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British brands together

Posted on October 26, 2013 by Chris Harrap

Part of the joy of starting Boutonniere as a British brand has been the obvious pride of being part of British industry at a time when there is a great resurgence in the principle of supporting local businesses and craftsmen.

It was encouraging to attend Best of Britannia in Clerkenwell recently, a showcase of emerging and established brands, from fashion accessories and clothing through to cars and speedboats. To speak to the people behind each of these brands it was obvious that they share my enthusiasm and passion – whether the British economy is having a hellish time or not, we should absolutely be designing and making wonderful, beautiful and quality products that are in demand both here and overseas.

In the product development stage of Boutonniere we dealt with a number of potential partners in the British Isles, which was a steep learning curve and not all perfect. As with any nation, there are (sadly) a few British companies who rest of the laurels of the support they receive for being local businesses and are poor in their attention to detail and customer service, which is a shame. This is a view shared by various contacts we have in the world of product design, who deal with manufacturers all over the world every day and it reminds us that whilst we should absolutely support our neighbouring businesses, we should do so because they’re wonderful at what they do, skilled and helpful, rather than out of some sense of sympathetic nostalgia for the British industrial powerhouse and creative geniuses of yesteryear.

For this reason, Best of Britannia was so encouraging because the businesses exhibiting there have tremendous fundamental qualities and continue to strive to be the best at whatever they do, continuously improving. One example of this is the Morgan Motor Company, a business with serious heritage based in the Malvern Hills, still building cars with ash frames to the body structure, cloaked in beautifully formed aluminium, so when we received an invite as another British brand to attend an open day at their factory, I was delighted to accept.

After a bracing drive out of London early in the morning, starting with a moonlit sky, we arrived in Malvern just in time for breakfast and to meet the craftsmen behind this great business. They tread that difficult line between seeking to develop for the future in a sustainable way, innovating to ensure continuity, but not forsaking the qualities of the product and production process which so many still love. Their recent addition, the three wheeler, is a strong nod to the Morgans of old and has been a roaring success by all accounts. Having heard great things about this fun little machine (being a car fanatic), I was excited about a drive out in it, but not as excited as my companion for the day, Sam, who could see even before arriving that he was in serious danger of falling in love with the thing. There’s a great irony in this as Sam drives a BMW M6 – the antithesis of a Morgan car. You need only watch Chris Harris drive a three wheeler on YouTube to understand why, if you’re interested: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htI3weS49cc

Jon Wells, the company’s young and progressive Head of Design, is working on an exciting project for the future, on which he remains tight lipped, but in the meantime continues to work hard to ensure the spectacular Aero range continue to be a great success. As he is often in the public eye we were pleased to give him a Boutonniere, which he was delighted with and commented that we should explore the possibility of a collaboration between the two brands, with us both having a similar ethos. One of the really interesting things about Morgan is that they use such a variety of beautiful materials in the cars’ construction. Yes, they use high grade aluminium, some of which is formed using air pressure into moulds (to avoid stretching and thinning in certain places, as happens with pressing), but they also use stunning solid ash for carving dashboard tops by hand, leather for interior upholstery from Andrew Muirhead in Scotland, and other heritage sources.

Those of you who know me will know I am more than a little in love with Harris Tweed, after some time spent on the Outer Hebrides last year learning about the cloth for another project I have in the offing. One of the great things about this cloth is that it complements leather so well, so I was always going to suggest its use in interior trim context on the cars, for example a green herringbone with a subtle burnt orange over-check on the inner door cards and gear stick gaiter, which would complement the rich saddle brown leather of the seats. Jon listened intently and had obviously considered the idea before, but as with all busy small manufacturers, hasn't quite got round to exploring it further or following it through yet. We’ll see what comes of that conversation over the next few months…Alfa Romeo have nailed it already with a specially commissioned cloth for a limited run version of their Mito model.

All in all the day was a great success, despite the inevitable questions of what is happening between Charles Morgan and the other directors, which I hope they resolve in the best way for the company and its 180 employees, which is the only priority. I’m sure everyone involved has this interest at heart so all will no doubt be well. It’s great to see that one can go meet other British designers and makers that are both celebrating their heritage, but also embracing the future. Long live Morgan, long live Harris Tweed, long live Boutonniere of London… and remember….buy British if it’s good!

Thanks for reading,

Christopher

Our studio home, the entrepreneurs' society that is "Bathtub 2 Boardroom"...

Posted on July 30, 2013 by Chris Harrap

When we were choosing our first home, we wanted somewhere that was shared with other like minded people.  It had to be:

  1. Creative and an easy space where we felt comfortable working long hours when needed
  2. Full of collaborative people on a similar journey to us
  3. Friendly
  4. FUN!

We found the perfect place in Bathtub 2 Boardroom, near the Regent's Canal in east London.  The Bathtub is a place for start-up businesses and creative enterprises, with 40 members and a great collaborative enterprise.  We all help each other and it works.  Crucially, we have a beanbag area, up a ladder.  There are talks on all sorts of topics which represent great advice and are free for members.  While a great deal of our inspiration comes from the West End tailoring establishments around Savile Row and Piccadilly in general, east London (and in particular Hackney) is an incredible hot bed of creative talent, which helps us to thrive.

If you or someone you know is interested in joining the Bathtub, see www.bathtub2boardroom.com or email johanna@bathtub2boardroom.com.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Our packaging company, first established in Sheffield, England in 1816....

