At last, there’s a nip in the air and with it comes a very nicely timed drop of knitwear from basement newcomers Country of Origin. Against the backdrop of soulless mass production, this is a label doing things differently and producing truly beautiful knitwear in the process.
Founders Ben Taylor (a filmmaker) and Alice Liptrot (a University of Brighton fashion textiles graduate who previously worked for Donna Karan) started out determined there had to be a better way to produce contemporary clothes that are honestly made, highly desirable, and made in Britain. They wanted to produce clothes that lasted longer than a season, and for there to be transparency about where things come from and how they are made, hence the brand name.
All of this proved easier said than done, however. The pair scoured the country looking for manufacturers and found large minimum orders stacked up against them. So instead they turned to 19th-century textile technology: hand-powered, hand-framed knitting machines, the happy halfway between mass-market, computer-controlled machines and hand knitting with needles.
Today the label occupies a small strip of land between two train tracks in South London, a none too salubrious setting where they design and make bespoke orders on a hand-framed knitting machine, with their ready-to wear collection hand-framed in Hawick, one of Scotland’s specialist knitwear centres. Inspired by modernist art and design of the twentieth century, this is a subtle Mondrian on a beautifully crafted jumper, a good knit with an interesting primary colour stripe or trim. All the stuff we really, really like.
Buying was underway for AW17 and the season was taking on a distinct feel – of days gone by, a time of elegance and refinement, where tea was taken and tables were laid. It called for beautiful porcelain, and so the decision was already made; the time had come to revisit an old favourite: Reichenbach, and their stunning ‘Taste’ collection designed by celebrated Italian designer Paulo Navone.
The company is world renowned for its quality and craftsmanship, with a history dating back as far as 1830. It starts in the German town of Reichenbach, where local tradesmen became know for their skill in hand-paining white porcelain. In 1900, nine of the local workshops came together to found a porcelain factory, laying the foundations for the Reichenbach factory, which still stands on the same site today. It’s a small business that has managed to navigate a successful balance between its traditional craft and modern production, while also prioritising modern design. Their motto (loosely translated!) is "old trade arts meets modern design."
Their collaboration with Paulo Navone is a designer meets maker dream team. Born in 1950 in Turin, Navone gained acclaim within the design world in the 1980s and was a major figure in the Italian post-modern movement, her iconic designs always looking to combine the best of the past and present. It’s a design ethic clearly seen in her Taste range for Reichenbach, in which she went back to their original archive and re-interpreted the pieces in a sleek and modern way whilst maintaining the broad, graphic-abstract, neo-baroque silhouettes. Porcelain doesn’t get any more precious than this. Welcome back, Reichenbach, we are very, very pleased to see you.
Summer term just started and we’re all taking that as a good excuse for a fresh new notebook courtesy of Write Sketch &, the latest addition to our stationery department. The collection caught the eye of Lucy and Victoria back in January at Maison&Objet. Our theme for summer, Miami Nice, was taking shape - all saturated pastels, strong prints and nods to fun days gone by - and Write Sketch & was the perfect addition with its bold colours and retro geometrics.
The brand was founded in 2014 by Italians Matteo Carrubba and Angela Tomasoni, two designers with a decade long partnership at the head of their own agency specialising in art direction in the design and fashion worlds. With Write Sketch &, the duo created something for themselves, combining their passion for print and obsession with quality.
The collection is inspired by the Memphis Group, an Italian design and architecture group founded in Milan by Ettore Sottsass in 1981 which designed postmodern furniture, fabrics, ceramics, glass and metal objects. Google the ‘Carlton’ room divider, the group’s most iconic design, and you instantly see where Write Sketch & is coming from. It’s a strong look and just the right amount of ‘80s throwback we’re loving right now.
Production is 100% Italian and uses Fedrigoni paper with Pantone inks and super strength thread stitched binding. The thing we're really loving though is the ability to fully open each page to 180 °. Not a design feature we’d really considered before now, but actually super practical. No more holding down pages that just want to jump up. These, stationery fans, are notebooks worth getting geeky about.
If you’ve been in store lately you might have spied our homewares department looking particularly sunny in time for spring; loaded with colour and a good measure of kitsch, largely thanks to the arrival of Sun Jellies and their rainbow range of retro plastic baskets.
If they look vaguely familiar and resurface childhood memories then it’s probably little surprise that the bags are indeed an extension of the Sun Jellies brand which started out retailing the original jelly shoe. And we have a lovely lady called Kelly White to thank for bringing jelly bags and shoes back into our lives.
