AN EYE FOR DETAIL
An obsessive eye for precision is required throughout the exacting embroidering process, which starts with a draft that is pencilled on to tracing paper – an image of the design with instructions outlining to the embroiderer everything from the technique required to the stitch direction and stitch type. Embroiderers then place the draft over the fabric, poking holes through the paper along the lines of the pattern, blotting over a grey dust that falls through the holes to reveal the pattern on the fabric underneath. From this, the embroiderer can begin the fastidious work of bringing Heron’s designs to life, stitch by stitch.
While techniques such as this may date back centuries, Hand & Lock is by no means behind the times. Production director Jessica Pile has been spearheading the brand’s role at the cutting edge of contemporary couture, pioneering Hand & Lock’s first in-house fashion collection. “Because we’re a company with a lot of history there can be preconceptions that we’re old-fashioned, but we’re actually young people working here,” says Pile. Heron is 28, while Pile is just 26, and the company’s youthful dynamism shows in its collection, which this year featured a jumper embroidered with a striking goldwork lion with a feathered mane and a tracksuit with a tiger pattern made from thousands of shimmering sequins. “It’s wonderful that a company with our heritage can produce work that is sympathetic to the past, but can also re-contextualise the techniques,” adds Heron.
A MODERN CONTEXT
This fresh attitude to a traditional craft has seen the brand take embroidery in totally new directions, from an embroidered rifle created in collaboration with anti-gun charity Peace One Day, to a decorated chair for artists Gilbert & George. Hand & Lock’s monogramming service has also rocketed in popularity, with customers requesting personalisation for everything from bags and books to shoes and even a yoga mat. “I think the trend for monogramming came about when the recession hit,” identifies Pile. “Customers thought that if they couldn’t afford something new, they would up-cycle or change what they already had. People were also choosing to buy less expensive items and monogram them to make them more special.” Whether it’s high-end designers such as Mary Katrantzou, or a member of the public calling on Hand & Lock’s services, Heron believes the appeal of handcrafted embroidery will never fade. “I think we are always so much more attracted to something that’s handmade that you couldn’t make yourself,” he explains. “People look at older pieces from our archive now and consider them amazing, but in another 150 or 200 years, pieces we’re making now will be regarded in exactly the same way. I love embroidery because it’s such an age-old media, so to be the head of design for a company with so much heritage is a privilege.”