“Our Grand Masters are helping to create a whole new generation of jeans makers”
A west Wales-based fashion retailer has shown its commitment to investing in its older employees’ skills by backing a new Welsh Government campaign, designed to challenge stereotypes and show ‘people do not have a best before date’.
Hiut Denim brought jeans making back to Cardigan after the previous factory, employing 10 per cent of the local population, closed down. Claudio Belotti is a 64-year-old Grand Master at Hiut and has been making jeans for over 40 years.
Claudio and the company are now supporting the Welsh Government’s Age of Investment initiative, launched during Skills for Work Week, which highlights to employers across Wales the importance of retaining their older workers.
It warns employers that within the next five years, one in three people of working age will be over fifty. Therefore, investing in skills throughout an employee’s working life has never been more important.
“I can’t count the pairs of jeans I’ve helped make. It could be hundreds of thousands. I’ve been making them since I left school at 15,” said Claudio.
“I went into the cutting department of the local factory and learned my trade; I was there for 38 years. I grew up with the factory and as it grew bigger and bigger, producing 35,000 pairs a week at its peak, I was given more responsibility.”
Unfortunately, Claudio was made redundant from this role in his mid-50s but after being offered a customer service role in retail in Haverfordwest he was introduced to David Hieatt, the man behind the Hiut Denim Company.
Claudio continued: “I loved the vision that David had for Hiut. The company is something special; the fabrics, the quality, the people, the skill factor. It’s created a new future for Cardigan.
“Part of my job is to train younger people coming on board, to help create a whole new generation of jeans makers. I’m training a young guy called Robert to be a cutter and one day he’ll take over from me. There is a lot to learn and I am still learning; about different fabrics, different cuts, and different ways of putting the garment together. But that’s part of the pleasure of this work.”
David Hieatt, Co-founder of Huit Denim, said: “Our Grand Masters, people like Claudio, have exceptional skills and a lifetime of experience they bring to work with them every day. We’ve created a space here where they can do the best work they’ve ever done and where they can pass on those skills to apprentices who will be the lifeblood and future of the company.
“Here each Grand Master uses 75 different processes to make each pair of jeans. They are extraordinary. They’re here before 8 and work till 5 and their ambition is to help me grow the company to give even more people work. They want to enjoy life – to live and grow old here and share their skills with others.”