Cotswold Collections Journal

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Artisan Partnerships

    Artisan Partnerships: Owen Barry

    Here at Cotswold Collections we pride ourselves on our premium quality and high standard garments. Each and every piece is created with considered attention to detail by our team here in the heart of the Cotswolds. Because of this, it is of paramount importance and a pleasure to work with suppliers who share these values too.

    The passion Owen Barry have for their products and the creation of them exudes from every element of the British business and we’re excited to be offering one of their striking leather bags in our latest collection!

    Stepping into Owen Barry’s beautifully decorated offices, felt like stepping into a toy store as a child. There were so many beautiful things to look at and you can’t help but touch all the beautifully soft lifestyle products, although they are all guarded by the equally beautiful office dog, Bromley.

    Cindi and her daughter, Chas are the latest Barry family members running the business that dates back to the early 1800’s and is based in Street, Somerset. Back then it looked a little different than it does today as Walter and Amy Barry (pictured below) ran the tannery with the help of their twelve children.

    Their eldest son, Reginald, took over the management of the company and his three sons, Kennith, Ceril and Owen were each taught a different area of the business. Kennith was taught to fellmonger the hides and pelts, cleaning and stabilising the skins when they arrived from the abattoir. While Ceril learned the tanning, dying and dressing processes.

    And the youngest, Owen (Cindi’s father) was sent away to a glove master in Yeovil, Mr Edwin Robbins, where he signed a seven-year indenture to study the skilled trade of cutting fine leather gloves.

    Unfortunately, World War Two interrupted Owen’s training as he was conscripted to serve in the armed forces, meanwhile the family tannery was deployed into aiding the war effort by making munitions. After release, Owen returned to his apprenticeship, finally finishing eleven years after he started and then spent a brief period working for Drapers of Glastonbury. In 1948, Owen - along with his brother Cyril and uncle Harold - formed a new business, whom Cotswold Collections partner with today.

    After learning about the intrinsic family history, Cindi took us on a factory tour where we learned about the brilliant quality and inspiring process behind each Owen Barry creation including the stunning silver clutch bag in our latest collection.

    The company are incredibly passionate and proud about creating exclusive pieces from sustainable and environmentally friendly skins. In fact, 100% of Owen Barry skins are a by-product of the food industry and would usually go to waste, which unfortunately is becoming more common as the demand for meat has become much higher than the demand for leather. Nowadays, as Owen Barry no longer tan and finish their own skins, they instead work with specialist closed loop, authentic tanneries to develop exclusive skins that are the finest quality.

    We were fascinated to learn that from the profile of the skins used you can detect the origin of the animal. Every skin is different, much like our own and Cindi explained that certain markings pertain to whether the cow was European, south American, African and so on. A cow hide also gives two skins, the leather and suede. The same profiling can also be determined from sheepskin, UK domestic sheep for example will have thicker, denser hair and robust pelts.

    Each piece of each product, whether a handbag, purse or seat cushion is cut from the skin and is achieved by either hand or press cutting. Much like the individuality of the skins, each cutter has their own style of blade accustomed to their own preference and style of cutting.

    Cardboard templates are used during the cutting process to ensure that each piece is the right specification and the cutter checks each part of the skin to ensure there are no marks that could alter the final product. Press cutting follows a similar process, although a metal template is placed on top and then a heavy press is manoeuvred to press it into the textile.

    As we progressed through each of the stages of production, we began to see our very own Owen Barry clutch bag begin to take shape with the leather being folded and taped ready for the machinist to sew each piece together.

    Finally, the stitches begin being sewn pulling each component together to form the final, beautiful product. Then each piece goes on to be rigorously quality checked to ensure the premium standard that Owen Barry expects and provides.

    Our Owen Barry bag available in our latest collection will add a touch of luxury to all your festive occasions (or to add a fun touch to a casual outfit) this Christmas!

    For more interesting updates and special offers, sign up for our email newsletters here >

    Christmas cards sent with love

    This year we are delighted to be offering beautifully detailed Christmas cards from Fay’s Studio as part of our Christmas gift collection.

    The very first Christmas cards were produced in the UK in 1843 and since then they have certainly changed in design. Although their meaning has not, still bringing smiles to the faces of their recipients all over the world.

    (The design of the first Christmas card - 1843)

    To understand the process and inspiration of the gorgeous cards specifically selected and exclusively packaged for us, we posed a few questions to the wonderful artist behind the designs, Fay Miladowska.

