Click here to go to the Viva Lewes homepage

Disappearing Lewes - Clothkits

There was a time in the seventies and early eighties when it seemed like twenty percent of the Lewes townspeople walked around town on a summer’s day wearing stripy Clothkits t-shirts. If you look carefully, some still do. The t-shirts were one of the most popular items made, of course, by the Lewes-based company which started as a cottage industry selling make-your-own children’s dress kits in 1969, and grew into an international concern selling a ready-made range of colourful jumpers, socks, t-shirts and woolly hats as well. By the time the company was sold in 1988 they were operating from shops in seven towns and cities in the UK to thousands of mail-order customers all over the world, and employing nearly 400 staff, many of whom worked in the shops and warehouse in Broomans Lane in Lewes. “After I graduated in textiles I had two of my designs for ready-to-make children’s clothes on exhibition in the Design Centre in London,” remembers founder Anne Kennedy. “Barty Phillips of the Observer wrote an article about them, and we started sending them out to people from our new house in Priory Terrace. Things just grew from there.” They certainly did. Pretty soon Clothkits was running from a premises on Mount Place, with a shop at the front. “We outgrew that premises very quickly,” remembers Anne, who had expanded the company by now to include adult clothing. “In 1972 we moved to our warehouse in Brooman’s Lane, with a shop front on the High Street next to the Sussex Express.” I for one, remember that warehouse well. My second job after leaving college, in 1986, was as a ‘picker’ in the warehouse.

Continued overleaf

Clothes designer Sue Hymas models for the front page of
Clothkits during the last ‘hottest summer since 1911’