Apollo Alpha uses hi-tech spun-polyester yarn and offers a finish that is dramatically different from that of other man-made fibres.

“You really do have to feel it to appreciate the difference,” says Moira O’Brien, managing director for Hilden’s International Hospitality Division. This innovative spun polyester has a cotton-like feel without diminishing the properties associated with man-made fibres. Compared to 100% cotton, Apollo Alpha lasts longer and is more durable. The fabric shows only minimal shrinkage and has excellent stain release and colour retention qualities.

Spun processing benefits

In the processing of Alpha many laundries have recorded energy savings as the washing temperature is reduced, and in drying as the moisture content is dramatically reduced. Established sources have discovered that they can decrease the wash cycle time, eliminating the tumble dry process and speeding up the ironing process.

Design and colour offering

While believing in and offering innovation, Hilden is still realistic about the market that it serves. “A section of the market would love to move away from standard products,” says marketing manager Boyd Hargreaves. “We’ve had a lot of comments from customers wanting to differentiate themselves from competitors.” But as he points out, there can be problems achieving individuality while operating in a pool stock system.

So the company is offering Alpha in Rose, Ivyspot and plain weave – these being the most globally-recognised designs. The Rose design eases transition if preferred from 100% Polyester Rose stocks as does the Ivyspot design from its cotton counterpart. The plain weave can be incorporated as a further alternative to complement the new and existing stock designs.

Stocked colours in these new designs are based on previous best sellers in each particular design range. Hilden can dye to any shade of the colour spectrum for a minimum of 300 metres per width. This ability to offer choice adds to the company’s strengths and where customers do need a touch of individuality, Hilden can meet the need.

Developing individuality

Restaurant designers face the headaches of meeting budgets and schedules, preparing sites and functions and deciding on themes. A good linen manufacturer can assist by offering futuristic colours and the design expertise to make the job easier. They can help design-conscious restaurateurs to develop their individuality. As sales manager Angela Scanlan says: “People make their own choices about which linens they feel are important. It is our job to offer a collection of designs and colours for these choices to be effective.”

That choice extends beyond standard table linen. Early last year the company started producing a range of accessories including table runners and chair covers. These not only allow customers a further chance to display an individual touch, but also have a practical role in catering to those who need to be themed in terms of design. They could prove to be an attractive line for textile rental companies to market.

Colour fusion

Hilden has further combined tradition and innovation in its Decosit 2002 Trends-inspired Colour Fusion concepts. The design studio has amalgamated Hilden’s trademark quality fabric with a range of contemporary colours to create six distinctive colour palettes, each representing diverse lifestyle trends. The trends are:

• Party

• Structure

• Ethnic

• Skin

• Natural

• Flower.

These ideas have been condensed into a specially-designed Colour Fusion swatch, using colours that embody each trend.

The colours are available in 100% cotton, 100% polyester and 50/50% polycotton. If you would like more information or you would like to order a swatch, contact the sales manager Angela Scanlan on 01254 391131 or email ascanlan@hilden.co.uk.

Hilden survival

Investment in hi-tech innovation has ensured Hilden’s success and survival in the face of a declining domestic textiles industry and the invasion of cheap imports. The company claims that manufacturing gives it a distinct competitive edge over its rivals. Where other suppliers import table and bed linen, Hilden both imports and manufactures the products that it sells. It has five mills producing Jacquard-weave in Europe, managing weaving operations from the heart of Lancashire.

Owned and still run by the Hargreaves family, the business has survived and thrived over six generations for 125 years. “Our strength,” says Moira O’Brien, “is that we continue to invest in the latest weaving and dyeing machinery and in the latest technology for cutting, sewing and design.” In a five-year rolling programme of restructure, the company has made major investments in looms and electronic Jacquard-weaving systems. The intensive investment also takes in jet-dyeing technology, ensuring consistent quality and allowing the company to offer an a-la-carte dyeing service with massive colour choices and the ability to match colours to precise requirements, even in small batches.

Design ability

The company has the expertise to produce intricate weaves on all widths of fabric. “We can offer customers the chance to be individual. We have five fully-equipped CAD stations and a design team willing to work with the customer to develop any design, complex or simple,” says Moira O’Brien. “As a ‘vertical’ manufacturer with control over the whole operation from yarn preparation, weaving and dyeing through to finishing and make-up of the end product, we can respond to trends quickly, within a five-to-six-week lead time, if needed.”

The UK customer base is primarily textile rental, hotel groups, restaurant chains and institutions. There is also a strong export arm, which deals directly with international hotels. Hilden has subsidiaries in France, Scandinavia and the USA. The company’s relationship with the UK textile rental business is longstanding and also a fond one.

“Overall,” says Moira O’Brien, “the market splits 60/40 cotton/polyester.” However, she sees a major switch into spun polyester because of its excellent feel qualities and added benefits compared to existing products in the marketplace. Keenness to trial the product and the favourable feedback obtained has confirmed that spun is becoming increasingly popular.

Hilden’s scope includes a bed linen collection. The new Bedlinen Collection combines a range of fabric qualities and designs to suit individual styles and budgets. Hilden is better known for its table linen. However, it has an extensive bed linen range of which the Collection is just one line. Here again, the available range is expanding beyond the basic contract sheet. Jacquard-woven sheeting has proved successful in the retail sector, and is now driving through into the commercial sector.

The 100% cotton sheeting is available in contemporary Rose, Paisley, Micro Check and Micro Stripe, which are brand new designs being introduced into the market. Traditional Satin Stripe is also featured in 100% cotton and 50/50% polycotton. A selection of plain weaves has also been incorporated to complement The Collection. The range is available in single, double and king sizes, various pillowcase styles, flat and fitted sheets and base valances.

For samples of the latest bed linen collection, call 01254 391131.

Aftersales service

On a practical note, launderability is an aspect that Hilden explores thoroughly as part of its development programme. A laundry technologist and laundry training centre are part of the company’s resources. These come into play not just in product development, but as a service to its rental customers.

“We’re not trying to teach the customers how to do their job, but there are times when we need to work together to resolve a particular problem,” says Moira O’Brien.

With its extensive manufacturing facilities, including overseas sites, and the belief in investment to meet customer needs, Hilden’s future as one of Europe’s market leading textile suppliers is assured.