Curating luxury for the discerning traveller



From bespoke chess sets and customised car interiors to monogrammed yoga
mats and handmade shoes, purveyors of luxury can make their mark on just 
about anything these days. And when it comes to forging an emotional 
connection between owner and prized object, London, with its expert
 crafts people, heritage fashion brands and pioneering retailers, has all the
 creative solutions.

Take Royal embroiderers Hand & Lock, for example. No one produces a monogram
 quite like its team of specialist embroiderers. Founded in 1767, it is where
 Savile Row shirt makers including Gieves & Hawkes and Turnbull & Asser send 
their client’s shirts to be initialled. As do ready-to-wear designers such
as Olivia von Halle, Tom Ford and Ralph Lauren. 
Production director, Jessica Pile, who at just 25 is the youngest female
 director in Hand & Lock’s 247-year history, believes the explosion in
 monogramming is a reaction against poor-quality, disposable fashion.

”By monogramming an item, it becomes personal to you and your taste,” says
 Pile. “These days, we get all kinds of requests – from embroidering hidden 
messages into the lining of ties to placing initials on the pockets of
 jeans, iPad cases and card holders.” 
It’s a far cry from the early days of monogramming when an embroidered
 initial or name tag was required to identify a shirt in a busy boarding
 school or shared laundry. | | | |

Jul 5th 2014

Meanwhile, over in West London, luxury shoemaker Caroline Groves attracts
 elite clients who like the fact that she will experiment with different materials
 in order to customise her client’s shoes.
Her elaborate creations take an average of six months to produce, with prices
 starting at around £1,500, and feature an exotic mix of materials such as
 feathers and walnut wood. The Parakeet sandals were
 made using real parakeet wings. The turquoise plumes then became the main
 feature on a pair of sandals, set on a walnut wood sole. The sandals took
 five months to create and cost £5,000. You could, of course, take things a step further and customise your own
 footwear at one of the many private shoemaking lessons, weekend workshops 
and intensive courses that are cropping up all over the capital.
Teaching the centuries-old craft of hand-sewn shoes comes naturally to James 
Ducker and Deborah Carré – aka Carréducker.
 When they’re not making bespoke shoes for Gieves & Hawkes’ customers on
 Savile Row, this highly skilled pair run their own 12-day intensive 
shoemaking classes at a studio in Bloomsbury.

As to what is driving the trend for customising shoes and other accessories,
Ducker says: “There's a huge sense of achievement in making your own shoes. 
People have realised that as we’ve gone through the 1980s and 1990s, happiness 
isn’t always based on ‘quick fix fashion’. They now want items that are really
 special to them.”

 Getting a beautifully made object personalised is, of course, something luxury 
fashion and lifestyle brands would like more of us to invest in. At the
 Louis Vuitton Maison on Bond Street, for example, shoppers can work with
 experts in a new dedicated private salon to choose a handbag style, colour,
leather and finish, which will allow for more than 80,000 creations.


Fashion aside, when The New Craftsmen opens its first permanent Mayfair
 store in June, it will feature the first dedicated area for commissioning
 bespoke work from a clutch of artisans handpicked from across the British
 Isles. Customers will be able to choose from a selection of materials,
finishes and themes from a range of New Craftsmen makers working in
 silverware, ceramics, glassware and beyond.“ I think all consumers are increasingly looking for purchases with special
 meaning or personal significance to them and so the rise of one-off,
 bespoke or customised pieces will continue to grow and grow,” says The New
 Craftsmen co-founder Natalie Melton. 
”It’s another level of discernment – the elite do not want to define
 themselves by recognisable brands. Instead, they seek out the unknown, the
 finely crafted and the personalised,” she adds.

Finally to Bermondsey, South London, where product designer Simon Hasan 
makes furniture to order using an unusual technique known as ‘cuir bouilli’. 
It involves stiffening cow leather by boiling it in water – a process that
 can be traced back to medieval times where it was the stuff of battle field 
armour. Today, Hasan uses it to sculpt furniture. A roster of private clients
 commission drum-tight tables, chairs and stools.
Hasan also uses more conventional materials such as wood, glass and yarns.
 Recently, he designed a five-piece collection of furniture – named Graft –
for British bespoke furniture makers, Linley. His collection of ‘production’
pieces includes console tables and coffee tables, but Linley being Linley,
 just about anything can be customised.



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