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Fri, Jan 09, 2009 - Page 10 News List

Viyella becomes latest UK icon to file for bankruptcy


Clothing store Viyella became the latest long-standing British retailer to succumb to dire retailing conditions and file for bankruptcy protection on Wednesday.

The owners of Viyella, which was founded in 1784 and gave the world the first branded cloth, said they had reluctantly decided to place the business into administration “following an assessment of the current economic situation and the prospects for the future.”

Viyella employs around 500 people across Britain, having branched out in recent years from womenswear to also sell menswear, houseware and cosmetics.

“We believe there will be a strong interest in the Viyella brand and hope the joint administrators will be able to conclude an early sale which protects the brand name and many of the jobs within the business,” investment group Harris Watson said in a statement.

Viyella joins other historic British companies — including general retailer Woolworths, tea and coffee merchant Whittard, queen’s tailor Hardy Amies and classic china manufacturers Waterford Wedgwood and Royal Worcester & Spode — in filing for bankruptcy protection.

Under the administration process, independent operators are appointed to run the company to return funds to creditors, which can result in a sale or breakup of the business.

“We should like to express our thanks to all the Viyella team for the hard work they have put into the business,” Harris Watson said. “Unfortunately the current economic downturn has undone all the efforts of the last five years.”

Viyella has its origins in the decision by Henry Hollins to open a cotton spinning mill at Pleasley, central England, to take advantage of the Industrial Revolution’s fledgling textile industry.

By the mid 1840s, Hollins & Co was using steam-driven machinery and in 1851 it showed off its cashmere, silk, cotton and fine merino wools at the Great Exhibition in London.

In 1891, the company developed a new cloth — 55 percent merino wool and 45 percent long staple cotton — that it registered under the name Viyella three years later, giving the world its first branded cloth and the company a new name.

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