At the age of only 17, Anne Walker MBE opened her own dance school in Liverpool. From the onset Anne supplied her students with leotards and shoes, having persuaded a local shop to supply her at a discounted price. By the age of 21 Anne had her own dance premises and gradually the product side was turning into a small business.
As the school developed, Anne decided to try and make leotards for her students herself. She persuaded her mother to lend her £50 to buy a very ancient industrial overlocker (see picture), she enlisted the help of the older students who cut out the garments, and with the help of one of the mums they went into production!
Other dance teachers soon started buying leotards from her and before long her friend's attic bedroom was turned into a small production unit. Eventually the dancewear manufacturing and sales needed to become a separate business from her dancing school. Thus in 1978, the business, initially called Harlequin Dancewear, was born.
Thirty eight years on IDS has become one of the world’s largest wholesale dancewear suppliers with a £multi-million turnover. Our customer base includes thousands of dance teachers worldwide, with whom we have gained a reputation for great products and service.
In 2009, we launched a catalogue in the USA. As a result of our growing international reputation for great quality, value and service we were approached in 2010 by American Ballet Theatre to become the manufacturer and sole supplier of the ABT Training Program Uniform, using our 1st Position™ dancewear brand. That same year Anne won a Stevie® Award, one of the most prestigious awards for American business women, in the category of Best Entrepreneur.
In 2010, in recognition of her contribution to business, Anne was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire).
In 2013 we won the ECMOD Award for best B2B Business for the 3rd year running. We also launched our first ever International Dance Teacher Conference in August 2011 at The Royal Ballet School in Covent Garden. Attended by dance teachers from all over the world, the event was celebrated as a great success by faculty and delegates alike. 4 years on, the IDTC is becoming a must-attend event for dance teachers and is attracting some of the biggest names in dance to be part of the faculty.
Our business continues to grow, in the UK, and increasingly, in Europe and the Rest of the World, thanks to our unwavering commitment to the dance world and our focus on “inspiration, innovation and imagination” for our customers. In late 2015, we launched our new website, and we are creating country specific versions for customers in our international markets.
We are an international business, with strong British roots. We’re really proud to support UK manufacturing, and most 1st Position™ dancewear is still made in the UK. We ourselves are based in Devon, a beautiful county in the south of England, where over 60 people work at our warehouse and offices. We offer a friendly invitation to all our existing customers - if you are looking for costumes for your dance show, or uniform for your class, or if you are just on holiday in the West Country and would like to say hello, please do arrange a visit to our showroom and have a cup of tea with us – we’d love to see you!