International style icon is back in business with global Pollyanna brand

Style guru Rita Britton has revived her fashion brand Pollyanna – and started designing and making clothes in Barnsley again.

Britton, who opened her first fashion emporium in the town centre in 1967, has come out of semi-retirement to relaunch Pollyanna Barnsley Ltd with business partner and daughter-in-law Michelle Underwood.

This time around, the pair will focus on the design and manufacture of their own collection, selling direct to Britton’s loyal customers – and a new generation of couture buyers.

They have moved into a workshop at The Business Village Barnsley and are recruiting a team of pattern cutters and machinists headed by experienced seamstress Hazel Snow who has worked with Britton for eight years.

Britton said: “I can’t do retirement. I’ve had to pull back in the past for health reasons but always want to get back to work. I still have a passion for beautifully made clothes and I want to be part of the future not the past.”

Her original Pollyanna store stocked avant garde labels such as Comme des Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake before it closed in 2014 after 50 years’ trading.

She had launched her own design collection in the 1990s to create a range of enduring staples which complemented the big-name designers.

Previously marketed under the label Nomad, Britton and Underwood have now re-launched her collection under the signature Pollyanna brand.

Britton said: “We decided to adopt the name Pollyanna for the label now as it is so well-recognised, and I’m very fond of it. I did wonder if younger people may find it old-fashioned, but they seem to love it.”

Pollyanna offers designs through online, telephone and in-person sales. Most garments are custom-made to order and pieces may be adjusted to fit an individual’s body shape if required.

Britton said: “We’re almost working to a tailor business model. Making to order cuts out waste almost entirely and ensures each person receives a garment that is perfect for them and will make them feel fabulous every time they put it on.

“People have to wait for a garment from us, but our customers are okay with that.

“I know we have to walk a tightrope, because young women want to follow trends and have new looks and we need to work out how to serve that desire too.

“But, it has never been right to pay a 12-year-old in a faraway country a pittance to make poor quality clothes then ship them here to wear for a little while then throw. We need to change attitudes, buy less and buy better.”

She added she is focused on supporting the revival of clothing manufacture in this region, joining companies such as Lucy and Yak and Glass Onion Vintage.

She is working with Barnsley College to support the idea of new pattern cutting courses and sewing apprenticeships and explore the possibility of a showcase for young designers in Barnsley town centre.

Business development manager at The Business Village, Kevin Steel, said: “We are happy to welcome Rita and Michelle to The Business Village. Pollyanna is a global heritage brand synonymous with Barnsley and has a great future ahead of it.

“Rita brought Mary Quant miniskirts to Barnsley in the 1960s and Japanese designers to the UK in the 1980s, so it’s no surprise she’s at the forefront of the today’s campaign to revive clothing manufacturing in the UK and champion a more sustainable approach in the fashion industry.”