Having moved to Worthing to live the seaside dream with her family she found herself searching unsuccessfully for some jelly shoes to wear on the pebbly beach. It seemed jelly shoes had disappeared and no-one in the UK was selling them. What she did discover though was the story behind the jelly shoe – originally created in 1946 by Frenchman Monsieur Jean Dauphant in response to a worldwide leather shortage - and much to her delight, the classic t-bar fisherman weave design was still being made in France using the original moulds.
So excited to find plastic shoes not made in China, and convinced they could become a wardrobe staple, Kelly made it her mission to bring jelly shoes back, and in the process launched her own range of jelly bags in 2014, recreating classic styles crafted from 100% recyclable PVC. We're stocking the Carnival and Retro baskets, Fiesta shopper and Atomic tote, and finding them all kinds of useful for grocery shopping through to household storage. Thanks Kelly.
As far as we’re concerned, AW16 can throw all the weather our way because we’re kitted out like never before; down jackets from Patagonia, heavyweight knitwear, and now we’re proudly welcoming Mackintosh to menswear, the ultimate in outerwear for when things turn torrential.
As coats go, this is as classic as they come. Few fashion brands out there that can claim to have an entire genre of clothing named after them, but Mackintosh is one of them; the brainchild of Charles Macintosh (it's not a typo, the k was added later), who pioneered and patented a new process of rubberizing cotton in Glasgow in 1823. Waterproofing material with rubber was nothing new, and was practised as far back as the Aztecs, but Macinotsh’s process involved sandwiching an impermeable layer of a solution of rubber in naphtha (derived from tar) between two layers of fabric, rendering it suitable for garment production.
In 1830 Macintosh's company merged with Thomas Hancock, an established clothing company based in Manchester that had also been experimenting with rubber-coated fabrics since 1819. Production soon ramped up and rubberized coats became increasingly popular. That said, the early mac was by no means perfect; the smell, the stiffness, plus a tendency to melt in hot weather were common problems until Hancock patented a method for vulcanising rubber in 1843 which overcame the issues.
With the new and improved fabric nailed almost every kind of coat was made out of rubberized cotton for a while; it was the government go-to, supplying coats to the British army, railways workers and police forces.
Over the 19th century, the company weathered its share of ups, downs and different owners (Dunlop at one point), facing near closure in the 90s until a group of senior staff bought it out and turned its fortunes around, formally re-naming the company ‘Mackintosh’ and establishing it as an upmarket brand in its own right. The term ‘mac’ may have made its way into our lexicon as the generic term for waterproof, but only the real deal will do for us; the original Mackintosh mac (in navy, olive and stone) - with taped seams and guaranteed 100% waterproof - still handmade in the company’s long-standing Cumbernauld factory in Scotland. As Rob says, it's without doubt the best mac out there.
Winchester skaters head this way. There’s a new label in the basement we think you ought to know about: Ben Davis, a U.S. workwear clothing line founded in San Francisco in 1935 by the actual Ben Davis and his father. Of all the workwear labels we’ve welcomed to the basement, this is probably the most credible and cool of them all.
For starters, the Davis family has been involved in the U.S. garment industry since the mid 1800s so there’s some pretty serious family heritage to the name. Ben’s grandfather Jacob was instrumental in the creation of the original Levi’s jeans, being the brains behind using rivets to hold pockets in place on heavy duty work pants. Realising he was on to something he contacted Levi Strauss, his fabric supplier, to help him apply for a patent, and the rest is history.
It's no surprise then that Ben Davis was founded in the same family tradition and spirit, producing garments originally worn by construction workers, known for their sturdy, rugged, high quality construction and affordability.
The original store was on Valencia Street in the Mission district, with San Franciscan locals soon embracing the label and wearing it as a badge of honor representing the city. Later, the clothing caught on in Los Angeles and other part of the U.S., and with this, the brand crossed over into streetwear, the iconic gorilla’s head logo propelling its popularity.
In particular, the label was adopted by West coast rappers, with Ben Davis shirts featuring in videos by Dr. Dre and Easy-E, plus mentions in songs by the Beastie Boys and Ice Cube. And because we're down with all that (and the clothes are actually really good), we'll be wearing them in Winchester too; the trim fit pants, the half zip shirt, logo beanies and t-shirts emblazoned with that cheeky chimp's head.
