It's 1836 in the German Schwabian Mountains. The land has grown infertile and farmers and their families are starving. So the government kits them out with circular knitting machines to earn their way and some years later a chap called Balthasar Merz founds a company called Merz b. Schwanen, producing a fine line in cotton undergarments.
Fast forward and the fastidious Peter Plotnicki steps into the picture. Determined to revive traditional circular knitting processes, he takes on the Merz brand name in order to continue the family's tradition and history. The result is here in menswear to see - an immaculate collection of jersey apparel, largely based on original patterns and manufactured on mid century circular knitting machines.
There are no side seams. The weave is beautifully irregular. The fit, quality and detailing is superb. And we rather like the beautiful brown boxes they come in too.
Graphic designer, fine artist, all round bon viveur, we are delighted to welcome Ashkahn Shahparnia and his brilliant cards to The Hambledon. He trained at Otis School of Art and Design (found Graphics a little boring and switched to Fine Art), set up his studio in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, straight out of college and has worked on all sorts of projects for all sorts of clients: custom typefaces, wallpaper, tee shirts, album covers and the infamous 'Evolution of the Muff' print. We were looking to bring humour, whimsy, cool and a little bit of exclusivity to our stationery domain and Ashkahn is ticking all the boxes. You saw him here first. We are the only UK stockist.
It’s hard not to fall in love with Rifle Paper’s beautifully whimsical stationery creations, and we are certainly not the first. Back in 2009, Anna Bond was working as a freelance illustrator when a close friend asked her to design her wedding invitations. Anna posted a few custom designs online and hey presto, the whirlwind success that is Rifle Paper started. The blogosphere fell in love, she was flooded with orders and landed her work in the pages of Martha Stewart's Weddings.
In just four short years the company has evolved from Anna and her husband Nathan working in their apartment to a full staff employed at Rifle headquarters - a studio and shop in the couple’s hometown of Winter Park, Florida. You might say their success is testimony to the power of the internet but we have a sneaky feeling it just speeded things up a bit. Really, Rifle’s success is the story of one talented and determined girl with great style who’s not afraid of putting in some serious hardwork.
Inspired by a “hodgepodge of things” from mid-century design and vintage children’s books to architecture and folk art, night-owl Anna spends her hours developing the company’s product lines (hand painting her beautiful designs) as well as negotiating the headaches of starting and growing a business. She freely admits there have been many sleepless nights and lessons learned along the way but ultimately she spends her days doing what she loves, with the person she loves most by her side.
May we point you in the direction of these beautifully curated maps by Herb Lester. Witty, pretty, curious and opinionated, they'll take you to places well-used, much-loved, usual and unusual. The brainchild of Ben Olins and Jane Smillie, the company started life when the pair found themselves meeting in "foul chain coffee shops" which inspired their first map 'You Are Here' - a guide to the best places in London to meet and work for people without offices.
Like the original, each map has a distinct purpose designed to suit all manner of whims, pleasures and agendas. You'll find 'Paris for Pleasure-Seekers', 'An Uncle's Guide to London' and 'How to find Old New York' among their collection which now covers an eclectic smattering of the world's great cities. Starting at just £3, you need never find yourself wandering the pavements aimlesslessly again.
Could a bar of soap have any more going for it than the Murphy & Daughters Bon Bon? We don't think so. The list of credentials is long, so we’ll start with the evident stuff. They’re made in Australia, they look beautiful (like a cracker or a giant sweetie), smell divine and make a great gift (one that doesn’t require wrapping).
Then there’s the stuff you might guess if you know a thing or two about soap. They’re triple milled French style, enriched with shea butter and scented with essential oils from fresh herbs, flowers and citrus. All big ticks, but there's still more lovely stuff.
Sarah Murphy founded Murphy & Daughters in 2010, inspired by the traditions of her great-great grandfather who ran the Murphy Bros. General Merchants in the late 1800s. Her Bon Bons are made in small batches using traditional techniques and produced from pure, sustainably sourced palm oil, which ensures no orangutans or their habitat are endangered in their production. The soaps then go on to be handwrapped in recycled paper by Ability Works, an Australian charity which empowers people with disabilities by employing them with meaningful work.
And with that, we say top scores.
We think Stephen Kenny is great. In fact, we'll freely admit we're rather envious of the way he spends his days, working from home at 'problem press' headquarters in Walthamstow, listening to Radio 4 and producing some of our most favourite posters and greetings cards. No fuss, no computers, just three presses, the most amazing collection of wood type and a man with a great sense of humour who loves what he does.
