We popped along to LHD Custom Clothing to catch up with Roy Mullay and ask him a few questions about the LHD business.
How long has the business been running?
The embroidery department of LHD Marine Supplies started its operations in 1998. I initially joined the LHD Shop as a Saturday boy in the summer of 2011 fuelling yachts for the Tall Ships. A couple of years later, I moved into the embroidery department to help out my sister, Kirsteen Mullay, who took over the embroidery operation from Lee Paton in 2013. After helping out for a few summers I was taken on to help out again at the end of 2015. I’ve been here since, though in the coming months I plan to move across to the LHD Shop once again to help out with their online sales. I will be entrusting the operation in the capable hands of my colleagues Julie Dennison, Márti Mészáros and Catherine Johnson.
What was the inspiration behind the business?
The embroidery and printing equipment was initially taken in to fill a need for businesses getting work clothes through the LHD Shop. There was demand to have garments personalised with company logos, names, etc. That’s what we started with, and our department has grown out of that.
Tell us what you offer/sell?
We offer an embroidery, transfer and printing service onto clothing (among other things) for local businesses, clubs, associations, events, Up Helly Aa squads, parties, and a lot more in between! We also supply a wide array of clothing such as toorie keps, t-shirts, polos, hoodies, jackets and industrial workwear. The range available can be browsed in our catalogues available in-store, or it can be viewed online. I would encourage anyone looking for clothing – whether you need it customised or not – to take a look at what we can order in for you.
We’re probably best known for our embroidery work, including company logos, fishing boats, designs for Jarls’ Squads, or really anything folk want to add to their clothes. We design and digitise the embroideries in-house, so every design is personalised and unique. We can also design and apply vinyl transfers to clothing, and the newest piece of printing technology, our Direct-to-Garment (DTG) printer can produce extremely fine and complex designs onto cotton t-shirts at the click of a button.
Our own artwork is featured on several t-shirt designs for sale at the LHD Shop, most of which are aimed at the tourist market but which are equally as popular with locals – many feature Shetland dialect, and have humorous designs. One of my favourites has to be a design featuring a motley crew of vicious-looking Vikings storming a beach, with the caption “Shetland – welcoming visitors for over 1,000 years”.
What is your favourite thing about the business?
One great thing about this job is you end up very well informed about all the local events and new enterprises local people are involved with. There is an abundance of creativity and entrepreneurialism here in Shetland, and helping people to promote what they’re up to makes this job extremely satisfying to me. I must also mention that through this job, the Up Helly Aa season has become one of my favourite times of the year. It is extremely hectic from about October all the way through to March, but between the beautiful designs produced for the Jarl’s Squads, the endless funs and laughs we have with Da Kirtle Weemen, and getting to grips with the innumerable in-jokes and pure nonsense we print onto clothing for all the regular squads, it’s just a wonderful experience to be a part of.
What do you think has changed the most about the business since it started?
Over the time I’ve worked here, we’ve operated out of three different workspaces. We were originally in the Alexandra building, followed by our tiny office upstairs in the LHD Shop, and finally where we are now at 2 Charlotte Place, Esplanade (between Harry’s Dept Store and the Thule Bar). Our current premises are just wonderful. We have a spacious workroom and store, a giant custom-built table for laying out the stacks of garments we work through, a reception with changing room for taking customer orders, an office space for our design set up and digitising, and an enclosed machine room to house our noisy embroidery machines. If you’re ever passing by where the entrance to Universal Flowers is, take a look in our window to view the embroidery machines working away on the jobs we have in progress.
Why would you choose Lerwick town centre as a location?
Lerwick is a fantastic, central location for this sort of a business, and between ourselves and the LHD Shop along the Esplanade, we are ideally placed to take full advantage of the tourists off the visiting cruise ships. Additionally, now that we have our own door and signage to show off what we do, the awareness of our business has grown significantly.
What has been the most challenging thing to you, from the point of view of the business, over the last year?
The cancellation of practically every large-scale event last year – Up Helly Aa especially – was a big blow to us. Add onto that the huge downturn in tourism, especially that from the immense number of cruise ships we had almost started to take for granted, and I must admit I was very pessimistic about our prospects when we reopened at the end of June last year. But I have been pleasantly surprised at the amount of business and individual customers choosing to shop local and order goods through us in light of the pandemic. So, I’d like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all those who have supported us over the last year – thank you!
What would you say to a customer to encourage them to visit your business?
I think folk can underestimate how effective a tool branded clothing can be for your business or event. It may seem like a daunting process to go through to have it produced, but with our help, it can in fact be very simple to set up, and it can make a huge impression on those who view you wearing your logo or design. Just pop in or send us a message and we’ll guide you through the whole process.
Tell us one interesting fact about you that people may not know?
We have a funny little room at the very back of the building that goes under the pavement of da Street, and this room we affectionately call the wine cellar! The entrance into the building we’re in was originally through this passage, which had steps that came down into it from da Street, and this alleyway extended across along the front of Harry’s dept store. After the Esplanade was reclaimed and the buildings were accessible from the other side, this was all covered up. There are pictures of what it used to be like on the Shetland Museum’s Photo Archive.
Also, with the occasional clatters and bangs we hear coming from this room, we think we may have a ghost in residence in there…