There is an old saying in China that “slow work creates the best product”. In this era of rapid development, few people still abide by this principle in defining their products. Buildings are brand new, clothing is fast fashion, perfume is mass-produced... Embracing modern products make our life easier, but we’ve given up craftsmanship. Did we lose something important by doing this?
Let’s read an unfamiliar story of a familiar brand.
In 1856, a young apprentice draper established his own clothing company at the age of just 21
He devoted himself to inventing a better fabric to make life easier for his consumers. Finally, in 1879, he invented Gabardine, an innovative waterproof fabric. This breathable, light and weatherproof fabric revolutionised the clothing industry. He invented the best trench coat that the world has ever seen. Before his invention, rainwear/outerwear in extreme weather had typically been heavy and uncomfortable.
To ensure practicality, he added more details to make the trench coat the perfect choice for extreme weather. He achieved his goal. In the end, his design became the first choice for many polar explorers.
Hearing this story, you might think we are talking about Northface or Moncler, but no, this designer’s name was Thomas Burberry. He created the luxurious clothing and leather goods brand Burberry that we all know so well today.
His brand still holds craftsmanship at its heart even today. Take Burberry’s classic check cashmere scarf as an example. Burberry cashmere scarves are made at a 200-year-old mill in Elgin, Scotland. Each scarf is worked on by 18 artisans and undergoes 30 different production processes, from combing the raw cashmere to hand-cutting the fringes on the finished product. Burberry scarves are washed in Scottish spring water from the River Lossie, as part of the finishing process. The same river that is also used to create some of the world’s most famous whiskies!
In London, a lot of brands still hold similar craftsmanship at their heart. Some of them we know, but others are less known, yet still extremely exquisite. One example is Swaine Adney Brigg whose leather goods were used by generations of kings and queens. In many ways, their hand-made process remains the same today as it has always been. The same artisanal approach is used to hand-shape the fine leather goods, tooling, stitching and engraving each piece in time-honoured tradition.
Britain’s economic strength and cultural heritage enabled different artisans to thrive. They delved into their area and focused on one field to create the best possible product. This may be why the British aristocracy still use old furniture or inherited leather goods and jewellery from hundreds of years ago: their love for “old things” is grounded in their appreciation and respect for craftsmanship.
London Craft Week
2018 is the fourth year of London Craft Week. From May 9 to May 13, one can see the most innovative and exquisite work at different venues in London. Most of them are not known “luxuries“, but people who adore hand-made products will fall in love with the variety of design and fashion products, art, food and culture presented in London Craft Week.
Be that as it may, it’s not a luxury-brands-free week. Vacheron Constantin, Mulberry, Dunhill and Loewe have all been sponsors for the week long celebration. This year, Mulberry will also hold workshops with the theme “Mulberry: Celebrating a Passion for Making”, inviting all who are interested in leather goods craftsmanship to attend.
At the same time, glass factory, whisky brewers, alchemist and letterpress studios will also attend the week. In this rapidly developing world, such a unique week will revive craftsmanship and bring it to the fore amongst Londoners and visitors worldwide.