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Innovative New Synthetic Fabrics

In 1935 the first M&S textile laboratory was set up at the Baker Street headquarters in London. Scientists worked to ensure that all M&S garments were of the highest quality. Problems were identified and fixed in the labs, and completely new synthetic fabrics were developed. 

M&S advert for Crimplene Time showing several female models wearing man-made fabric clothes
M&S Advert for Crimplene Time

1950s Advert showing three men sitting on a beach wearing jumpers by M&S
M&S Advert 1950s

As early as 1948, the Company started selling nylon, followed by Tricel, Orlon, Courtelle, Terylene and Crimplene in the 1950s and 60s. These fabrics were all designed to make life easier; they might be drip-dry or easy-iron. Synthetic fabrics could also be made more cheaply than natural fabrics, so clothing became more affordable. 
 
M&S Tricel clothing advert showing a male model and two females
M&S Tricel Advert 1960s
Girls dress from the 1950s by Marks and Spencer
M&S Girls Dress

The wartime fabric 'Utility Schedule 1005' was renamed 'Marspun' in the early 1950s. About 3000 Marspun dresses had been sold by 1955. There were 340 designs created, including designs based on Dior’s New Look, and 2000 different colour combinations.

New Look dress from the 1950s by Marks and Spencer
New Look Dress From M&S

There was strong evidence that man-made fabrics were much more popular than natural fabrics:

  • Sales of natural fabric garments:
    1966 = £62m
    1970 = £73m
  • Sales of synthetic fabric garments:
    1966 = £116m
    1970 = £191m 

St Michael ‘New Look’ Advert, St Michael News 1958
St Michael ‘New Look’ Advert 1958

Simon Marks, M&S Chairman in 1958 coined the slogan: 

'Easing the housewife’s daily burden'.

Eric Kann, Head of Design in 1962 said: 
'What the customer wants to buy is clothing which is at one light and warm, and easy to wear and care for and meets the increasing tendency towards informal living'. 

Polyester is a key ingredient in many synthetic blends, and is still used in lots of clothes today - just check your labels! Plastic bottles can be turned into polyester, so you might find that your fleece jacket or school trousers are actually recycled... 

Glossary

Synthetic - man-made, not natural
Dior: French fashion designer Christian Dior 1905 -1957