What we do, who we are
Red Dragon Flagmakers is a sewing business, a manufacturer, a social mission enterprise and a forward thinking dynamic SME.
We are the only social mission flagmaker in the World and we make custom flags, banners, bunting and more every day in our Swansea valley workshop. We are part of a thriving and growing sector of innovative Valley businesses here in Wales, actively pushing the boundaries to get people of every background skilled up and into work.
Creating a more circular economy and more remanufacturing and recycling businesses is powerful generator of new jobs – particularly in Wales and the valleys, where they are most needed. We pride ourselves on our long standing zero waste manufacturing policy.
"Analysis shows that investing in system improvements to make better use of resources could add at least 102,000 jobs across the UK. It is also what the public wants: 60 per cent of people say they support a drastic shift towards a more resource efficient society – even if that changes the way they live."* Telegraph 28th September 2020.
We are exclusive flagmaker to the Human Rights 2019 event led by Amnesty International, we made the flags for the 2014 NATO Summit through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and we make all the ceremonial taffeta stitched banners for Effat University in Saudi.
We make one off coat of arms and the smallest of burgees for clients, wedding banners, installations for European galleries and we also print quality one-off flags for sports fans, events and bulk orders.
All our profits go into the amazing people we train and help get back on their feet in the local community and economy. There are nine of us full time and we've trained and helped rehabilitate over 300 people during the past six years of trading (all unpaid, all on our own time and all as part of our social mission).
We are an award winning Disability Confident and Living Wage employer and we are 100% reliant on sales revenue. We are not grant reliant and we are not a public sector business. We are an SE100 listed company, a member of the Flag Institute and the Wales Quality Centre and we are a thriving micro manufacturing business.
High value manufacturing
High value manufacturers have strong financial performance, are strategically important, and have positive social impact and manufacturing has evolved to turning ideas into products and services.
In today’s globally competitive landscape manufacturers are inventors, innovators, global supply chain managers and service providers. What was once seen just as production is now production, research, design, and service provision and social value - value which goes beyond its financial performance and includes social impact and strategic importance to the regional and national economy.
Red Dragon Flagmakers does all of the above and believes in doing it well as a collective process. Do one thing well.
So what is a flag?
While this reference leaflet is based on Canadian and US flags, their states and cities included, the content on flag design is relevant to every country, city and county/state flag in the World and worth a review:
Click the image above to access the full leaflet.
Flagmaker or flag retailer....?
There are plenty of flag retailers on the market selling standard flag, bunting and banner products at different prices with varying degrees of quality (and ability to deliver).
BUYER BEWARE - not all 'flag makers' actually make the flags they sell..... which means that you the customer are paying a premium for the middle man. If you prefer to buy direct from the manufacturer, you've come to the right place!
We believe there is more than enough business to go around and that the key to success is to be open and transparent, honest and trustworthy and to do 'exactly what it says on the tin'.
So this is what we do.
The importance of identity
Identity is what differentiates everything. Flags are one of the oldest forms of indentity and the imagery and format of flags is linked in every way to represent the identity of a national, a club, business or country.
Wales, our back garden, is currently undergoing a renaissance in identity, described and illustrated beautifully by Welsh agency Smörgåsbord.
Production capacity - we are flagmakers
Red Dragon Flagmakers make everything from scratch in our own independent workshops. We can (and frequently do) help other flagmakers fulfill tenders, contracts, emergency orders and last minute complex non standard production designs in small or large quantities.
We're pretty unique in what we do, and fundamentally we really are flagmakers, in name and function.
We supply a niche product using traditional skills and produce one-off design of every size and complexity of design on a daily basis. 85% of our business is in the production of custom sewn and printed flags. That's what we do. That's what we're great at.
We work closely with other SMEs to fulfill projects requiring flag poles (we are distributors of DanoMast flagpoles), embroidered flags, maintenance, installation and repairs - no job is too small and everything we do is with quality, durability and integrity of product in mind.
