Much-loved Harrogate shop is the nation's king of buttons

If you look very closely amid all the swashbuckling in hit Hollywood movie Pirates of the Caribbean, you might spot the handiwork of a small but incredibly successful Harrogate family business.

Tuesday, 22nd November 2016, 7:48 am
Updated Tuesday, 22nd November 2016, 10:21 am
Some of the thousands of buttons inside Duttons for Buttons shops in Harrogate.

Those buttons on the jackets and vests of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and co were created and supplied by Duttons for Buttons.

For generations of knitters, sewers and arts-and-crafts lovers, this small, unobtrusive shop on Oxford Street near Harrogate Theatre has been a mecca since it was founded in 1956 by Abe Goodman.

This local shop stocks the largest selection of buttons of any shop in the UK and also supplies buttons round the globe.

Duttons for Buttons' group manager Michelle Horton.

Current group manager Michelle Horton, who has been with this independent firm for nearly 30 years,says she is proud of its quiet fame at both home and abroad.

She said: “I have sewn all my life and been interested in historical fashion. After college I was a wardrobe mistress.

“My particular interest in buttons started when I came to Harrogate and got a job at Duttons for Buttons 31 years ago. I was hooked.

“Despite the movies and TV productions, the store is mainly dependent on our wonderful local clientele.”

Duttons for Buttons' group manager Michelle Horton.

“We’re delighted to celebrate the continued success of Duttons for Buttons.

Duttons’ expertise in the field has become legendary since the Harrogate shop first opened in what was then Lowther Arcade before it was demolished to make way for Marks & Spencer.

The Victorian arcade may belong to history but Duttons for Buttons continues to prosper next to the theatre and is currently celebrating its 60th anniversary.

In total, between the firm’s three shops in Harrogate, Ilkley and York, the firm has a vast collection of buttons in different designs – more than 12,000 in total.

As if that wasn’t enough, Duttons is also a treasure trove of haberdashery, ribbons, lace, needlework kits and soft furnishing trimmings.

No wonder it’s always in demand from TV and film companies.

For the film version of Evita starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas, Duttons were asked to provide an amazing 10,000 buttons.

It also, of course, supplied hundreds of buttons for the swashbuckling hit Pirates of the Caribbean.

So excited were staff at Duttons, that when the first film starring Johnny Depp and Orlando Boom hit the screen, they all bought tickets to go to the Harrogate Odeon to watch their buttons on the big screen.

Hollywood film makers were impressed, too, so much so that their London-based costumiers chose Duttons for the run of successful sequels.

Other blockbuster films to benefit from Duttons creativity include James Bond, Captain Correlli’s Mandolin and 1970s BBC TV series Elizabeth R.

It’s a million miles away from the intentions of the shop’s founder Abe Goodman.

His aim was to provide a service for home dressmakers as an extension to the business his father had started in 1906 for professional tailors in Leeds.

And the firm has never been dazzled by the big lights and the silver screen, remaining a family business whose attention remains focused on those small details that make all the difference.

When Abe died in 1968, his daughter Drusilla White took over the business after putting her career as an orthoptist on hold to keep Duttons going.

What started out as a temporary measure turned into a lifelong passion.

Drusilla ran the shops with tireless energy and infectious enthusiasm for 48 years.

Her daughter Deborah took over the helm earlier this year after Drusilla died at the age of 86.

Owner Deborah said: “Duttons for Buttons has built a remarkable reputation and is held in great affection nationwide by those who sew.

“Our York branch is currently a finalist in the Best Independent Haberdashery Shop (North of England) category of the 2016 British Sewing Awards, which is fantastic recognition for us during such a special year.”

The owner's roots in the trade go back to childhood.

She said: "I can still picture my grandfather in the first Duttons for Buttons in Lowther Arcade, Harrogate when I was a child, and as a teenager I used to help out my grandparents in the shop.

“My mother, Drusilla White. had her own career as an orthoptist, but the shops and buttons became her hobby and her passion.

“A remarkable and inspirational person, she has left an incredible legacy.

“Under her guidance the business expanded and moved premises – she added shops in York and Ilkley, a new location in Harrogate next to the theatre, and branches in Otley, Keighly and Leeds. She also built up an international following, “

“She was working until the day she passed away this summer at the age of 86.

“As the fourth generation, I feel I owe it to my mother, our wonderful staff and our dedicated customers to keep it going.”

Group manager Michelle Horton puts the lengthy success of the business down to the variety of choice, the excellent and knowledgeable staff and the store’s ability to stay on top of modern fashions.

And she stresses that despite the firm’s international reputation, Duttons is always delighted to oblige by selling a lone button missing from a shirt by customers.

It’s a request they hope will keep on coming forever.