I have recently been accepted on a programme called Crafted. I sold a coat to an inspiring woman, Janice Blackburn, who is a writer and curator - or should I say - the writer and curator on contemporary craft. She is also a huge supporter of emerging makers and artists and understood what I was doing in a second. As a result, within weeks I'd been interviewed for Crafted and I'm on the programme. Crafted is funded by the American Express Foundation and is a joint venture between Arts & Business and Walpole. Arts & Business forge links between commerce and culture and Walpole furthers the interest of the luxury goods industry.
The programme involves primarily pairing up craft makers with mentors in the industry. Examples of mentors are Bill Amberg and Ed Burstall who is buying director of Liberty. My mentor is not 100% confirmed yet so you will have to wait for the next post on the subject. Part of the deal is that we keep a log of the year so I shall be using the blog to do just that. In addition, we have a range of seminars and individual meetings with experts. I've got a meeting set up with a chartered accountant, who is unlikely to have looked at businesses as modest as mine for a few years.
The process is about developing the markets for crafted luxury products. We have a rich heritage and skilled makers in this country and the mentors we will be working with are proof of this, as many of them have been pioneers at producing at this quality and selling successfully.
We had our first session recently at the Prince's Foundation in Shoreditch, East London. This was a perfect setting, of course, because the Foundation works to support traditional skills (beyond architecture into design). We met the mentors and also the other craft makers on the programme. I had a great chat with bespoke shoemakers carréducker and we're thinking of doing something together as a result.
The experience has really made me think about my label and where I fit in the market. In the debate at our first meeting there was also a hinted-at sense that the luxury industry had recently lost its way and credibility as a result of outsourcing and losing connections with the makers. This is very close to my heart. My fabrics dictate my prices and the way we produce is clearly going to make this a luxury product. I'm a little uncomfortable about the connotations of the word luxury, which can alienate people, especially some sectors of my market. However, this is where I sit much more in fact than the 'ethical or sustainable sector'. I am very influenced by the wwf report Deeper Luxury and feel that this is what I'm trying to do. That is, create a beautifully crafted product that is deeply sustainable and long lasting. In the end, this is real value for money. It's a healthy brand of consumerism.
We were asked what we hoped to get out of this process. I need to find more customers and so I'm hoping to answer the questions around whether my decision to wholesale (and show at trade fairs such as London Fashion Week) is a correct one and how to access my customers. I feel it is about repositioning the label more in the luxury sector, but I shall wait to see how my mentoring experience evolves.
I am also interested in being part of the luxury goods sector in the way that I am now very well established in the ethical fashion sector. I feel that there is great potential for pioneering sustainable brands in the luxury sector. They can lead the way and should have the resources to do so much more easily than the faster moving high street labels who seem to only be able to produce out of places like China.
So, I wait to share more news in due course. In the meantime, we've got an exciting launch evening at Soane coming up.
Here is another unique designer's work that I have in stock in the boutique in Farnham. I discovered Amy Twigger's knitwear Keep & Share at Origin at Somerset House a few years ago. I loved the styles - all hand-knitted with a strong fashion story. I tried on a lovely gladys cardi, which fortunately she's still running, but with different colours each season:
It took me a few years to decide to buy one for myself. Then I chose some for the shop. We've got it in navy (as in the picture), plum and black. They are lovely and popular with customers. I find mine great to wear over jeans and over smart clothes alike. It's a little like having a chic and cosy jacket.
Continuing the cardi department I've also ordered the Elm Cardi for the shop in lilac, grey and black. This is in a lovely wool & angora mix which is beautifully soft.
They are all lovingly knitted in Herefordshire. For those of you who are more knowledgeable than me about knitting, they have lovely clever features that knitters always spot and coo with impressed delight. Here are the colours we've got here:
Then for my Menswear Department I thought a couple of tanks would be fitting. Funnily enough both these and the scarves have been widely admired by ladies - in fact they are perfectly good for women too.
So we've got the Elm Gansey below in grey and black.
I think it's cool and classic with a hip thing going on to.
The great story about the Keep & Share is that the clothes are made to keep in a way my tweeds are. Amy's philosophy is that you create classic but unconventional knitwear that is beautifully made with the idea that you will keep it, share it, and give it a full lifetime. It really is worth it's weight in gold if you find something you love because that's true value for money. You're using your hard-earned cash on something that carries all that feeling and craftsmanship.
You can always start by purchasing one of the lovely scarves. When we got Sam the model down to do the shoot for the tweed menswear, the scarves looked great with the dark herringbone tweed:
I've also got this scarf in grey as modeled by mystery man below. It's got a different interesting knit on each side.
I might be putting them on the online store but in the meantime, they are in the boutique.