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In 1773, Miller Christy created his company following the completion of his apprenticeship to a hatter in Edinburgh. Today Christy & Co, based in Oxfordshire, once the largest hat manufacturing company in the world, continues to export its fine hats to more than 44 countries across the globe. In the 1850’s Prince Albert sported Christys’ top hats, and members of the Royal Family have been wearing assorted styles of the company’s hats ever since.
Christys still uses the traditional methods of hat making to produce high- quality top hats and bowlers, and is the only company in the world to do so, preserving skills over 200 years old. To maintain a workforce with such unique craftsmanship requires forward thinking and staff investment. Christys’ has continued the tradition commenced by its founder and develops apprenticeships to create personnel who are, arguably, the best hat makers in the world.
Whether it is a Top Hat or a Fedora, a Bowler or a Trilby, a Panama or a Derby, Christys’ hats can be found atop the most fashionable, distinguished and respected heads in the world. It supplies ranges for the military and police service and the large red hat boxes embossed with the ‘Christys’ London name are found in the most illustrious stores, including Liberty in London and Bloomingdales in New York.
Christys employs around forty staff; currently three of these are hat making and customer services apprentices. Providing apprenticeships for such a specialised company was very challenging for Managing Director Steve Clarke. "I tried to organise apprenticeships through our local college, but it proved too difficult. I thought I was going to have the unenviable task of creating our own course, but then ATG Training came to our rescue," he explains. ATG Training is a registered charity, based in Aylesbury, which delivers a broad range of training from its purpose built site. "ATG provide generic modules of training to our apprentices, providing the foundations for the specific skills, relevant to hat making, which they learn at Christys. ATG also identifies potential candidates for apprenticeship positions, which saves me time in the recruitment process," says Steve.
Mentoring and management of apprentices is overseen by team leaders and line managers, but Steve remains involved in the process, ensuring a minimum of quarterly reviews take place. "It is important that we identify and rectify any problems apprentices have, as soon as possible. We also adapt training to the aptitude of individuals, benefitting both the apprentice and the company," he says.
Completing an apprenticeship in such a prestigious company comes with the added glamorous perk of making hats for royalty and celebrities, including Justin Timberlake, Kate Moss and Paris Hilton. Film crews are a regular sight at the company headquarters, as Christys are frequently asked to feature in various TV shows, for transmission here and abroad. Completion of a hat-making apprenticeship with Christys & Co equips apprentices with very unique skills that the fashion industry recognise to be of the highest calibre, and customer service apprentices will be proficient at dealing with prominent and celebrated customers. Both are great opportunities to take your hat off to!
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