- Buyer's Guide
Trakke :: Waxed Cotton Factory Visit
Trakke recently enjoyed a visit to the waxed cotton factory that provides the fabric for their bags and have kindly agreed to us reposting their write-up on the experience. If you dig finding out about not just the end product but also the beginning, even before assembling the materials into a bag, you’re sure to enjoy Trakke’s piece as much as they enjoyed their visit…
A while back, we paid a visit to our waxed cotton suppliers up in Dundee. Primarily, we were there to discuss some exciting new projects that are currently in development, but we were also eager to learn more about the history of the mill, and the processes involved in making the fabric that we use as the core of our range. We had also heard rumour that the factory itself, one of the oldest mills in Dundee, was a goldmine of beautiful photographs just waiting to be shot. With this in mind, we took our good friend and photographer Niall Walker along with us for the guided tour.
Upon entering the factory, it became clear quite quickly that Trakke is probably not their primary customer. We entered a vast room, full of whirring industrial machinery. Thousands of metres of loomstate cotton sat on trolleys, waiting to be dyed. We buy our rolls in forty metre lengths. These rolls were two thousand metres. We were in heaven.
Next, we were shown into the dyehouse. Every metre of fabric produced here is made to order, and hence is a totally customised process. They can produce a range of fabrics in literally any colour, with a range of different finishes.
As we walked in, a wave of heat washed over us, and the air was thick with the smell of pigment. Huge machines lined the room, each housing an enormous roll of fabric, which was being transferred between two spindles as the fabric dipped into the bath of dye beneath.
Steam poured from the openings, and the fabric dripped with rich colour. These guys produce fabric for some of the most renowned fashion-houses in the world, and you can see why.
Once the fabric has been dyed, it must be dried and treated to prevent the colour from running. For this stage of the process, the machinery gets a whole lot bigger. We were shown a roll of fabric that had been loaded onto a set of rollers at one end of the factory, ready to be processed.
It took us a good few minutes to walk to the other end, where the prepared fabric could be found neatly rolled and ready to go. As we walked alongside the machine, small windows showed the inner workings; a complex series of rollers and ovens, designed to dry the fabric quickly and efficiently. Above our heads, the intricate latticework of the steel rafters served as a reminder of the long history of the company.
Next comes the process of impregnating the fabric with wax. We were eager to see how this was done – this is, of course, the process that really sets this fabric apart. The wax adds functionality and weather-resistance, but also a rich depth to the colour, a distinctive texture and of course, that fantastic smell. We looked to our guides in anticipation, but sadly to no avail. Getting this process right isn’t easy, and nearly 150 years of experience – refining the process and developing better methods of applying the wax – isn’t going to be given away that easily! Although the factory itself is long established, the technology they employ is highly innovative, and a closely guarded secret!
Our visit really brought home the incredible expertise that goes into making waxed cotton. We use it in our range of bags because it is durable, long-lasting and beautiful. It wears in, not out, and therefore we know that each product we send out will look as good, if not better, 20 years down the line. We manufacture our bags in the UK because we believe in British quality, and clearly we are not alone.