The full twelve piece collection of Herdwyck bags launches in select stores globally late August. The long story in this Newsletter takes us behind the scenes at the workshop over the last weeks, including an albums-worth of photos showing some of what goes into making our bags. Before that, some cuttings and links to CHERCHBI in the quality press. We finish with a circumnavigation of the British Isles and a marriage. Read on.
Men’s File is A Modernist Magazine Tracing the Roots of Style, and so it does. A sort of support manual for obsessives.
We’ve been highly excited about this piece for months now. Our childhood hero Action Man, Eagle Eyes no less, sporting CHERCHBI – too good. Making ‘robust, traditional British quality’ is easier said than done at 1:10 scale, but we did it. Actually, we didn’t. The wonderful Bev Alvarez did. Having previously worked on Wes Andersons Fantastic Mr Fox so knows what she’s doing when it comes to miniature cool.
CHERCHBI started four and half years ago and although much has happened in this time the last few weeks rank among the most exciting. I’ve spent time at the workshop checking materials, answering bag construction queries and generally absorbing the atmosphere. Mrs Atkinson has also taken quite a few photos, some of which are below.
The past two years have been solidly building towards now; the first collection of Herdwyck bags in production for AW11 season. The bags are slowly coming together, hundreds of individual processes combining in a particular order to create a single item. The Black Sail Rucksack production sheets are pictured below – 18 pages with approximately 240 different operations to make one bag. Nice to travel a little way along the M6 motorway and see this coming together, rather than jumping on a plane for a 12,000 mile round trip as I did in a previous life.
Some of these images of laden benches and equipment or tools left mid-operation may suggest a lack of organisation. The reality is different, there’s a great atmosphere around the workshop, a faint buzz you feel rather than hear. The ladies, and sole gentleman, all work in a slow and deliberate way, the materials, parts, tools or machinery are all carefully studied before engaging each action. This is bench making. Some processes use machine, most are completed by hand, they all come together on a bench.
The pace, consideration and skill with which this work is conducted is in beautiful contrast to the years I worked with Chinese factories. Virtually every aspect of their operation – scale, noise, density, speed, mechanisation, computerisation and volume of output – is in opposition to the CHERCHBI workshop.
Back to England, and another difference. Our bags are likely to vary from one another because so few pairs of hands have assembled them. This isn’t a disclaimer, more a statement of pride. In celebration of this – and so we can trace every bag back to a date, batch run and workshop – each is individually hand-stamped with a unique number. These final points say a lot about CHERCHBI’s approach to quality, a word much overused and certainly less well understood than four or five decades ago. I think about it a lot and describe our goods as ‘robust, traditional British quality’. It’s a cornerstone of what CHERCHBI is all about, we’re designing and making goods using materials and techniques essentially unchanged for centuries. This may be visible in the pictures, but entirely apparent when you see the finished goods; in the touch, smell, weight and feel of Herdwyck No.10 tweed, British leather and solid brass combined.
The images show the early and mid-production stages, just after material cutting through to some being almost finished. There are twelve styles in production for this AW11 season, some of which will be available to buy from MR PORTER, Fortnum & Mason, Lissom & Muster, United Arrows [Japan], Everly [Japan], Cambridge Members [Korea] and Kapok [Hong Kong] from mid to late August.
Circumnavigating the British Isles
A good friend of ours Mr Felix Burton has spent the past three months onboard a yacht circumnavigating the British Isles. A feat that will gain him a Yachtmaster qualification in the very near future. When we planned the first Herdwyck collection I designed a Journal, which was produced in a very limited sample run. Felix wanted to keep a record of his trip and so one of these early Journals traveled with him. He’s due back any day now, we’re looking forward to catching up with him, and seeing how the Journal fared. We’re also going to gently persuade him to publish some of his words and pictures in future CHERCHBI Newsletters. In the meantime we’ll settle for these.