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Isaac Merritt Singer founded the Singer company in 1851 in the United States. Singer is credited with inventing the first commercially successful sewing machine, with the idea that sewing machines should be widely available throughout the world.
Singer revolutionised the way garments are produced more than once in it's reign as the market leader in sewing machines by introducing the foot pedal, the world's first zig-zag machine, the first electronic machines and world's most advanced home sewing and embroidery machine. Here Stephen Bogod explains the importance of this historic company and how the home sewing machine changed the world.
Please explain your company and your role at Bogod & Company Ltd. What relation do you have to Singer?
Bogod and Company is our family business that was started by my great grandfather over 115 years ago, and we have been supplying sewing machines and related items ever since. We became the UK importer and distributor of the high end Swiss sewing machines, Bernina, over 50 years ago and the Singer distributor in year 2000, when the Singer Corporation decided they would be better served with a specialist independent importer rather than running their own operation in the UK.
Singer is without a doubt the most renowned brand of sewing machine. During the industrial revolution, Singer was ahead of the times, mass-producing sewing machines. How has the company maintained such high esteem throughout?
The Singer company has been an extraordinary pioneer of not only sewing machines but the whole way modern industry now works; mass-production, multi-national organisation, hire purchase, were all firsts for Singer. Its philosophy has always revolved around the idea of making the sewing machine, that essential tool for society, widely available to the world’s population, making them effective, affordable and reliable.
Singer has maintained its renown by continually developing the sewing machine throughout its history. Using the latest technologies has been vital so it is not surprising that Singer developed the first effective electric machine, the first computer controlled machine and many other significant features of the modern sewing machine.
Known for its iconic shape, the singer sewing machine from that era has recently come back into fashion after being used in the All Saints window displays around the world. How did this come about?
I think that the creative “All Saints” designers wanted to bring back the link between the clothes that their customers see and buy every day in the high street with the simple idea that every garment has been individually made by a skilled sewing machinist somewhere in the world.
This is in keeping with a genuine desire from the public to be more in touch with where the items they use everyday come from and what better way to do this than the iconic Singer machines. It definitely fits with the trend we are seeing everywhere that has brought “vintage” very much back in vogue.
How have you seen the fashion industry change in the past ten years? How have sales changed? How has your clientele changed?
I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to comment on the fashion industry with your members and readers – you are the experts. However what I can say is that sewing is no longer seen as “something your mother or grandmother did”. It is fantastic to see a reawakening in new generations of the creative potential and excitement of making your own garments and of putting your own touch of individuality on your own things. Our users have got younger and our sales have gone up!
How has the industry changed since production moved to the Far East? How has Singer been affected?
Producing consumer items in countries other than the affluent West is now a fact of life. Without doing so, we simply wouldn’t have the products at the prices that the mass of people anywhere could afford. As I mentioned earlier, Singer pioneered the idea of international production and so have had factories in China for many years – which I must add are run to the highest social standards.
What can we do to localise production again, especially in the UK?
Realistically I do not think we are ever going to see the huge old Singer sewing machine factory in Clydebank, Scotland again. However there is definitely a place for high quality, maybe lower volume garment manufacture here, and there are signs that it is returning. This is going to be driven by the likes of your membership - inventive, talented, creative designers, who can come up with an continuous stream of great new designs that people want to buy.
Who are some of you biggest clients?
As I mentioned earlier the aim of Singer is to produce sewing machines for everyone so we must sell where the modern consumer wants to buy. There is certainly still room for the small specialist sewing machine shop but many of our machines are now sold through the big chains like Argos, John Lewis, Tesco as well as online of course.
As Bogod is the only distributor of Singer sewing machines in the UK, what are the advantages of using a Singer machine?
The features you need at the price you want to pay – in a machine that looks great, works well and works reliably. All backed by dedicated customer service and a heritage in sewing that created our industry.