March 18, 2013 by Ville Raivio
Fresco is a suiting originally woven by Martin Sons&Co., now belonging to Huddersfield Fine Worsteds Ltd as part of J.&J. Minnis. It was patented in 1907, and in its application the manufacturer explained that, in a worsted cloth woven with the ordinary double or single threads, the threads were liable to flatten under pressure, closing up the small interstitial openings left in weaving, “but, according to this invention, we twist together a double and a single yarn, producing thereby a thread for both warp and weft which, when woven into cloth, retains its roundness while the cloth is in wear, and we thus prevent the closing of the said openings and attain the said object.
The current Fresco range arches from 250 grams in weight to just under 500 grams, with a price of around 60 pounds per metre. Most fabrics are grey or blue in colour, with a few beige exceptions. The fabric is a renowned spring and summer cloth due to its unsurpassed woven qualities. A noticeable open weave, Fresco allows the breeze to pass through and cool the wearer, but will benefit from a lining so as to avoid naughty patches of chicken-light skin from showing. The high-twist fabric resists wrinkles, but comes with a coarse hand, which makes for another aye for lining. Other mills offer similar weaves, but Fresco is the original.
The fabric’s perks are indeed numerous and enticing, thus a few caveats are in order before Visas squeal and spouses scream. Fresco is as cool as suitings come. Heavily ventilated offices, airplanes and such will leave the skinny wearer shivering. The fabric’s coarser surface won’t quite do for the most formal of occasions. At sixty pounds per metre, one regular-size suit – requiring 3½ metres – will cost over 200 pounds in fabric alone. Aside from these tidbits, Fresco is among the most useful suitings available.
In 2007, the fabric celebrated its first centenary with this publication:
“Fresco cloth as popular as ever after 100 years
The year 2007 marks the centenary of the famous “Fresco” cloth, a high-grade, crisp and cool plain-weave worsted of English manufacture for summer wear in the hottest climates. Woven by Martin Sons & Company, of Huddersfield, patented in July 1907 and initially sold exclusively by the London agent, A. Gagniere & Co., two-fold and three-ply Fresco suitings and jacketings continue to be best-sellers, appealing equally to long-term customers and younger celebrities in the world of entertainment. Appropriately described as “cloths that take advantage of every breeze”, Frescos are still manufactured by Martin Sons & Co., which was founded in 1859 and is part of Huddersfield Fine Worsteds, of Kirkheaton Mills, whose sales director, Mr. Iain Milligan, disclosed that for the first time mohair is being introduced to mark the centenary year.
Traditionally featuring an all-wool cloth in a high-twist porous weave, in weights from 250 to 465 grams per linear metre, the Fresco range is being extended to include a worsted quality with mohair and a centenary thick & thin Fresco. Over the years Frescos have been offered in a wide choice of patterns, such as traditional checks, glen styles and window panes, as well as plains in classic colours and fashion shades. “Fresco is an old-established fabric but it has also become a fashion item and is being used by the new breed of London tailors such as Kilgour and Spencer Hart,” The Fresco is being marketed in 2007 with a “Centenary” label and is available in classical stripes and plains. Two stock supported Fresco bunches are being offered by J & J Minnis, one of several illustrious names of the British trade owned by Huddersfield Fine Worsteds, which manufactures some of the world’s most luxurious cloths. Fresco ranges are a mainstay of the company’s Hunt & Winterbotham merchanting business, which has two trading names, J & J Minnis, of Savile Row, and John G. Hardy, of London.
The cloth was designed to keep bankers, barristers and other professionals, whose work required formal dress, comfortable in high temperatures. In promotional literature at the time, it was said that since the introduction of the new cloth for summer wear, to which they had given the name Fresco, “there is no excuse, even for those most regardful of their personal appearance and most conservative in their habits, to resign themselves to the discomforts peculiar to the summer season”. The merchant at the time said that, although little known to the general public at home, the cloth “is in great demand in all the Continental cities and in countries where the great heat of the summer compels the inhabitants to dress rationally”. Obtainable from leading tailors world-wide, the Fresco cloth was described as “untearable, of fast colour, and of lasting wear.
It will not shrink or crease, and it can be cleaned without detriment to the freshness or shapeliness of its appearance, and is equally suitable for gentlemen’s or ladies’ wear”. At one time Huddersfield’s biggest employer, with 1,750 workers, worsted weaver Martin Sons & Company, then of Wellington Mills, Lindley, applied in April 1907 for a patent for its invention of a worsted cloth “through which air can pass freely, thus facilitating ventilation of clothing made therefrom”. Patent No. 7770, for the manufacture of worsted cloth from warp and weft produced by twisting together a double and a single yarn, was accepted on July 4, 1907.
In its application, the manufacturer explained that, in a worsted cloth woven with the ordinary double or single threads, the threads were liable to flatten under pressure, closing up the small interstitial openings left in weaving, “but, according to this invention, we twist together a double and a single yarn, producing thereby a thread for both warp and weft which, when woven into cloth, retains its roundness while the cloth is in wear, and we thus prevent the closing of the said openings and attain the said object.”