The concepts of craftsmanship and luxury have for years gone hand-in-hand. High-end companies attest their credentials by the sheer skill involved in making and producing their goods (as well as justify their price tags). Today, there appears to be an increasing number of students looking to learn the skills of a craft – Bremont’s recent partnering with the British School of Watchmaking is just one such example of this in action. Added to this is the recent study revealing that 64% of urban Chinese believe craftsmanship is what most defines luxury. That’s a statistic that could surely be applied to any society with affluent, luxury consumers.
But a major concern for any luxury consumer is ensuring the future development of the crafted goods they buy, as the hunt for the true artisan becomes evermore fraught, with homogeny taking the place of exclusivity. Walpole Crafted’s subsequent founding has surely helped to allay some of these concerns. Firstly, through its mentorship programme, the craftsmen invited to participate can continue to hone their skills and ultimately their passion for their respective crafts but also, being part of such an exclusive “club” introduces them to a wider audience of consumers hungry for the bespoke, for the unique, and for the well-crafted. As Walpole Crafted founder and chairman Guy Salter succinctly put it, “despite advances in technology and precision engineering by intelligent machines, nothing can replicate something that has been made by the human hand.”
Run by Walpole British Luxury in association with Vacheron Constantin, and with alumni including Cumbria Crystal (as seen on Downton Abbey) and Katie Walker (maker of HRH Prince George’s high-chair, pictured above), The Luxury Channel was keen to meet some of Crafted’s Class of 2014, to familiarise ourselves with the new generation of craftsmen we’ll be buying our goods from….
Award-winning milliner Emma comes from an interiors background, and whilst walls were of some interest, she “really missed the body and working with people. I missed that connection,” she explains, before an enlightening talk with her MA tutor convinced her that there were many facets of design, of which interiors was just one. A jewellery design MA course followed (the influence is evident in her current creations), before a fascination between an object and its ability to be worn enabled her to embrace millinery professionally. Three seasons (not to mention a lot of acclaim) at London Fashion Week’s Headonism followed. “I’m just doing what feels innate to me,” Yeo says modestly, but with a stockist in Milan and attention from as far afield as Australia (not to mention that her hats have been worn by none other than Lady Gaga), you should get your orders in quick for the racing season!
Bespoke tailor Pip’s coats are all made in England using British fabrics, which she sources herself. Limited fabric runs mean more exclusivity, and whilst there are ten “stock” cuts for clients to choose from should they wish, the emphasis is very firmly on bespoke. “It’s all about the fit and making people look better,” Pip explains. “That creates confidence. People do care about fit, but they aren’t catered for like they should be.” Employing several clever tricks to help her clients (a high, cinched-in waist will elongate the legs, for instance, a la Kate Middleton), Pip has a profound love of structure but acute awareness of practicality. Her clothes are made to be worn. A riding jacket on display emphasises the fun you can have with cut, but the wax lining on the inside – as opposed to lush, soft silk – is a firm nod to the fact that horse-riders get muddy! “I’m inspired by equine style,” Pip reveals, “as well as classic vintage.” Indeed, her current campaign is to get us all to Wear More Tweed – sign us up!
Whilst the thought of crochet may bring back scarring thoughts of dated 70s cushions, award-winning constructed textile designer Naomi doesn’t really need to say very much to entirely dispel such images – her beautifully structured lights speak for themselves. A trained electrician (yes, really!), Naomi had “always crocheted” before working on catwalk pieces for the likes of Giles Deacon, Jonathan Saunders and Pringle, but refined her handcraft skills in knit and crochet whilst working for Sid Bryan at Sibling. However, her passion lay more in interiors than fashion, and after a fortuitous interior sculpture commission, her new career path was set. Anyone who has wondered into the foyer of Conde Nast’s College of Business and Design will be familiar with Naomi’s work, in the form of the huge blue and yellow pendant light (entirely crocheted by hand) suspended from the ceiling!
Leather-maker Mia Sabel spent 25 years working in brand, design and usability, before switching tack six years ago to become a qualified saddler. “I wanted to learn something traditional, authentic and tangible,” Mia told us. “Although leather is my language, it was traditional saddlery that I was originally attracted to.” There is hence a very strong equine influence prevalent in Mia’s “classic, English approach” to her work. But it’s not just saddles for which Mia is making a name for herself. “The most popular requests are for bespoke, made-to-measure watch straps, particularly for vintage and rare watches, whose straps have now become obsolete,” she reveals. Gloves for waxworks at Madame Tussauds in Sydney and Vienna, as well as “developing a brand new range of modern leather products for a 200 year old English saddlery brand, which will be launching later this year,” are also among her growing list of commissions. The career change was clearly an inspired bet!
IN PROFILE – Carreducker
We also take a look at a company who has already been part of the Walpole Crafted mentorship programme, and is now proudly part of the Alumni – Carreducker….
A decade in business is surely testament to the quality of product produced by bespoke shoemakers Carreducker. Deborah Carré and John Ducker met whilst training with the same master shoemaker after having “caught the shoemaking bug,” and decided to launch their own bespoke shoemaking business together. The business has subsequently developed so much over the years that the pair are now able to run their own courses for new students to learn the centuries-old skills of shoemaking, echoing what the Walpole Crafted programme is an embodiment of. “We have always believed that passing on our skills and enthusing others about the craft is vital to its survival and growth, so training will always be intrinsic to our business,” Deborah told us. “We have seen at least seven students go on to set up their own businesses whilst others continue to make for pleasure.” That’s not all, as “this year, we will take on our first apprentice.” That’s surely reason enough to have a spring in your step.