Stories have been told how Eugene Robêrt a French Huguenot fled France in the 1700's for England. He settled in London and established a successful embroidery business in a shop in Soho. Since this day the art of Gold and Silver Handcrafted Bullion Embroidery has been passed down from Father to Son, generation to generation.
Years later in 1872, Charles William Robêrt left London for New Zealand and settled in Palmerston North with his wife Ann Elizabeth and their family. They purchased a block of land on the corner of what is known today as Robêrt's Line and Napier Road. After clearing the bush and establishing a homestead Charles purchased a block of land in Main Street where the family set up a General Store. It was here he introduced Handcrafted Bullion Embroidery to New Zealand.
Upon the death of his father, Percy took over the running of the business and established the company P. Robêrt & Co. He moved the company to new premises closer to the Post Office in Main Street where they continued to produce fine embroidery for the young and growing country's market. With Churches, Masonic and RAOB Lodges, Friendly Societies, Schools and Sports Clubs being established all over the country the company flourished. The Military quickly became very important clients.
The late 1920's saw the company move from the shop near the Post Office back to the original site in Main Street where Percy and his two sons, Percy (known as Cris) and Louis, continued to run the business.
The Great Depression of 1929 saw Cris Robêrt at the helm and the company struggling to survive. Most of the properties Percy had brought were sold to pay staff wages. Even though the company was seeing hard times it was in this era that the first embroidery machine was installed.
When war broke out in 1939 the Government took over the company and appointed a manager. He however, re-established Robêrt management when it was identified those generations of knowledge could not be gained overnight. Cris and his son Charles were left to run the company while Cris' other sons Leslie, Doug, Ivan, Stan and Harold went to serve their country.
With the arrival of Peace in 1945 Leslie and Charles took over the company, established a branch in Wellington, a machine shop in Ashhurst and in 1949 saw the arrival of narrow fabric weaving looms to produce woven labels.
In 1953 the two brothers undertook work for a Government Contractor who was organising Queen Elizabeth's 1st Royal Tour to New Zealand. By the beginning of the tour a large amount of hand and machine work had been produced and it was at this time they discovered the Contractor was insolvent. All goods were auctioned off at the end of the tour but only three pence in the pound was recovered. Due to the significant loss Charles left the company to find work elsewhere while Leslie and his wife Margaret continued to run the business.
Leslie, with the support of the Robêrt family, guided the company, re-named L. P. Robêrt & Co Ltd, through the difficult times until his son Paul joined him in the early 1960's.
The 1980's were a period of expansion and change with the first computer design system and the first electronically controlled machine being installed. In 2001 a new factory was built on the current site and in 2008 the first chenille embroidery machine was installed.
Today Paul and his daughter Nicola run the company. Modern business systems occupy the office, all the new machines are networked to an up to date design and storage system which holds over 35,000 designs and most important of all the staff enjoy clean bright working conditions in modern surroundings. It is the experience and lessons learnt from the past that will carry us through to the future.
Click here to look at the timeline of Robêrt Embroideries.
Charles, Ann and Family
1910's Percy and Staff
Cris, Percy, and Louis
Leslie, Cris and Charles
Les & Margaret