In an exclusive shoot to celebrate the success of Abraham Moon’s York flagship store, Stephanie Smith showcases tweed with a modern twist. Photography by James Hardisty.
Abraham Moon & Sons has never been a company to make a lot of noise or fuss.
With typical Yorkshire reticence, Moon has simply got on with its job of providing beautiful wool fabrics to the world. It is a collaborator extraordinaire, with a client list including fashion houses Burberry, Paul Smith, Dolce & Gabbana, Ralph Lauren and more, plus major retailers such as Marks & Spencer and Boden, and smaller, emerging designers like Leeds cap makers Kempadoo Millar and bag specialists Butterfly Tree.
Then there’s us, the ordinary home-makers, who can order metres of Moon fabric to make our own soft furnishings. There’s a good chance that most of us own a piece of Moon-made fabric, whether it’s a tweed pencil skirt, a cushion or an upholstered armchair.
The Moon story is one of true Yorkshire grit and entrepreneurship, featuring tragedy and rebirth. The company was founded in 1837 by Abraham Moon, who began by supplying local weavers with yarn and then collecting their finished pieces. In 1868, he built a three-storey mill 300 yards away from his home in Guiseley. But Abraham died in a freak horse-and-carriage accident in 1877, and the mill burned to the ground in 1902. Abraham’s son, Isaac, rebuilt it as a one-storey, much larger mill and it became fully vertical, meaning that each part of the fabric-making process from dyeing through blending, carding, spinning and weaving to finishing, takes place on one site. Isaac died in 1909 and in 1920, the Moon family sold its shares to Charles H Walsh, who was designer and mill manager at the time. The current chairman and managing director is John Walsh, the fourth generation of the Walsh family to run Abraham Moon.
Last year, Moon decided to showcase its products and those of some of its collaborators by opening a flagship store, choosing a 15th century shop on Stonegate in York to celebrate its Yorkshire roots and heritage. Coinciding with its 180th anniversary, the doors opened in October last year, bringing together a carefully curated collection of 100 per cent wool home furnishings, accessories, and clothing for men and women.
‘York was a natural fit for our first experience-driven High Street store,” said Walsh. “Stonegate was also the perfect opportunity for us; a bustling spot popular with locals and tourists alike, grade II listed buildings galore and plenty of like-minded British brands surrounding it.”
Moon had already been exploring retail with its lifestyle shop at The Courtyard, Settle, and its mill shop in Guiseley, but this new store brings a wider audience and a new shopping experience. Walsh said: “With a growing brand, thanks to greater trade exposure and the rise of Buy British, we thought it was the right time to pull together our own retail concept and become the true home of all things tweed.
“Our product relies on a luxurious handle and touch so an online-only model isn’t really an option for us.”
Manager of the York store, Paul Gatehouse, added that the shop offers both locals and visitors an opportunity to see, feel and try on a range of contemporary British clothing. “Our ‘tweed with a twist’ range, made from fabrics woven in Yorkshire, blends modern style with traditional quality,” he said. There’s also a great selection of shirts, knitwear and accessories to go with, so customers can put together looks to suit themselves.
As well as its own Abraham Moon brand tweed and wool tailoring and knitwear, brands currently stocked at Abraham Moon in York include: Holland Esquire; Colours & Sons; Gibson & Birkbeck; Arthur Shirtley; Kempadoo Millar; Maxwell Scott; Lawrence & Foster; Ross Barr; Butterfly Tree; Lynsey Walters Jewellers; Warm & Co; Daniel Hanson, Charles & Arthur.
As our fashion shoot here demonstrates, both the menswear and womenswear work to create outfits as modern or as traditional as you please. These are beautifully made pieces that function effortlessly for work, play and special occasions. The beauty of tweed, as international designers have long known, is that it is inherently luxurious yet practical and versatile, working for all ages, shapes and tastes. From countrywear to athleisure, tweed delivers, with style and elegance.
Continuing the theme of celebrating timeless Yorkshire gems, jewellery for the shoot was provided by W Hamond, famed for its Whitby Jet (not a gemstone at all, but fossilised wood). It has had a store in The Shambles in York for 10 years and marks the anniversary with its York Minster collection, inspired by the Heart of Yorkshire Great West Window of York Minster. According to legend, couples who kiss beneath the window will stay together forever. Also featured here are pieces from the Dracula collection, engraved with words from Bram Stoker’s novel.
Our locations centred around the shop and Stonegate, which was home to bookshops and printers in the 16th Century. The Moon shop, No 33, was a printing shop and still mounted on the wall is a carved red devil, a reference to the printer’s apprentice who carried hot metal type. Folklore has it that little demons haunted print shops, bringing mischief such as misspellings (they still exist).
A stone’s throw away, tucked behind York Minster, is Grays Court Hotel, whose beautiful courtyard and gardens provided settings for part of our shoot. Recently voted the most opulent hotel in York, it is probably the oldest continuously occupied house in Britain, and stands on the site of a Roman fortress. It was the original York Treasurer’s House, and the medieval wall of that building can still be seen behind the oak panelling of the Long Gallery. Later owned by Sir Thomas Fairfax and then George Aislabie, William Wilberforce was a frequent visitor. The 300-metre stretch of wall which bounds Grays Court was given to the city in 1878 by Edwin Gray, Lord Mayor of York, and that is why Grays Court retains a private access to York’s City walls.
On our return to the store, we staged another shot in the corner of its second floor menswear department. The shop – which also stocks rugs and throws, lampshades, cushions and gifts – is a lovely showcase for Abraham Moon’s work but, said John Walsh, continuing to innovate will always come first.
“We’ll always pride ourselves on the quality of our work at our Guiseley-based mill,” he said. “By maintaining our place at the top level of British manufacturing, we can keep building the Moon brand and potentially more opportunities like the York shop could follow.”
CREDITS: All clothes, hats, ties and bags available at Abraham Moon, 33, Stonegate, York, and also at The Courtyard, Settle. With thanks to Paul Gatehouse and the team. See www.moons.co.uk. Shoes: (except where stated) Kurt Geiger, Victoria Quarter, Leeds, and at www.kurtgeiger.com. Jewellery: W Hamond, which has stores at The Shambles, York, and Leeds and York, and online at www.whamond.com. Styling and shoot production: Stephanie Smith Photography: James Hardisty
Make-up: Ash Fehners at www.ashfehnersmakeup.format.com and www.facebook.com/ashfehners/ and Instagram: @AshFehners
Hair: Emma Tierney of Ross Charles, Gillygate, York, assisted by Kennedy Watson, www.hairdressersinyork.co.uk.
Locations: York city centre and Gray Court Hotel, www.grayscourtyork.com
Models: Jessica Gagan and Josh Holmes at Boss Models in Manchester.
Fashion assistant: Abigail Turner.