Tom Morton: The Workshop of the World

September 17, 2009

In a series of seven posts authors from London –  this month celebrating the coming together under one roof of six TBWA companies – will share their thoughts on successful brand behavior, highlighting topics like upcoming brands, the impact of digital, music, the future of PR and new trends in retail. Enjoy some some inspirational thoughts and join in the Media Arts discussion.

How Craft is Shaping London’s most Interesting New Brands

British people are fond of grumbling that they don’t make anything any more.

The country that was first to industrialise was also the first to down tools.

So it’s exciting to see that the most interesting new brands in London have come from the workshop.  They have rediscovered the art of making things.  Rather than brands of image, they are products of craft.

Tailor Timothy Everest brings a craftsman’s approach to high fashion. An apprentice of The Rolling Stones’ tailor Tommy Nutter, Everest is a leader of the new bespoke movement, updating classic tailoring for a new generation.  His location shows a return to craft too.  He works out of an atelier in Spitalfields, the gritty area of East London that has been the centre of the garment trade for centuries.  Timothy Everest clothing mixes the craftsman approach with the tailor’s art: bespoke suits, collaborations with everyone from Marks & Spencer to Rocawear; ties decorated with the Spitalfields flower and made-to-measure jeans.

Another brand bringing manufacturing back to London is spirits manufacturer Sipsmith. They have opened the first distillery in London since the 1820s, in which they create small batches of gin and vodka. The gin comes from British barley spirit and water from a tributary of the Thames.  Interestingly, when many spirits behave as lifestyle brands Sipsmith is a distillery.

Retailer Labour And Wait brings the craft aesthetic in to people’s homes.  Launched in 2000, the store stocks simple, austere household products. Customers can pick up enamel buckets, Welsh blankets, wooden brooms and balls of twine, feeling the weight and build quality of products designed to last a lifetime.  The store has resurrected old manufacturers that have lost distribution over the years, and are now finding their way in to smart Londoners’ lives.
Surprisingly, Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo has opened a third outlet of Labour And Weight in her high fashion boutique Dover Street Market.  The setting might be East London in 2009 but the atmosphere is as austere as Yorkshire in 1949.

A similar simple artisan look shapes menswear label Albam.  Launched two years ago in the heart of Soho, Albam design and sell what they call modern crafted clothing.  The pieces tend to be timeless – indigo jeans, round neck sweaters, brogues – with a nod to functionality, from waxed fisherman’s cagoules to lumberjack shirts. Albam documents the production of new pieces on its blog, shifting from the conventional fashion timescale of seasons to the craftsman’s timetable of sourcing, developing and supplying products.  To complete the artisan feel, new arrivals are announced on a chalkboard outside the store.

In the spirit of revival, publisher Persephone Books reprints neglected classics by women writers, selling them out of two beautiful stores in chic Lamb’s Conduit and Kensington Church Streets.  The content of the books comes to life through Persephone’s exquisite design.  Every inside cover and endpaper is different. Persephone believes that readers get as much pleasure from how a book looks and feels as they do from the words.

London’s new craft brands are an inspiration to people in the brand business.

They reconnect us with the manufacturing process and the back stories from which brands still gain much of their meaning and their value.  Building brands on image and messaging feels shallow in comparison.

They remind us of the deeper satisfaction of owning something made with substance and care and even a measure of love.

And they reassure us that even in a mass-marketed world, craft can still win people over.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions please email Tom Morton, Executive Planning Director TBWA\London.

Direct: +44 20 7573 7104
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