Japanese fashion craze for Yarmouth workwear

Cutter Sue Osborne in the Yarmo workshop.

Cutter Sue Osborne in the Yarmo workshop. - Credit: Archant

A Great Yarmouth company that can trace its roots back more than 200 years, has become a big name in Japanese fashion.

Yarmo, the clothing brand of Yarmouth Stores, is selling well in Japan alongside top international labels such as Barbour and Burberry.

The company sells more than 10,000 leisure items a year to the country, where British brands are big business. The company featured on the BBC 1 Show “Inside Out” earlier this week , which showed the impact they have had in Japan.

The company sells more than 10,000 leisure items a year to the country, where British brands are big business.

Popular items include warehouse coats, fishermen’s smocks and other items originally designed as workwear, which Japanese customers are adopting as highly fashionable leisure wear.

Sharon Bowles, factory manager, said: “It has become a huge market for us, with about half of our factory’s output now being exported to Asia and the USA, for work and leisure.

“Japanese shoppers have a unique take on fashion. Clothing that we originally designed for the workplace is being worn in the street and in clubs by young people who simply love British brands.”

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The Yarmo range was discovered by Japanese designer Kenzaburo Suzuki, who felt its traditional styles would be appreciated by his customers. He and his team visit the Yarmouth factory twice a year to discuss new lines.

The company can trace its history back to 1801 when it began making oilskin clothes for the fishermen and merchant seamen who braved the stormy waters of the North Sea.

On 1st February 1898 Johnson and Sons, as it was known, became a limited company. Three days later four of the partners joined forces with other local businessmen to form Yarmouth Stores Ltd, which went on to export oilskins, knitwear and clothing to markets around the world.

The company opened stores in ports throughout the UK and before the Second World War employed more than 1,200 people, the majority of them machinists making overalls, uniforms, smocks and other work wear in three Great Yarmouth factories.

The Yarmo brand was introduced for the clothing range in the 1970’s and today the company is a thriving manufacturer of leisure wear and custom-made work wear for industries ranging from motor racing to catering - all hand-made in Great Yarmouth. Yarmouth Stores employs 35 people, most of them machinists working from its South Quay premises.