There is nothing, we repeat, nothing wrong with a little kitsch at Christmas. Might even go so far as to say it's a requirement for the festive season. Please get involved in a frosted parrot, some neon pineapples (for the animals to eat!) and a glittery dog or ten.
We are absolutely always on the lookout for new and interesting. So imagine how delighted we were to find Nathalie Bond Organics on a recent scouting/spying/buying mission: a skincare brand made from 100% organic raw plant ingredients, produced in the UK and beautifully packaged. This is a small, but growing, family business run by Nathalie and her husband Andrew and all the products are handcrafted in their workshop in Sheffield.
Nat's pregnancy in 2013 marked the start of the company. She became increasingly sensitive to synthetic chemicals in mass produced bath and beauty products and began to create her own simple soaps, balms and candles using only natural ingredients which could be safely absorbed by the skin and weren't harmful to the environment.
The company remains very conscious of their wider responsibilities. A percentage of profits are donated to World Vision to help children in some of the poorest communities in the world.
Nathalie Bond Organics skincare products and candles are available instore and online now.
We are all about gluttony this holiday season. Get involved in artisan chocolate, silly chocolate, Turkish Delight, liquorice pipes and sugar mice. And all manner of cookbooks and kitchen accoutrements. Eat up.
Amelia Rope's first foray into making beautiful chocolate came in 2007, with handmade truffles and chocolate dipped in crystallised flowers, decorated with gold leaf. Since then, she has refined her brand – creating unique flavours and simple, bold designs.
From pocket-money potato harvester to Masterchef contestant to practice manager, Amelia has pretty much done it all. Living abroad, studying herbal medicine, nutrition and massage therapy have all helped on her journey to super chocolatier. And if you're wondering where that talent for alchemy comes from, that'll be her training as an aromatherapist.
Stained-glass windows, mosaics and pencil nibs – all the things that have provided inspiration for the foil and kraft paper packaging. Behind the prettiness, Amelia has built strong and ethical business. She won't compromise on the quality of the end taste and insists on a sustainable single origin for her couverture (that's cocoa to you and me, we can test you later). Most of the product where possible is made in England and she works with a company that sources cocoa fairly and supports and empowers farmers through education. Cocoa from different regions adds a distinctive edge to the products. A rich chocolate pudding taste from Tanzanian beans, notes of caramel from Ecuador and dark spicy citrus from Madagascar.
And in a question probably asked 1000 times – yes she loves them all, 'crushes' on certain flavours (grab one of her current favourites, Dark Honeycomb & Sea Salt here). She'll always have a soft spot for both her Pale Rose and Pale Lemon and Sea Salt, her first award-winning flavours. As she says, her name is on the product so it has to be good!
Amelia Rope chocolate bars are available instore and online now.
Photo Credit: Tim Booth and Mary Wandsworth
Arpenteur (French for 'surveyor' if you're interested), was founded by cousins Marc Asseilly and Laurent Bourven in Lyon in 2011. Wearing its French heritage on its very neatly designed sleeve, inspired by traditional French workwear and with a commitment to keeping all garment production based in France, Asseilly and Bourven have grown a business with 98% of sales to international territories. Arpenteur is a brand which delights in its Frenchness (2% of sales within France suggest this is somewhat wasted on the French but enormously popular in other parts of Europe, the States and particularly Japan).
Autumn 2015 sees Arpenteur collaborating with Filature Arpin, a family owned business which has been weaving wool in Seez Saint Bernard in Eastern France since 1817. The Bonneval cloth, which is unique to the Arpin mill, is a dense, robust fabric, named in honour of a famous mountain guide of the 19th Century, Pape du Bonneval sur Arc. The cloth is traditionally used to make shepherds' capes and knickerbockers. But Asseilly and Bourven have a more modern interpretation with their waistcoat and overcoat. Homage to the region comes in the form of a mountain hat.
Martin Magnusson started making gloves for local lumberjacks in 1936. The early incarnation of the business was based in a workshop in Magnusson's farmhouse in the village of Hestra, Smaland (a province in the south of Sweden, known for lakes, dense forests and marshlands). In 1937, a ski slope opened nearby, Magnusson's sons Lars-Olof and Gote became keen skiers and the family identified a new market for their high quality, durable gloves. Today the company makes 400 different styles, still serving the early adopting lumberjack, the downhill skier (both the Swedish and the Norwegian ski teams wear Hestra) and all points between.
Although Hestra produces 2 million pairs of gloves annually, they still manufacture from their own factories in Smaland with hand making techniques on some models. The technical possibilities available in glove manufacturing today are great. However, making gloves for different needs and environments requires a special set of skills. The demands of mountaineers are different from the needs of a family of half term skiers. Fighter pilots have certain requirements, while kayak paddlers have others.This means that finding the right balance between aspects like durability, cold and moisture resistance and flexibility is extremely important. Simply maximizing the properties – durability, water resistance and insulation – seldom results in a good glove. Whilst we like to think of ourselves as elite athletes at The Hambledon, we're leaving the very technical gloves to the experts. We are all about the deerskin with the Primaloft lining.