Much of the equipment is over a hundred years old. The Adana '8 x 5' prints all the stationery and two proofing presses print the small, medium and large scale prints. Then there's the wood type collection. Over 50 complete sets dating from the 1840s - 1930s. A hand cut gothic font from the 1840s is probably the rarest, but it still gets used.
Everything is designed directly on the press with moveable wood and metal type. As Stephen says, "I like letterpress in its purest form...rather than design in Illustrator to produce a zinc plate to print with. You can emboss with the zinc plate. But what's the point? It's soulless. Also, printing with old worn out wood blocks that are marked and scratched makes each block and each print entirely unique."
Inspiration comes from musicians and artists more than designers and typographers. Names like Andre Breton, Harry Houdini, David Lynch, Peter Doig ...and Sherlock Holmes, hence the company name. If ever Holmes had a particularly tough case to solve, it would require two (or sometimes three) pipes to solve. Stephen doesn't smoke a pipe. But he is partial to a glass of fine French wine after a good day's printing.
Sunspel is something of a under celebrated national institution. Based in Long Eaton, Derbyshire, the brand has spent the last 150 years quietly perfecting the art of luxury basics, producing some of the finest underwear a man can buy. They're probably best known for introducing the boxer short to the UK in 1947 and providing the memorable pair that appeared in that infamous 1985 Levi's ad.
Evolving from a major textile manufacturer to a specialist maker of undergarments, the brand has a long tradition of quality craftsmanship and is one of the few British labels to have retained the capability of hand cutting and sewing many of their garments on these shores. Throughout their long history they've experimented with new styles, fabric structures, knitting techniques and have collaborated with the likes of Paul Smith, Margaret Howell, Thom Browne and Kris Van Assche to name but a few.
Despite featuring in many an underwear drawer, it was the appointment of British designer JW Anderson and the opening of their first store on Redchurch Street that really brought the brand to the industry's attention. While continuing to make the most of six generations of patented textile innovation and old school tradition, they have successfully re-edited their 'hero products' to incorporate modern detailing and fits. You know that well fitting Riviera Polo sported by Daniel Craig's Bond and Christian Bale's Batman? Sunspel.
Nothing excites Rob more than a great pair of jeans, so when Levi's Vintage Clothing came to menswear, oh how we knew about it. The heritage! The quality! The fit! No other denim label compares we're told.
The label was launched in the early 90s to celebrate and keep alive Levi's impressive history. They create exact reproductions straight out of the Levi's San Francisco archives, and they're authentic to the core; manufactured in the original Levi's factory using original quality selvage denim sourced from their original US supplier, Cone Mills. We love that each style has its own story, charting changing tastes, production methods and new innovations.
First up on our Levi's timeline is the 1947 501 - a classic slim fit with a straight leg, it was a jean for the new, post-war generation. Next is the 1954 501Z with its narrow, tapered leg. It was the first jean to carry a zip much to the dismay of one disgruntled customer who said it was like 'peeing into the jaws of a crocodile'. Fast forward to 1967 and we have the 505 - a jean for the modern man with a straight fit that now sits lower on the waist. We could go on, but just come and have a chat to Rob, and he'll tell you'll all you need to know about LVC.
Say hello again to a design classic. Crispy white with a distinctive blue rim. Solid and functional. An icon of British homelife. Makes us think of cosy kitchens and home-cooked food. It's Falcon enamelware. Here since the 20s. It never really went anywhere, apart from maybe the back of the kitchen cupboard. But dig it out, dust it off and get some more because we're pleased to say Falcon is very much here and now again.
The brand has undergone a major revamp in partnership with designers KIWI&POM and Morse Studios. They've introduced a series of new colourways, and some lovely kitchenware sets, all wrapped up in new 'hardware store' packaging. Apart from that, the core product remains the same, as strong and as functional as ever. Porcelain is fused onto heavy-gauge steel. It's dishwasher-safe, chemical-resistant and cannot burn. If you drop it, it may chip but it won?t break.
We're particularly fond of the new kitchenware sets - the pie set and cook set - as seen put to good use in the above photos. Appetite suitably whet? Yep, ours too.
Founded by Soren Nielsen Skyt in 1931 in Herning, S.N.S. Herning is the iconic Danish brand, famed for producing traditional fishermen's sweaters from the original early 20th century patterns. The knitwear is still produced on German Stoll knitting machines. Each finished piece is still signed by the individual knitter and the main part of the collection each season is still a remake of designs from the archives. Function is key. The classic 'bubble' pattern evolved as a means of creating a heavily insulated garment, the texture of the yarn to withstand hard manual work. However, though the logo still bears the dinghy icon, it isn't just trawlermen heading for Herning.