    What inspires your illustrations?
    I am always inspired by my surroundings, I love taking long walks to look for new ideas and it's in these quiet moments when I can clear my thoughts and come up with new greeting card designs in my mind’s eye. I often return from a walk with a list of designs I would like to add to my collection. I'm also inspired by other wildlife artists and printmakers especially Eric Ennion, Sir Peter Scott, Angela Harding and Robert Gilmore.”

    What is your process for designing the cards?
    My initial sketches are pencil work which is then developed and worked over with a fine-liner ink pen. This takes around two days to complete, so to speed up the process I add colour digitally. The pen work is mostly pointillist to create a softer finish and to build up shape and tone gradually. I often have several works on the go at one time and revisit them with a fresh eye on a different day.”

    Which is your favourite card from the selection you’ve provided to Cotswold Collection?
    Robins have become synonymous with Christmas in the UK and I am forever sketching this little visitor to my garden. I tend to notice them more when I'm gardening, they are so curious and patiently wait to see if I am going to unearth anything for them to eat. So the Robin has to be my favourite and I'm very fond of this particular design and the details in the wreath.”

    How long have you been designing cards? What is the history of Fay’s Studio?
    “I have been designing cards since 2009 but I have been using pen and ink techniques for 20 years. Chronic ill health left me unemployed at this time and I was desperate to use my Illustration degree and skills in my work, so I created a job for myself at a time when I couldn't go out to work. The Prince's Trust were a lifeline to my start up business providing me with a one-to-one business mentor, a loan and a business programme which got me on the road to success.”

    What are you most looking forward to this Christmas season?
    “Of course, I can't wait to see all of the high street Christmas collections. I just love the feeling of the season. I love capturing those emotions in my work and hope that by putting those elements into my products I create cards which you would be delighted to send and even more happy to receive. In the greetings industry we are always working a year in advance so I am already preparing ahead for 2019. I always look forward to the exciting projects I have lined up for the New Year and naturally having some well-earned time off to spend with family and friends. Perhaps a second helping of Christmas Pudding too!”

    Fay’s Studio specialises in beautifully crafted wildlife greeting cards developed from Fay Miladowska's original hand illustrations. Send a card that they’ll love receiving by purchasing yours here.

     

    Which of Fay's designs is your favourite? Let us know in the comments.

    Artisan Partnerships: Alice Caroline

    This season we've partnered with local fabric artisan Alice Caroline to bring you a selection of gifts in an iconic Liberty print. Discover more about Alice Caroline and the woman behind the brand.

    Nestled in a quaint Cotswold village is the headquarters of Alice Caroline, a fabric company that specialises in Liberty print fabrics. Their headquarters are no less scenic - converted barns made from honey-coloured Cotswold stone and we were fortunate to visit on a gloriously sunny day so that the entire place was bathed in natural light.

    We meet with founder Alice Garrett, who is wearing a gorgeous dress in the exact same print as the products we are featuring in the Christmas collection, which contrasts beautifully with her fabulous red hair.

    Alice has had rather an unusual career, having completed a PhD in Cancer Genetics and then moved away from scientific research to found Alice Caroline in 2012.

    We wanted to know more about the fascinating woman behind the brand so we sat down, cup of tea in hand, and asked her a few icebreakers to begin with:

    Breakfast is our favourite meal of the day - what sets you up for a day at the office?

    "A good cup of tea and then coffee later and if I could choose my favourite breakfast it would be pancakes with maple syrup and strawberries."

    Where is your favourite place in the Cotswolds?

    "Broadway and Daylesford."

    What inspired you to work with fabrics?

    "My shop grew out of a life-long love of vibrant Liberty prints. As a child I would pore over my grandmother’s stash of quilting fabrics, savouring the bright delights of each new print."

    "My grandmother was an avid quilter. She cut up old dresses and my grandfather’s shirts to make them as there weren’t many fabric shops or haberdashers in those days and it's from her that my love of fabrics and prints was born."

    Your career is quite unusual - what inspired you to start your company and move away from cancer genetics?

    "I really enjoyed the science research but I didn't want to stay in academia or work in pharmaceuticals and I've always been creative, making handbags as a student to sell at fairs."

    "I started to rediscover my creativity as a maker and designer of dresses, cushions, bags, childrenswear and quilts. Liberty of London Tana Lawn was a natural choice for my projects, with its fine weave, delicate and inventive patterns, intense long-wearing colours, and its traditional English heritage."

    Why Liberty prints?

    "I have grown up with them and I’ve always known that they are special and difficult to get hold of. The old Liberty store in Cheltenham was a joy to visit and I thought if I wanted them, then other people would and it would be nice to provide it for them, so I started my business in 2012 with my sister. When I got my first order of 10 rolls I thought: ‘I’ve made it!’ and it really took off when we launched our online store and also started selling through Etsy."

