For over 150 years, we have been sourcing the finest raw materials from around the world and innovating to develop luxury fabrics that are entirely unique. Our extensive archives are a rich and constant source of inspiration to us and have been the starting point for our most recent innovations: Pique, Loopback and Cellulock. We number each of our developments and prefix them with the word ‘Quality’ – often shortened simply to ‘Q’.
Quality 82: Jersey Knit
Quality 82, is a unique fine jersey cotton and a descendent of the original lisle cotton Sunspel used on some of the earliest t-shirts ever made. It is constructed from long-staple cotton which is hand picked so that only the softest, highest quality fibres are selected. These fibres are combed to remove imperfections, before being twisted together to create a strong, smooth, fine cotton thread that won’t tangle through being worn or washed. This twist makes it a much cleaner yarn though we still pass it over a flame to remove any overhanging ends. It’s then double spun to remove any remaining impurities. We make t-shirts, underwear and polo shirts using Q82.
Quality 14: Cellular Warp Knit
Quality 14 dates back to the 1930s. It is a lightweight, breathable cotton fabric, constructed from an open knit that allows air to circulate around the body. We developed Q14 on the traditional lace making machines of Long Eaton, Nottingham: the centre of the British lace making industry. Our earliest Q14 garments were made using Sea Island cotton and today we use a smooth, compact cotton that is both cool and comfortable. We make underwear using Q14.
Quality 75: Warp Knit
Quality 75, is another of our cotton fabrics that was developed using the expertise of the Long Eaton lace making industry. It was invented by Peter Hill, the grandson of Sunspel’s founder, in an effort to find an alternative to the relatively heavy pique cottons that were used for polo shirts in the 1950s. He wanted something that would keep him cool and comfortable in the hot summer sun of the Riviera, resulting in a mesh fabric that was not only lightweight and breathable but supremely soft. The fabric has a unique structure that means that it retains its shape, eliminating those irritating twisted seams that can have a tendency of appearing after just a few washes. We use Q75 to make our Riviera polo shirts, as worn by Daniel Craig in Casino Royale.
Quality 30: Piqué
Although Peter Hill rejected traditional piqué some decades ago, we have taken up the challenge of developing our own, unique version of the fabric. It is made from 100% Pima cotton, and is exceptionally soft, strong and brilliant in colour; the antithesis of the stodgier fabrics used for standard sports originated polo shirts We make short sleeve and long sleeve polo shirts using piqué.
Quality 40: Loopback
Loopback is the technical term given to the fabric traditionally used to make sweatshirts. It’s a literal description of the construction of the fabric that features loops on its reverse and is also a reference to the original machine that was historically used to knit the fabric: the loopwheel. Having originally been developed for sports garments, the loops on the back of the fabric were designed to absorb sweat from your body, passing it into the garment to keep you cool. Conversely, our loopback fabric is designed to trap warm air inside, providing an insulating layer for day-to-day wear. We developed our loopback fabric based on an archive Sunspel garment. It is unique in that it uses an extra fine yarn that is tightly knitted. The resulting fabric is softer, lighter, more resistant to pilling, and ultimately more luxurious than athletic sweatshirt fabric. We make our sweat tops, hoodies, track pants and shorts using loopback.
Quality 12: Vintage Wool
Woollen underwear was one of the earliest products to be made by Sunspel when Thomas A Hill founded it in 1860. In fact, despite the development of cotton undergarments and all of their obvious benefits, woollen underwear remained a mainstay of the business until recent years. Our vintage wool is spun specifically for us by an Italian mill steeped in years of heritage and expertise. It is a luxurious two-fold merino that was developed from an archive sample of Sunspel underwear. As it originates from a garment worn directly next to the skin, the fabric is supremely soft and comfortable. We make jackets and jumpers using vintage wool.
Cellulock is our most recent innovation. It was inspired by an undergarment from our archives that dates back to the 1950s and is knitted in England using the finest 100% cotton. It is a double-faced jersey, which means that it is constructed from two different structures – one is rib, one is cellular – that are ‘locked’ together as they are knitted. The result is a mid-weight fabric that sits somewhere between our Q82 jersey and our loopback. This makes it ideal for creating garments that can be worn year round, particularly throughout that tricky between-season period when you want something that is lightweight but also warm.
Sea Island Cotton
Sea Island cotton is coveted as one of the world’s most luxurious materials. Grown and handpicked in the Caribbean, it is the rarest type of cotton and makes up only 0.0004% of the world’s cotton supplies. Sea Island’s unique combination of qualities explains why it is so highly prized: extra long staple length, fine uniform texture, great tensile strength, silky lustre and an extraordinarily soft feel. These qualities allow it to be woven to the very highest yarn count, unlike other cotton types. There are few weavers in the world capable of handling this type of cotton. We work with expert spinners in Switzerland who twist the exceptionally delicate fibres into the finest of threads, which are then woven into a luxurious fabric. Our Sea Island garments are made by hand in very limited numbers by an expert seamstress in our Long Eaton factory. We make t-shirts and underwear using Sea Island.