Traditional skills, niche product, enviable history and experience, in depth knowledge, classic quality British made product and professional, efficient and friendly customer service.
The back story
(Excerpt from the memoirs of Robin Ashburner)
From a hobby to a business and still going strong after 50 years
In my early days as a flag man, it was a case of trying to build a business out of next to nothing. Sometimes people today think that the public have little mental connection with flags, in the 1960’s there was so little connection that it was almost impossible to buy a flag let alone a flag pole.
I was very keen to start making flags, an idea that grew out of something of a hobby. It is hard to believe now but the first time I wanted to fly a Welsh flag I found it impossible to buy one so I made do with a deckchair cover in the Welsh colours and flew it over one of my farm buildings. There was not even an official design for the Welsh flag back in the day – the Dragon came (if it came at all) in all sorts of unromantic designs.
In 1969 I got involved with that old Welsh aristocrat Sir Hugo Boothby BT of Fonmon Castle who chaired a committee to design a dragon to go on the Draig Goch. The Dragon we see today is the result of that consultation and was used for the first time in 1969 to celebrate the investiture of The Prince of Wales.
The Welsh Flag (The Draig Goch) is a comparatively simple flag to make. Back in the day, all flags were sewn and once one had the pattern, the red dragon would be appliqued to the white and green background representing the colours of the Tudor King and Queens.
The Union flag however is a different matter. There are thirty one pieces of cloth that have to be cut out and shaped to fit whatever size of Union is required. After a long search I did manage to obtain a quality Union Flag from the firm of Arthur Smart in Radium Street, Manchester. I then took it to pieces and sewed it back together to work out how best to get it done at the same time as finding a source of bunting cloth from the now defunct firm of Stroud Riley.
Ironically a few years later I bought the Arthur Smart firm.
Anyway, back to the starting point and finding a talented workforce to help me make flags, I was lucky at the time to have a farm maintenance man who had been a tailor in the Royal Navy. Tom took on the cutting of the flag fabric and delivered the packages of material sets out to our sewing ladies who then all worked from their homes. This was difficult enough to do in 1969 and just as we were underway I received a call from HTV who announced they wanted to do a piece on us as the Welsh flag makers.
Panic stations!. They wanted to cover everything from flags to flag poles. I did happen to have a good source of both pine and larch not far away on Forestry Commission land and luckily also had the necessary farm machinery to haul these poles back to the farm where we turned the fresh trees into poles.
We’d had a very hard winter in 1964 in South Wales and the conditions caused a slight misalignment in each tree, not noticeable when the tree was standing but obvious when the tree had been felled. We quickly learned that if you try to dry out freshly felled larch it splits so the secret was to get the tree into the workshop - use the electric plane take off the bark and remove any defects - then paint immediately with wood sealant to seal in the sap. If the tree / pole dried out it split but once sealed, undercoated and a coat or two of white paint, we had a pretty presentable pole. Add to this a mushroom shaped top turned by the local wood merchant working in his forest home and we were good to go.
So the TV wanted to see the lot and see us in action from cutting down the trees to turning the tops and putting up a pole. That was manageable but we wondered how to make the flag production resemble a buoyant growing business without having a factory to film in – somehow we managed what seemed impossible and moved a number of machines into one of our sewing lady’s homes and set up her living room as something resembling a factory! The TV crew wanted to show us making not only Welsh flags but the large 30ft banners we had been commissioned to make for Caernarfon Castle. Somehow we did it and I learned the hard way that what you see on film is not necessarily real!
Not long after this eventful period, I was able to build a covered yard in which to winter my cows which in turn left my old fashioned Welsh cowsheds empty. Not one to hang around, the buildings underwent a face lift, changing several into housing, one into a shop and office space and what was left was given over to flag production.
In time the family moved to Abergavenny which in turn left even more space for flag production. At-home production moved from employee’s homes into what was a production work shop and the old farm house became flag H.Q.
