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 – 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 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.