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Courtney & Co brings horn button-making back to the UK

Lauretta Roberts
06 June 2023

Courtney & Co, the Cotswold-based button-maker, is bringing horn button making back to the UK offering more options for brands and designers looking to produce a fully "made in the UK" garment.

The news comes 10 years after Courtney & Co’s founders rescued rescued the machinery and the heritage patterns of the UK’s last remaining large-scale producer of horn buttons, James Grove & Sons, which had collapsed in 2012 after 155 years of trading. Britain had once had a thriving button-making industry, but one by one the manufacturers closed as fashion brands and retailers sourced cheaper products from overseas.

Since acquiring the business the Courtney & Co founders have been focused on not only preserving the British button industry, but also ensuring it is fit for the future by investing in skills, updating equipment and launching new products.

Courtney & Co

From its base in Bourton-on-the-Water, Courtney & Co has slowly expanded its operations using a blend of traditional methods and new technology to create buttons made from some of the most eco-friendly and sustainable materials available. It has taken a decade to relaunch the natural horn buttons for which the former James Grove factory was famous.

“Given that James Grove was the last of its kind, we have had to learn everything from scratch and train our employees how to turn, finish and dye buttons of different types,” explained Andrea Courtney.

“We started with Corozo (tagua nut) and sold our first buttons at the end of 2016. Two years later, in 2018, we launched a new range of buttons made from Codelite® (milk casein) – a material which hadn’t been used in British button-making in 45 years. But it has taken us another five years to launch our natural horn button range – which means that we are finally making buttons in the material which made James Grove famous around the world.

“The materials and price points are such that we are aiming at the luxury/affordable luxury segment of the fashion world – not just tailoring and fashion houses; our customers also embrace umbrella makers and makers of duvets and bedding.”

Courtney & Co now supplies a wide range of designers, brands, tailors and ateliers not just in the UK, but on every continent. “Our customers share an appreciation of aesthetics, as well as ecology, sustainability and provenance,” said co-founder Andrea Courtney.

The company continues to drive the business forward by investing in people, sustainable production and state-of-the-art machines. It has acquired new turning machines, a horn grinder as well as new and re-conditioned wooden polishing barrels, and installed a purpose-made dye-shop in the factory to ensure that every step of the button-making process is carried out in-house.

In September 2019, HRH The Princess Royal, President of the UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT), visited Courtney & Co to learn more about button making past, present and future.

Adam Mansell, CEO of UKFT, said: “Courtney & Co is a fantastic example of how passionate entrepreneurs can breathe new life into a heritage industry and create opportunities to ensure that skills don’t disappear. Buttons are an important part of final product, and their work is significant for the wider ‘made in the UK’ supply chain.”

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