Posted on July 23, 2013 by Chris Harrap

M M Bell & Sons are a luxury presentation packaging company in Sheffield, England, who have been operating since 1816.  That's a long time and they are very good at what they do.

When we were sourcing our packaging we had a clear vision of what we wanted - clean lines, crisp finish, simple, lets the product inside speak for itself, classy and solidly made.  Our Creative Director, Chris, liaised with M M Bell's designer, Angela Legdon, over the course of a few months, tweaking the design, looking at other high end brands with similar values, arriving finally at the solution we were happy with.  M M Bell make beautiful boxes for Mr Porter, Net-a-Porter and The White Company to name but a few, so when we toured the production lines and met the staff (it's a people intensive business, they care and do a great job), we were happy.

It is too easy these days to simply look for the cheapest of most cost effective option, traditionally by heading to Asia or India, but that's not our style.  We know our packaging is far more expensive than we could source it for, but that isn't important, because it's right, it's beautifully made and finished, plus we're delighted as ever to be supporting local industry and especially M M Bell as they approach their 200th year in business. 

Many thanks for all your help ladies and gents at M M Bell!

             

 

 

Chris Shaw, the Sheffield mark maker who carves our logos.....

Posted on July 23, 2013 by Chris Harrap

In a small workshop near the centre of Sheffield, South Yorkshire, a craftsman plys his trade.  Chris Shaw has been in the industry of mark making for many years now, as part of the family business.  He is a skilled mark maker, machining dies, stamps and marks of a wide variety of logos, for businesses all over the UK, in many different industries.  With cheaper overseas competition, Chris's business has inevitably downsized over the last two decades, as work slowed, despite his extremely reasonable prices and superior attention to detail.

Chris is not an email type of chap - he likes the design printed clearly on an A4 piece of paper.  He lays a clear perspex sheet over the print and traces the outline by hand, carving out a "female" impression of the logo in question.  His work requires care and attention.  Once the carving is finished, he makes a "male" mould from it, using black coloured epoxy resin, which leaves him with a working template for his machine, which is called a pantograph.

The pantograph is a clever piece of equipment, which follows the outline of the logo Chris has made with one arm, and reproduces this movement in much smaller scale with another arm beside it, carving the smaller version into a block of steel.  Some of the logos which Chris makes are so fine and intricate that they cannot be read by the naked eye.  Once the mark has been machined, Chris takes it to be heat treated, where it is hardened so that the mark is harder than the metal into which the logo is to be pressed.

Our clasps have three logos:

  1. The Boutonniere trademarked logo
  2. The "100 years" mark, celebrating 2013 being the centenary of the invention of stainless steel in Sheffield (on our 925 Sterling Silver clasps this is replaced with the silver hallmark applied by Sheffield's Assay Office)
  3. The Boutonniere flower logo on the rear of the clasp, representing a spiral rose shape.

All in all, Chris is yet another superbly skilled British craftsman.  We are proud that our marks are made by him, delighted with the results of his labour and would recommend him without hesitation.

  

    

  

The porcelain artisans from Vicenza, Italy who create our porcelain flowers...

Posted on July 23, 2013 by Chris Harrap

Each of our porcelain flowers are made to a bespoke design exclusively for Boutonniere, by a family business of artisans in Italy.  We have a particular love of camellias for both their beauty and simplicity, hence this flower was the first choice for us, but we decided also to create slightly smaller hand painted pink roses for those who prefer a dash of colour.  These enjoy popularity with lighter summer jackets, such as pale blue linen, but also contrast superbly with navy hues.  Each flower we commission is the result of extensive design and attention to detail with rigorous communication with the makers. 

The makers meticulously create each petal by hand, ensuring fine detailing including the surface variations, just like a real flower.  These are put together by hand to form intricate miniature flowers exactly as we intended, before being dried either naturally or in the drying room.  Items are then examined one by one before being laid out to be fired in the oven at 1300 degrees centigrade for 18 hours, a process that makes them shrink by around 20%.  Porcelain is a vitreous material hence each part melts into the other, creating a single piece of very hard porcelain with beautiful detailing.

Our porcelain flowers are far stronger than you would imagine and handling them is not a concern, but they are brittle if dropped onto a hard surface, so do please take care, as you would with your smartphone or a wine glass.

  

Sheffield's master cutlers - the epitome of skill and craftsmanship

Posted on July 23, 2013 by Chris Harrap

Sheffield, England, is synonymous with fabrications, cutlers and metals, in particular steel, being known as "the steel city" and the birthplace of stainless steel (albeit an accidental discovery!)

When we designed our clasp, we had a few priorities in mind:

  1. Being a personal item or gift, it needed to have space for engraving should a customer wish to personalise their Boutonniere
  2. The clasp should ideally not be seen from the front, with only the flower being visible on the lapel
  3. The clasp should in no way pierce or damage the fabric of the suit or jacket.

We approached various Cutlery specialists in Sheffield but settled on one business in particular where parts of the group can be traced back to 1750.  Working with them we developed our design over time, working through numerous different prototype stages to arrive at the final clasp, which is a registered design unique to us and protected as such.

We hope you like our clasps as much as we do.  They are created using high quality polished stainless steel, an incredible material which has changed so much of our lives over the last 100 years since its discovery and we are proud to mark each clasp with the "100 years" logo, celebrating the centenary of stainless steel's invention.  We also create a silver collection, made from 925 Sterling Silver.

 

 

 

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