    What does a typical day involve?

    "There isn’t a typical day.  I might be doing everything from designing to business management!  I love it all but do enjoy making rainbow fabric bundles.  As well as selling lengths of fabric, we also sell sewing kits.  My colleague Claire makes the kits for Sewing Quarter and Anna makes the kits on the TV Channel."

    "My studio and offices are in a light and airy barn conversion in the rolling Cotswold hills. Inside, it is a riot of colour and texture, with stacks of crease and block rolls, drawers packed with fat quarters, and displays of inspiring projects made by staff. Rolls of linens and silks are stashed below the vintage cutting table, whose previous life was in Liberty’s Cheltenham department store."

    Which is your favourite Liberty print?

    "I do love ‘Betsy' and ‘Mitsi’. We have created three unique different colour ways of Betsy which are exclusive to Alice Caroline."

    What do you enjoy most about your job?

    "I am drawn to the sense of tradition and belonging which is fostered by the passing down of quilting skills through the generations. I have a particular passion for creating patterns, taking care to write instructions clearly enough to encourage and support new crafters. Combining different prints in a rainbow of colourways is also a great pleasure; my packs of scraps or fat quarters [ A fat quarter of fabric is a one-fourth yard cut that usually measures 18” x 26.5”] will add a vibrant pop to any project, and are desirable things in themselves to stash away for a rainy day."

    "Working with fabrics every day with my fantastic team of staff makes my job a real pleasure. Everything is ethically made in England. The team membership increases every year as the business grows. We’ve now got six staff working in the office and a further seven in the studio, many of us working flexibly to help balance work- and home-life. The whole team works together with enthusiasm and resourcefulness, to ensure orders are fulfilled, kits are made, and top quality customer service is delivered."

    Is there anything particularly exciting you've been working on recently?

    "We have recently launched an exclusive range of Liberty fabrics . This has been really fun to work with the Liberty design studio on recolouring favourite Liberty designs.  It’s one of my favourite things to do - play with colours and fabrics."

    "We also run the Quilt SOS project, which is a cause we are very passionate about. Customers use our fabrics to sew quilts for orphans around the world. In return, we offer customers who donate their handmade quilts a £30 gift voucher. We then deliver the quilts personally to the orphanage, which this year is in Krasnik, Poland. It is such a privilege to personally meet the children we are helping."

    If you'd like to get involved with the project, please click here to read more details on Alice Caroline's website >

    Our accessories buyer Michelle works with Alice Garrett and the Alice Caroline team to produce charming gifts for our Christmas collection. Here they are looking through a book of fabric swatches for Christmas 2019! You may remember last year's Alice Caroline selection in the classic Ianthe print.

    Last year these gifts were incredibly popular and sold out very quickly. This year's selection all feature a beautiful Liberty fabric in the iconic Strawberry Thief print by William Morris and will no doubt prove to be just as popular!

     

    For more interesting updates and special offers, sign up for our email newsletters here >

    Heritage Partnerships: Abraham Moon & Sons

    For over 180 years Abraham Moon & Sons have been producing the finest quality woollen cloth at their mill in Yorkshire, making them one of the country's leading manufacturers of woollen and worsted cloth. Their exceptional quality is why we have been working with them for decades as have many leading fashion houses and furnishing companies.

    Their gorgeous pure wool cloth graces the front cover of our winter catalogue in the shape of the dogtooth check jacket. The rich plum hues are complemented with a subtle teal and sienna on a cream backgound, which has been designed by our woven buyer in collaboration with Moon.

    Moon was established in 1837, the same year that Queen Victoria ascended the throne. It is a family-run business and one of the last remaining vertical mills in the country, which means all production processes are done on site: from dyeing, blending, carding, spinning, weaving to the finishing processes.

    Abraham Moon originally employed people who lived locally, who would take the cloth home and wash and dry it in the surrounding fields. As the mill developed, his workforce grew and soon all processes were done on site. The mill benefited (and still does) from an abundant source of water which is naturally soft, making it perfect for scouring (removing contaminants from the wool). The boreholes are 800 feet deep and ensure the purity of the water.

    During the 1850s the Leeds railway was built and ran right behind the mill. This created a vast distribution network for Moon, who in the 1890s were recorded as exporting to places as far away as Japan.

    Their mill is in Guiseley, near Leeds in Yorkshire and although the original mill burnt down in 1902, it and was swiftly re-built by Abraham's son, Isaac and has been in use ever since.

