Archie is the third generation of Hume men to take over the running of the A Hume clothing business. A Hume, with two stores in Kelso, support locally sourced clothing brands and trusted names like Dubarry and RM Williams, where quality and traceability are at the very forefront of the product offering.
“The shop started in 1929, by my grandfather,” he says, “and I’ve been involved thirty years. I hated college, so I came home and worked for dad but he passed away within a year and a half of my joining, so I was chucked into the deep end.”
And it’s this baptism of fire which has fuelled a desire in Archie to really help develop the younger talent on his doorstep.
“It’s always been in our blood. When we were kids we used to earn our pocket money by sweeping the floor, doing the post, washing the windows.
“I don’t know how good we were at washing the windows,” he admits grudgingly, “but we did it!”
So his involvement in the running of the business came really early in his career. And though it wasn’t really all that long ago, his recounting of it makes it feel like a different world altogether.
“In the early days, the focus was on made-to-measure. We had four tailors. They sat through the back; one did waistcoats, one did buttonholes, one made jackets and one made trousers.
“I can remember that they smoked constantly; this smoggy atmosphere…” he says, remembering a time gone by. Now they sell more ready-to-wear collections, but their core focus hasn’t changed. “It’s always been high-end country clothing – we’re based in the countryside, not a high fashion city.”
They also sell online. “The internet has given us a hundred shops in a hundred towns! We sell a good spread of brands across the UK,” Archie says, and it’s obviously an aspect of the business he sees growing. But when we talk about the business growing, he’s not talking about cash. He’s talking about customers.
“It’s never been the money for me,” he says, with conviction. “I love seeing where the products go. Six months ago, we started a journey to pick the collections, for the manufacturers to make them.
“They start to come in, and people come in and feel the cloth and start making their own twists – how they put together a jacket, a jumper, a pair of trousers – they make it their own.”
“I’m still using suppliers my father used… there’s times where we upset each other, but that’s just life! We’ve worked with them for decades and they’re not in it for a quick buck.” Quite the opposite – they’re looking not one year into the future, but five, sometimes ten.
Archie is quick to admit that his passion doesn’t necessarily mean he knows it all, though. “There was a brand called Gibson & Birkbeck three years ago. We were at a London trade show and my new ladieswear buyer was there; it was her first buying job. They make ladies shirts with swallows and foxes on them, and to be honest I thought they were awful.
“I advised her to be careful with them, and when we came home and I had to make eight orders to keep up with demand I grudgingly told her, ‘well done’!”
A Hume employs around twenty people, with a tailoress who’s been with the firm for twenty years now. With two shops, and a separate unit dealing with online sales, they have longstanding relationships with a lot of seasonal staff who return to his employ every holiday from university. “It’s good to catch up with them,” he says.
“There will be a day of reckoning, when they have to take a big, bad job in the big, bad world.”
But he’s not worried about the next generation of A Hume employees. “The quality of the kids who come out of Kelso High School is brilliant,” he enthuses. “They’re educated, bright, enthusiastic; they’re decent people. We must have had 15 of them and those are the characteristics that shine through.
“I went to the headmaster to say that to him; how often do you hear that? It’s important to go to them and say ‘but actually, you guys are doing a good job’.
“It’s good for our little town that these kids have jobs. They’ve got goals – to see New York, to buy that car, or a Louis Vuitton handbag. Good on you guys; if you work hard for it, you can have it.
“That dream’s not for somebody else. That dream can be for you.”
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