Once we outgrew the farm buildings and farm home we moved into a warehouse in Swansea – then into the old ice factory on Swansea docks and onwards. The domestic market for flags in the UK was not as it might have been but in the next few years we built on trade overseas particularly to Denmark and Holland and with considerable shipping company orders around the UK, sales gradually grew.
Today I look on from a distance while my daughter carries on the business I started so long ago, still in Swansea but now using state of the art printing equipment as well as traditional sewing skills – and still making among the very best quality flags, banners, bunting and (supplying) flagpoles on the market.
No mean feat – and an achievement that not many businesses can match!
The short version
Red Dragon Flagmakers was borne out of a family company manufacturing traditional sewn flags, established in 1969 and a result of the merger of several business into one social enterprise under the Limited company name, Red Dragon Manufacturing Ltd in 2014.
Our Chairman Robin Ashburner founded the original business in 1969 when he made the flag for the investiture of Prince Charles at Caernarfon Castle. This makes us one of the most established flag makers in the UK.
Under our registered trademark and trading name, Red Dragon Flagmakers, Robin is past President of the Flag Institute and one of the few flag makers in the World to have received the recognised international award for services to the flag industry (FIAV). He is also a Fellow of the Federation.
Corporate social responsibility - we are a social mission business
Sales enable profits which support our recruitment of additional people to train for sustainable employment with the outcome of a positive contribution to local, regional and UK economy.
You might be interested to read our regularly published list of BLOG articles (click HERE to access) covering lots of different aspects of our history and business. We welcome contributor BLOGS too, so if you have something to say, we'd like to hear it.
The Minister was pleased to see Red Dragon Manufacturing's success in becoming finalists in the ‘One to Watch’ category of the Social Enterprise Wales Awards 2015 and in the good work the company is engaged in, including its work with people previously marginalised from mainstream employment.
From the office of Edwina Hart MBE CStJ AM, Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, Wales (13th October 2015).
Our customers tell us our products are of the highest quality available in the World market - we agree.
Equal Opportunities Statement
Red Dragon Flagmakers is committed to ensuring equal opportunities, fairness of treatment, dignity, work-life balance and the elimination of all forms of discrimination in the workplace.
A key objective of the policy is so that Red Dragon Flagmakers can provide a working environment in which people feel comfortable and confident that they will be treated with respect and dignity.
It is Red Dragon Limited's stated policy to treat all workers and job applicants equally and fairly irrespective of their sex, marriage/civil partnership status, trans-gender status, pregnancy/maternity, sexual orientation, race, religion/belief, age, or disability.
Red Dragon Flagmakers is also committed to ensuring that no policy, procedure, provision, rule, requirement, condition or criterion will be imposed on any worker or job applicant without justification if it would be likely to put that person at a disadvantage on any of the above grounds.
This equal opportunities policy applies to all stages of the recruitment and selection process, as well as throughout individuals’ employment or period of volunteering.
All staff who have responsibility for recruitment, selection and promotion, or who supervise other staff, will receive equal opportunities training. Other staff will have the opportunity to attend awareness training in equality and the avoidance of discrimination.
Overall responsibility for this policy lies with the Managing Director.
Click HERE to view our list of lovely associates, friends, affiliations and partners - to name but a few.
Recycling and sustainability
We up-cycle and recycle ALL of our fabric off-cuts sending nothing to landfill. We comply with a strict environmental policy, equality and diversity strategy and are a equal opportunities employer. We ship our goods using recycled bags and boxes where possible and otherwise use 'new recycled packaging. We correspond electronically with minimal use for paper and print.
Production, capacity and service
We believe strongly in the ethos that people buy from people (no jargon or long words here) and no matter how tricky your flag, banner, bunting and flag poles requirements may appear, we're here to help the best we can.
We are open and committed to building relationships with our customers to ensure they keep coming back time and after time and are delighted to show off the investment purchases they purchase from us. Because that is what UK-made quality products are when they are well made - investment pieces for the present .... and the future.