Hiut Denim Co. was founded to fill a void left after a denim factory closed in the town of Cardigan, Wales

By Diana Pearl and Monique Jessen
January 19, 2018 12:46 PM

When Meghan Markle stepped out in Cardiff for her first official visit to Wales on Thursday, she subtly paid homage to the country — with a pair of jeans.

For her day in Wales, Meghan wore the Dina jeans from Hiut Denim Companya Welsh brand that aims to revive the denim manufacturing industry that used to dominate the town they’re headquartered in. Hiut is based out of the town of Cardigan, Wales, on the country’s far western coast. Clare Hieatt, co-founder of Hiut, tells PEOPLE that seeing Meghan in the brand’s jeans is “good news and a great surprise.”

Cardigan was previously home to a Dewhirst denim factory, which was Britain’s largest denim factory and employed 400 of the town’s 4,000 residents. When Dewhirst moved production from Wales to Morocco in 2002, the factory shut down. This decision meant the town was left without a major industry, and 400 people were left without jobs.

“It was devastating, there was a sense of bereavement throughout the entire town,” Elin Evans, who started working at the factory when she was just 14, told Wales Online of Dewhirst’s departure. “If you lived in Cardigan and didn’t work at the factory you certainly knew someone who did, friends, family, loved ones.”

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Hiut’s founders, husband and wife team David and Clare Hieatt, launched their brand in 2012 to once again make Cardigan, located in the Welsh county of Ceredigion, the go-to place in Britain for denim manufacturing. The company’s mission is to “get our town making jeans again.” David runs sales and marketing, while Clare handles the business end of things. The company has 18 employees currently, but has “a big mission to get 400 people their jobs back,” a company spokesperson tells PEOPLE.

“We are in early in the journey but we are getting there!” Clare tells PEOPLE.

“We are living in the best place possible in the country to be making jeans, thanks to our hard-working team who come in every day and just get those jeans going,” she adds.

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Hiut encourages the men who wear their jeans not to wash them for six months, so they can truly form to the wearer’s body. And you can order not only a size specific to your waist, but your legs, too. Each pair offers several leg lengths for each waist size.

“They are really nice, quite heavyweight, they are a good quality denim but they have stretch in them too so they are very comfortable to wear,” Clare says.

Evans is one of seven former Dewhirst employees that have become a “Grand Master” for Hiut Denim Company. With tens of thousands of hours of work experience under their belts, David says the Grand Masters have more than enough experience to earn the title. That level of craftsmanship means that each pair takes time and care to make, with only 100 pairs made each week.

And for the employees who once worked at Dewhirst, working at Hiut isn’t just a chance to return to the craft of creating denim, but to reunite with former colleagues, too.

“Once I heard that jeans were coming back to Cardigan I jumped at the chance to work with people I had known for years,” Evans said. “When we got back here it was like going back in time, but better.”