A CHAT WITH MAGS
Vélobici is the definition of a family business and we are proud to work with craftsmen who can draw on generations of experience. One of these people is Mags, our head of operations and a seamstress guru. Her career in the Leicester textile industry spans more than four decades and she is regarded as a perfectionist in every respect. Mags’s son, Lee has followed his mum into the business, and works as VB Manufacturing’s co-director and Factory Manager. We caught Mags on a rare quiet moment to talk to her about her role.
How did you start working with Velobici?
Velobici is a brand that I’d heard about through friends in the industry. Chris (Vélobici’s founder) is friends with a colleague of mine who I’d worked with for many years. She had said to me on various occasions that Chris wanted to speak to me regarding working together. I was very interested to speak further as technical sportswear is my speciality and cyclewear was something that really interests me, even though I don’t ride a bike! So when Chris finally got around to calling me (I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me saying he’s not the most organised!), both he and his business partner Kevin immediately asked my son and I (You will hear more about Lee in the next edition of factory life) if I would be interested in going into business. I gave this a lot of thought but the shear passion these guys have for their brand is infectious, so before long we had decided to open a factory.
Have you worked in textiles throughout your career?
I have worked in textiles for as long as I can remember, I think it was actually just before my 16th birthday (1975). The textile industry in Leicester and the surrounding area in those days was buzzing and as a young girl I was always interested in how clothing was made.
What changes have you seen in the Leicester textile industry since you started work?
Since I started in the industry, sadly I have seen a rapid decline in UK production, with a lot of big companies producing their clothing overseas. This has had a huge effect on the entire City in quite a short space of time, it wasn’t so long ago when it seemed as if everyone worked in some capacity in the rag trade, whether you were a lock stitcher, overlocker, fabric cutter … that’s probably the reason why I learnt every aspect of the job.
Tell us about your day, what time you clock on and how you structure your time?
I start work between 5:30 and 6am. I like to get in before the team to set up production. I show them what we need them to do on the garment and if it’s something new I sit down and go through exactly how we want it done. I then make sure the quality is up to standard before I leave them. Between running the production and quality control I also still love to sit on a machine myself, as well as working on design and sampling with Lee and Chris. The day winds up around 4pm… at least it does occasionally!
It’s said you have a forensic eye for quality control – tell us what you are looking for when you’re inspecting a garment?
Quality control is of the utmost importance. I look to make sure that all components fit correctly, that seams stretch without cracking or breaking away, that the stitch is neat and the correct size. I pull seams to make sure there is no needle damage to the fabric. The remit is that every single garment and accessory leaves the factory in perfect condition.
What would you consider to be key attributes required of a seamstress?
Willingness and ability to learn, listen, take direction and have pride in everything you produce.
Would you say the manufacture of sportswear demands a specific skillset? If so, What additional challenges does it present?
A good seamstress can adapt to all types of fabrics. Having said this, some of our fabrics are very stretchy but with the correct setting up of the machines and working together with the girls we always manage to achieve the right result.
What do you do to relax?
Every other weekend we go to our holiday home in Lincolnshire and relax with friends and a glass or two of wine. I enjoy knitting, reading and wait for it…. Sewing!