We pretty much run on sugar at The Hambledon. Rifle behind any of the counters and you’re sure to pull out some sort of confectionary. So the AW16 return of Pastiglie Leone – Italy’s original & finest ‘king of sweetness’ - is something we’re all kinds of happy about. Mostly because they’re the prettiest candies we ever did see, plus we like anything with a good story, and this one is as old as the Italian Republic itself.
It begins in 1857 in a confectioner’s shop in Alba where Luigi Leone produced small, intensely fragrant candies designed to be eaten after a meal. The first flavours were peppermint, cinnamon and rhubarb; the candy dough kneaded by hand and carefully dried for more than 24hrs in the mouth of an oven.
It wasn't long before they became a favourite of the king, and so, in 1861, to better serve the royal family, Leone’s production moved to Turin, residence of the Italian monarchs and later, the first capital of the unified Italy. Already known as the ‘capital of sweetness’ thanks to its cafes and patisseries, Leone fitted right in and was soon renowned throughout the city for its irresistible flavours.
Following the death of owner Luigi, ownership passed to a family who handled the business for just a few years until 1934 when it was bought by Giselda Balla Monero. Nicknamed ‘Lioness’ because of her untameable temperament, she transformed the company’s destiny, relocating the factory to Corso Regina Margherita 242, and investing heavily in the beautiful packaging and advertising we're smitten with today.
Now in the hands of Giselda’s son Guido, the candy originals are still produced according to the traditional recipe of 1857, set in the same bronze moulds, and packaged in the prettiest retro tins. This season you'll find us secretly scoffing on all manner of flavoured pastilles, boiled sweets and fruit jellies, collecting the tins as we go, and generally running on a sugar high through 'til Christmas.
Orslow, our latest addition to the basement, is a homage to Japanese design, quality and construction. Which is no surprise as designer Ichiro Nakatsu is meticulous about combining traditional techniques with contemporary style. Ichiro built his career in the world-famous denim production centre in Kojima Okayama. He started Orslow in 2005, naming it to reflect the slower (clever, huh), careful way he made jeans, rebelling against the frenzied pace of modern fashion production.
His passion for denim started at an early age with a pair of dark overalls given to him by his mother. Wearing them everyday, he was fascinated by their fade and, as he puts it, the “ colour and texture of worn clothes; and the atmosphere they exude.” He began making his own jeans at home by taking apart old clothes and mirroring their construction.
The same careful craftsmanship is applied today and all the sewing machines in his atelier are in full use - from 1940's vintage models to the latest digital machines. Most of his collections reflect his casual take on traditional workwear and military garments from the 19th and 20th century. Contemporary clothes for those that love that extra bit of attention to detail.
Lucy is an avid fan of a gin and tonic. Finn is partial to a glass of fizz. Rob has been known to down a pint or two of Cognac. The Hambledon wouldn't necessarily be the natural home for the temperance movement in Winchester. But we like to confound expectations. Welcome Mr Fitzpatrick (est. 1899) from Rossendale, Lancs, and his traditionally brewed, non alcoholic, botanical cordials.
The temperance movement began in Preston in 1835 during the period of the Industrial Revolution and was a response to the widespread alcoholism that existed at that time. The availability of cheap ale and gin (Lucy, Rob we're watching you) had been responsible for the breakdown of family life and industrial productivity amongst the working classes. Prohibition was never legalised here but non alcoholic bars began to appear in every town and village to promote abstinence from ‘the demon drink'.
The movement started and continued to blossom in the textile districts of Yorkshire & Lancashire, but quickly swept across the whole of the UK. It was a Methodist cheese maker born in Preston, who set about establishing a society under which a pledge of sobriety was taken. The society grew and expanded beyond the churches to become part of every day life for the now sober British. Temperance Bars had become the new social scene.
By the 1890s temperance bars graced every high street, the most prominent being Mr Fitzpatrick's – a successful family of Dublin herbalists who established themselves in the North of England and at their peak successfully ran over 40 shops in the region. After World War II interest in taking the pledge faded. The end of prohibition in the United States and the heavy importation of sweet, sugary drinks, saw the decline of the Temperance Bar. However, one Temperance Bar survived and today Mr Fitzpatrick’s still own and operate the little Victorian bar situated in the Lancashire town of Rawtenstall.
And now The Hambledon has its very own corner of sobriety with a selection of Summer time cordials. It's the perfect time to ditch the hard stuff and get involved in cream soda, lemon and ginger punch, rhubarb and rosehip cordial, sarsaparilla and root beer.
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.