Fringe Box



Guildford’s Character Shops: Hansson Silks

Published on: 12 Sep, 2012
Updated on: 20 Apr, 2017

The multi-colour silk display at Hansson’s – Photos John Schluter

By Flora Windebank

Hansson Silks has now moved to  The Silk Annexe, 21 Tenby Avenue, Harrow HA3 8RU Tel: 01483 451625

Surrounded by familiar chain stores in Guildford High Street during the busy rush of Saturday shopping, people can forget to explore what other shops are in the side streets. The first shop I found, in my quest to find hidden retail treasures in Guildford, nestles in Woodbridge Road. It is a small but very well regarded silk specialist shop, Hansson Silks.

Hansson of Guildford sell silk fabric. That’s it really. They are specialists. They know their stuff about silk and they don’t pretend to have anything else, well apart from a bit of French lace.

Stepping into their small shop I was struck by the array of wonderful colours and patterns that greeted me. Everywhere was stuffed with huge rolls of silk, in pretty much any pattern and colour you can think of.

They have a huge range, which they send on to be made into almost anything you could want. Their client base is wide ranging, from people looking for soft furnishings for their homes to wedding parties.

Many shades and patterns

I was introduced to the owner, Mohan Kapoor and his wife, who welcomed me with a cup of tea. It was very quiet and having got lost trying to find it, the entrance is quite small and hard to spot, I was curious as to how they stay afloat.

Mr Kapoor told me that the business is thriving but relies on word of mouth:”Guildford is a good place to be because it is very accessible to people in the South East of England. But because our shop is on the second floor and we do not have a window display, most people only know about us through hearsay. More people outside of Guildford know about us than those who actually live here.”

The only exception to silk – fine French lace

Even tartan comes in silk, for Scots needing a kilt for the tropics perhaps?

However, once a customer at Hansson Silks, it seems you will be a customer for life. Mr Kapoor enthusiastically went on: “We have people who come in for weddings, where we will provide outfits for the bride, bridesmaids, mother of the bride and they like our work so much they will return for christening gowns, home furnishings and anything else they might need as their family life develops.”

With such a specific client base and a specialist trade, I wondered how Mr Kapoor got involved in this line and in this town: “I came to Guildford on holiday when I was younger and I just loved the town. I knew later I wanted to move here with my family.

“Originally I lived in India and already had a background in manufacturing. When I first moved to the UK, I worked with a company which refurbished some of the beautiful palaces over here. Working with such wonderful fabrics made me realise this was something I really wanted to set up as my own business.”

The hard to spot entrance

Despite being unknown to the majority of residents in Guildford, Hansson’s does have good community contacts. One of these is George Abbot School. Hansson provides silk for their arts classes and work experience for some of the pupils who might want to set up similar businesses.

They are also in the Guildford ‘Ceremonies Guide,’ given to anyone who is looking to set up a perfect ceremony in the Guildford area.

With China exploiting its near monopoly position  the price of silk has doubled in the last few years, plain colours are now on sale at £17.95 a yard. But Mr Kapoor is confident the business will continue well into the future. French Lace also is an integral part of the business, with Mr Kapoor explaining how it has enjoyed a large rise in sales since the Royal Wedding, thanks to its use in Kate Middleton’s iconic wedding dress.

This is truly one og Guildford’s hidden trasures and a real family business. Once Mr Kapoor decides to retire, his daughter hopes to take over Hansson Silks.

With such a future ahead there is plenty of time for more of Guildford’s residents to discover this wonderful, friendly and unusual little shop.

Hansson of Guildford at the junction of Woodbridge Road and North Street

Share This Post