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‘We’re still Manchester’s best kept secret’ – a chat with Mike Stoll of Private White V.C.

Written by James Young.
Posted April 18, 2024.
Mike Stoll, owner of Private White

It’s a Thursday afternoon in the Cottenham Lane industrial estate in Salford. A cash only pub sits on the corner, anti-fly tipping signs are marked with graffiti and the railings have half the paint chipped off them. On the face of it, this just seems like a standard estate, but it is the home of the clothing brand Private White, the only clothing brand left in Manchester that manufactures everything in its own factory and has been worn by David Beckham, Daniel Craig and the Gallagher brothers to name but a few.

I’m buzzed into reception and taken upstairs to meet Mike Stoll who is more than happy to give me a tour of the factory. He knows a thing or two about clothing with his family being involved in the business for over 100 years before him. He left school at 14 to go into textiles and has been involved with the company for over 50 years.

Private White is based in Salford

The factory is huge and still uses some of the original equipment. “This is a cutting machine from the 1880’s that we still use. It’s been with us all the way through and is still more accurate than anything modern for cutting,” says Mike looking at the lettering that has MANCHESTER in block capitals ingrained onto it. 

“The jackets take two to three hours to sew but there’s cutting and finishing. The cutting takes two hours and then another two hours to finish so probably about 6-7 hours to make one jacket. In labour hours that’s about £80 because we pay our staff well, between £14-18 an hour which is more than junior chemists.”

The prices aren’t cheap, but the quality is undeniably, made from the best materials around. Another door opens down a staircase to a room of Mike’s employees hard at work on sewing machines and into the shop at the front of the factory.

“Anyone can be a brand and there’s loads of fashion brands in Manchester but we’re unique as everything is made here which is what should be happening and people like the story because of it. We should be making in England to support England, but they’re not, it’s all overseas.”

And then back up into Mike’s office, there’s scrapbooks, years’ worth of diaries, newspaper clippings and pictures all up on the wall. The history is incredible.

“Private White worked here before World War I and was awarded a Victoria Cross when he came out. The company belonged to a few other people before the grandson took it over and in 2007 the brand was created in the grandfather’s name. Now it’s a D2C (direct to customer) business using an archive for inspiration of over 100 years of all the worker’s jackets, raincoats, jeans and anything that fits into the brand. When I started, we just made a raincoat, it’s expanded now to become clothing as well. Our patterns and library of contents are unprecedented, even in Italy.

“We’ve had all the James Bond’s except for Sean Connery wear the brand. David Gandy, David Beckham, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, there’s a whole host of people that have worn our clothes.”

Even with all of this, there are still some brands who are surprised that the factory exists.

“The Chanel show in the Northern Quarter should’ve been here. It was not flagged by the council that there was still a factory left, Chanel didn’t believe there was one. They went up to Carlisle instead to find a mill to do some photography. We’re still Manchester’s best kept secret and we really shouldn’t be, which is hard when a society continues to buy cheap clothing. The shirts will last about five years of solid wear. If you’d have gone to a supermarket and bought three for £10 you’d end up spending more in the long run. We’re being fed on a diet of cheap clothing. The value of the clothes is what you pay for.”

It appears that Private White is a truly sustainable brand with it being clear where the clothes are made and how long they last for. The website offers a lifetime repair service and it’s something Greater Manchester should be celebrating when it comes to environmental policy.

“We buy from Yorkshire and Lancashire mills, we must have one of the lowest carbon footprints out of anyone. Back in the 70s, milk came in recyclable bottles and everything was in paper bags. It was a sustainable society, then it became unsustainable and the same people who made it unsustainable are now bragging about being sustainable again. We’ve remained sustainable the entire time. Nothing comes over from China on big ships, it is a local thing. We send out individually boxed garments in recyclable boxes. It’s a very pure aesthetic. We’re very much about the workers.

The Salford motto is that the welfare of the people is the highest law. I have it in Roman written up in my office. The trade union and Cottonopolis movements started here. I’m proud to be Mancunian.”

And like that my tour comes to an end. You can find more out about Private White at