits of the wool itself, right through to the manufacturing methods at their unique British mill. Within their factory in the heart of Yorkshire, they make extra efforts to be a more sustainable business each and every day. Wool is of course a 100% natural, renewable and biodegradable fibre, which when combined with their commitments to zero waste, recycling and solar energy create a product of the highest ethical quality.  Yorkshire has a unique textile heritage in the UK and is renowned for producing some of the World’s finest and most sought after cloth.

Bales of raw wool are delivered to the site in Guiseley, Yorkshire, to begin the process of creating beautiful fabrics.  The raw wool then goes to the Dye House to be dyed and then to be blended.  Up to seven different coloured wools can go into the recipe for each yarn to create the finished colour.  This is what gives Tweeds their unique rich texture.

The blended wool is then lubricated with a little water and oil is run through a series of combed rollers that first tease the fibres one way and then the other.  This process rids the wool of any impurities ensuring that the finished fabrics are smooth and soft to touch.  The combed and teased fibres are then wound onto a spool ready to be placed into the spinning machine.

The coloured wool is then spun into a huge range of amazing yarns.  The 6 frames draw out the wool and put a precise number of twists per inch into the wool, resulting in a fine but strong thread.  The yarns are then wound onto cones holding up to 16,000m of yarn which are then ready to be sent to warping and weaving.

The cones of yarn are wound over a drum, known as a mill, and the warp (lengthwise threads) is made for weaving.  Up to 2000 threads may be required for a width of fabric.

Then the many different yarns are woven together in intricate weaves to create the stunning fabrics that we use.  After weaving the fabric is scoured (washed) using pure water pumped from boreholes 800ft below Guiseley and then milled and dried.  This is when the wonderful and luxurious feel (handle) starts to become apparent.  The final process is finishing, this is when each length is carefully pressed using steam, thus creating the beautiful fabric.

In fact, textiles have been at the heart of Yorkshire’s existence for hundreds of years dating back to middle ages

The bolts of fabric are then sent to us here at our studio on the family farm in Wiltshire and we start the design process.  Each roll of material is 60m and this is needed to make 50 gilets.  We look carefully at all the colours within the Tweeds and then pick out the different hues and undertones and choose our velvets and moleskins to compliment these.

Our trimmings

Brisbane Moss

We source our Moleskins and velvets for the inner section of our Nehru collars from Brisbane Moss at the Bridgeroyd Works, Lancashire.  Since the middle of the 19th Century, Moss Brothers has been weavers and converters of corduroy and moleskin fabric.  About the turn of century, The English Velvet Cord Dyeing Company moved into the district and took over some of the local dyeing firms.  Fearing the prospect of a monopoly in the dyeing trade, which could be to their disadvantage, several clothing companies got together along with the largest dyers in the district, Moss Bros Ltd with their extensive dye works at Brideroyd.  Together they formed The English Fustian Manufacturing Company Ltd on 13th February 1901.

Over the next few decades, the EFMC continued to expand but in the 1980’s due to changes in the demand for corduroy moleskin they were forced into administration with many divisions closing down.  It was at this time that M Chapmans & Sons who also specialised in pile fabrics because associated with Brisbane Moss and Moss Brothers Dyers and became the current owners in 1983.  The relationship has proved very successful and they have been presented awards for quality of traditional fabrics around the world.

Once we have chosen the colours of our velvets and moleskins we compliment this with choosing the satins for the flat piping detail and thick cottons for the button hole stitching.

Beckford Silks

We use silk velvets for our inner Nehru collars on our Club Cashmere Gilets from Beckford Silks in Worcestershire, a family business that has been dying and printing silk fabrics since 1975.

Our Linings

Bennett Silks

We source our beautiful double crepe silk linings from Bennet Silks.  With over 100 years of experience, Bennett Silks is the UK's leading wholesaler and convertor of silk fabrics.

The company was founded in 1904 by William Henry Bennett in Manchester, the heart of Britain's Textile Industry.

Having started out as an agent for many types of fabrics, primarily for the clothing industry, the company rapidly expanded and decided to deal only in top quality fabrics, of which silk was the obvious choice. Thus William Henry Bennett became one of the twentieth centuries first Englishman to establish trade links with the Chinese Silk Fabrics Industry, links which are still strong today.

The company is still entirely in the Bennett family's hands, run by William Henry Bennett's great grandsons Mike and Chris, who are leading the company through further expansion with the establishment of substantial silk weaving interests in Europe, India, China, Thailand.

The loyal and dedicated staff work very much as a team with the Bennett Family, to produce a closely-knit company which is keen and able to take advantage of market changes, whilst still offering a very personal and efficient service to our customers.

Attention to detail and personal supervision from start to finish shows in all the Bennett collections.

Tailoring

With all these materials stacked up in the boot of our car we head off to London to meet our tailor and to chat over the design and pattern with him.  We are extremely fortunate to have a relationship with one of the best tailors in the industry who works with many luxury and haute couture brands.  The quality of our product is dependent not only on the quality of our materials but on the quality of the workmanship.

We hope you will feel elated and proud when you wear your gilet and treasure and remember the skill and craftmanship that has gone into each garment.

Ju and Jerome