Well, imagine how pleased we were when Caroline asked if she could feature us in 91 Magazine. Imagine how pleased we were when she asked if she could include us in her book. And imagine how very delighted we were to be on the cover of 'The Shopkeeper's Home', fresh from the publishers this week. We asked Caroline to give us the inside track on writing a book, and what she thinks of shopping.
What gave you the idea for The Shopkeepers Home?
Well shopping and interiors are two of my greatest passions, and I started running a feature in 91 Magazine where we shot a shop interior and the owner's home, and I really loved how it was working. I'd been in discussions with my publisher, Jacqui Small, for a while, and it came to me that this would translate really well into a book, and would totally indulge my love of shopping and interiors!
How do the European, American and Australian stores differ from the British shops featured in the book?
All the shops that are featured are independent shops - many of them stocking lots of products from local designers and makers, so I think there is definitely a sense of location running through most of the shops. The UK ones feel quite 'British' and quirky, the US ones have a feeling of Americana about them - you can spot things like a 'California' pennant or a stars and stripes flag, or American style vintage signage for example. The European ones are very cool and stylish. But they all tie together in the sense that I feel they represent my style in some way - I love vintage but I like to mix it with contemporary design, and I love crafting and handmade things too.
Are you an enthusiastic shopper? What do you like buying?
I LOVE shopping! Anywhere we travel to, either in the UK or abroad, I will always be keeping my eyes peeled for great shops, and have usually done a bit of research beforehand. To be honest, you could quite possibly put me in any shop in the world and I will find something that I want to buy!! I am trying to be a little more restrained of late as I do want to simplify things in our home a little, so I'm trying to only buy things I really really love, but it is hard, I'm a total magpie, always looking for lovely things!
How does making a book differ from writing a blog or putting together a magazine?
A book is obviously a much bigger task. The word count can initially be quite scary, but I decided the best way to approach it was in little bitesize chunks, especially as I was having to work around my new baby! I kind of treated each little section as if I was writing a magazine feature, although the writing style is different. The voice I use on my blog is very different to the voice I use for magazine features and again for the book.
Describe your typical working day?
As I say, I currently have to work around my 15 month old daughter. At the moment she has a nap after lunch so this is when I have a chance to do any project work or writing I need to get done. I generally answer emails once she is in bed at 7pm. She now goes to a childminder two days a week which has made things a lot easier as I can put my full attention on my work for those days. In terms of what I do, it is really varied. Sometimes I am writing features for Mollie Makes magazine, sometimes I am working on things for my book publisher (I also do picture research projects for them), sometimes I am blogging. I love how varied my job is, and I never get bored of it! .
What do you like most about what you do?
The variety is great, as I mentioned above, but it is also the fact that every day I get to write, blog or research things that I am really passionate about. I get to work with so many great and inspiring people too. Work is an absolute joy to me and I'm so happy that I made the leap from being in employment to being freelance and doing what I love every day.
Who or what couldn't you work without?
I think I would be lost without my iPhone. It helps me to keep on top of things all the time. Sometimes if I'm out pushing the buggy I'll also be checking emails, I'm surprised I haven't walked into any lampposts!!
What's your guilty pleasure?
Like a lot of people, it is probably chocolate! I eat way too much of it! Being a busy mum I often just grab a bar of chocolate to keep me going which is really bad! I love fancy chocolate, but I am just as happy with a bar of galaxy or a bag of giant buttons if I'm honest!! ;)
There are some secret projects in the pipeline as well as planning where I am going with 91 Magazine in 2016. I've had to take a break from it while I focussed on the book and becoming a mum for the first time, so I hope to make a plan to take it forward next year. We're also in the process of buying a new house which is a massive redecoration project that is probably going to take years, so there will be lots of material for the blog there!
Story 2 for our womenswear collections. Autumn Winter 15 is very strongly influenced by the 1970s. But we didn't want to take it into a flares and tie dye parody of the decade. We were looking for something more real and a bit more attainable for ordinary life.
Linda McCartney, with her effortless joie de vivre, her natural beauty and her sense of fun, is our muse for the season. We've taken inspiration from her Scottish rural idyll at High Park Farm in Kintyre. This is a life of fresh air, beaches, horses and children. Think fairisle knits, casual denim and chunky tweed and channel your inner Linda with MiH, &Daughter, Leon & Harper and Sessun.
Linda. We salute you.
We love a handbag and a bag with a split personality suits us even better. French designers Craie have created the perfect bag for every occassion; sparkly on the outside and plain on the inside. Or do you want to reverse that? How about two colour options? In case you can't understand what our vacillating brains are on about, watch the helpful little video below.