Knitwear. It has to be one of our favourite things about autumn/winter. We’re perpetually on the lookout for the next best jumper. And this season Rob’s found it courtesy of Italian knitwear label GRP Firenze which he discovered on his annual buying trip to Florence earlier this year.
One of a small cluster of textile companies based in and around the small village of Carmignano about an hour outside of Florence, GRP started out back in 1973 as a production resource for other companies. It wasn’t long though before they decided to step away from the supply business and establish their own line, focusing their business on creating something superior. They used better yarns and raw materials, as well as a combination of different weaves, applying innovative solutions to traditional techniques.
In an area dominated by historic textile businesses, it was this artisan approach that meant the relatively young company managed to establish itself in a relatively short space of time. People were quick to notice the quality they were turning out, and turned to them.
Over the years GRP have worked with some of our favourite labels including Engineered Garments, Beams and Svenson. That’s how good they are. They're the unsung hero, the brand you didn’t realise you already knew. But you do now. And they’re a label really worth knowing. Because that sweater still in your drawer ten years from now, loved and worn every winter, it will be GRP Firenze.
We love Halloween. But we hate spiders. And bats. Just as well they only arrived in the shape of balloons, tattoos, garlands and cookie cutters.
Currently resident in our project space, we’ve got a lot of time for this brand; their clothes, their ethos and especially their founder, "reluctant businessman" Yvon Chouinard. Here are some of words of widsom, taken from his book Let My People Go Surfing.
One of our favourite reads for obvious reasons, so we're super flattered to be featured over on The Shopkeepers, a website dedicated to celebrating "shops that delight" all around the globe. Have a read. Victoria spills all the secrets on shopkeeping at The Hambledon; who designed the building, where she buys the wares, the lessons she's learned, the shops she loves...
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.
After many deliveries and much rearranging, we’re pleased to say our AW16 Villa Necchi party is in full swing, celebrating all things opulent, decadent and fun. (Read more about Necchi and our inspiration here.)
We’re setting the table with gold plates, marble coasters and vintage-style champagne saucers. In the centre, coloured glass vases with mauve hydrangeas, pineapple jugs and flamingo s&p shakers, co-ordinating candles and a beautiful bottle of the finest balsamic from Medina.
Recipes for our feast are taken from Florentine, The Italian Baker and Venice Cult Recipes. And after we’ve dined, we’ll be retiring to the drawing room where we’ll be lounging on velvet cushions and throws, sipping from delicate liquor glasses and nibbling on beautifully packaged Leone fruit jellies, amaretti biscuits, nougat and Coco chocolates.
And what are we wearing? Grown-up and ladylike velvet dresses from Mascob, gold jacquard and soft chiffon from Baum und Pferdgarten and tweed suiting, and more chiffon and jacquard from Graumann. For the boys, it’s jacquard tailoring and heavy wool jersey jackets from Barena and the finest Italian knitwear from GRP Firenze.
The venue, Villa Necchi, was purpose-built for partying so it's open house, more the merrier, no need to RSVP.
1. Coloured Glass Vases from £5.95 | 2. Flamingo Salt & Pepper Shakers £16 | 3. Coloured Wine Glasses (coming soon) £6.95 | 4. Marble Cork Coaster Set £8.95 | 5. Porcelain Jug Pineapple £34.95 & Porcelain Jug Parrot £34.95 | 6. Imperfect Gold Plates from £6.95 | 7. Baum Und Pferdgarten AW16 | 8. Stars Champagne Saucer Set £68 | 9. Barena Venezia AW16 | 10. Permanent Botanicals from £3.75 | 11. Blue Candlestick £4 & Set of 6 Short Dinner Candles £2.95 | 12. Set of 2 Gold Cup & Saucer Set £39.95 | 13. Velvet Cushions (coming soon) £24.95 | 14. Italian Balsamic Vinegar from £14.95 | 15. Coloured Wine Glasses (coming soon) £6.95
Rob says it feels like it's meant to be. And it's no wonder, this one's been a long time in the pipeline. Six years ago, when Rob first started at The Hambledon, he wrote to Alistair Rae to enquire about stocking Albam's 'timeless British Menswear'. They were the brand that encapsulated much of what he wanted menswear at The Hambledon to be. It didn’t work out at the time (they weren’t wholesaling), but we kept on talking over the years, and now here we are, delighted to be one of just a few stores in the country stocking Albam.
Established in 2006, Alistair was a "frustrated consumer" whose founding mission was to discover which clothes could be designed and produced locally in Britain; his belief that 'clothes should make you look great, get better with age, and be great value'. It's not rocket science but it's not necessarily a common aim in the fashion industry.
To start, they went up and down the country talking to factory owners and the people working the machines, figuring out what could be manufactured where. The result is a brand with a distinctly British design sensibility; casual tailoring, great denim and shirting and beautiful knitwear; well-made, wearable and classic.
This season we’re stocking the cotton travel jacket, selvedge denim, Shetland knits, a lovely chunky fisherman’s rib, as well as socks and luggage. And now we can see for ourselves why Rob is so excited. It’s all very, very good.
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 did it! Independent Retailer of the Year at the 2016 Drapers Independents Awards. And Best Lifestyle Independent to boot. Announced at a special celebratory lunch in London on Wednesday, with Victoria, Lucy, Rob and Finn there to pick up the gongs. (Rob promptly broke one but ducked out of the ceremony to a bicycle repair shop over the road and got it fixed). In the world of fashion retailing, Drapers is the oracle and these the most coveted industry awards there are, so we couldn’t be more thrilled. Big smiles all round, and huge thanks to all our lovely customers, suppliers and staff who make it all happen.
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.