    Our dogtooth jacket took inspiration from their traditional dogtooth tweed cloth (here tailored into a 1940s/50s jacket). The cloth was made from British wool, which was "coarser quality wool which makes it hard-wearing; it should not be regarded as inferior to fine wool, merely different and ideal for stylish outerwear." Moon's designers turn to archival patterns and designs for inspiration when designing new cloth as heritage is so key to Moon's enduring appeal.

    In 1920 the Moon family sold their business to the Walsh family, who in their 4th generation, still run it today!

    Moon combines tradition, heritage and experience with new technologies to produce the best fabrics, working with titans of the fashion world such as Ralph Lauren, Dolce and Gabanna, and iconic British brand Burberry to name a few and of course us!

    Their fabrics even adorn the seating of The White House foyer, chosen by former U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle!

    Click below to watch their video...

    One of Moon's highlights was a visit from HRH The Prince of Wales, who is the patron of the Campaign for Wool, which runs Wool Week and champions the use of wool.

    The beautifully designed dogtooth check tweed cloth woven by Moon was tailored into a wonderful matching jacket and skirt by our London-based supplier to our buyers' original design specifications. The result is an exclusive suit that fits well, flatters and creates a look of timeless style.

    The fully lined tailored jacket has gentle body shaping in the seams, a flattering collar and patch pockets.

    The lined skirt has kick pleats from below the knee, a back vent, side back waistband elastication and a back zip.

    The tweed for this gorgeous skirt reflects the warm shades of autumn leaves. This fully lined style has knife pleats sewn down to the hip, a side zip fastening and side back waistband elastication. It has exceptional movement and is a firm customer favourite.

    For more interesting updates and special offers, sign up for our email newsletters here >

    Who's Inspiring Us: Our Art Director, Jan

    On a chilly winter's day, we headed to a picturesque Cotswold village at the edge of Blenheim Palace, where our Art Director and local artist, Janice Hume lives. Her quaint cottage, complete with cosy wood burner, studio space and original beams is filled with the paraphernalia of an artist. In this beautiful space, she creates wonderful pieces of art from block prints to watercolours. Jan is busy throughout the year: not only is she an artist but she also works on our photoshoots and catalogue. Inspired by her creativity and drive, we wanted to find out more about her and what motivates her.

    Where is your favourite place in the Cotswolds?

    "Blenheim Palace and walking around its beautiful grounds. Daylesford Farmshop is also on my list as they do a good Bakewell tart."

    What is your favourite item from our Christmas collection?

    "So many! The cashmere bed socks, the Lochcarron tote bag but especially the Fairisle cardigan. I really enjoyed creating the shot where the model is standing in front of a log pile."

    What does a typical day involve?

    "I get up and feed and brush my cat and then make myself a cup of tea and porridge. Then I go for a big long walk through the kissing gate into Blenheim Palace’s grounds, and hopefully, I’ll be inspired by something and draw it afterwards."

     

    What is the inspiration behind your pieces?

    "The local Cotswold countryside but apart from that, I do think colour is really important. When I am shooting in Europe, the colours that stand out are sun-bleached; peeling paint on the buildings is quite prevalent and interesting too. Here, in the UK, everything is a very vivid green from all the rain. Well, not at this time of year but on the whole the colours are very luscious. Further afield, on an undisclosed continent, the landscapes are very different – you can see for miles and miles. It’s almost like a cinemascope with these huge mountain ranges that create really epic scenes."

    "Despite all these glamorous shoot locations, the rolling Dorset hills are where I am happiest and most inspired. Thomas Hardy country."

    When are you happiest?

    "When I’ve just completed a piece of art and am out walking in the elements. Saturday at 3pm was also a happy time for me as I’d just enjoyed a lovely lunch with friends and was looking forward to looking around a Christmas market.

    What is your philosophy?

    "Whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability and do something you really like. Make the best of what you are doing."

    What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

    "That’s a difficult question… Probably that I’m actually quite a good cook."

    Under or over-dressed?

    "Under-dressed. I like to be comfortable."

    What’s the best advice you’ve received?

    "Think before you speak."

    How do you unwind after a long day?

    "I unwind with a glass of red wine."

    What materials do you enjoy working with?

    "Acrylic, ink, watercolour, lino cutting, charcoal, chalk, pastels, coffee, tea and Ribena."

    Who is your favourite artist?

    "I have several. Gaughan, because of the colours, Dufy and my friend Shaun. But really it has to be Eric Gill. His work influenced me to work in lots of different mediums. He was a marvellous designer, printmaker and sculptor."

    When did you start painting?

    "I’ve always painted. I sold my first painting when I was 7 to my headmaster; I was in trouble for not doing well in geography, and he had come to find out why. I’d make homemade Christmas cards with my father and much later, when I had children of my own, helping them with their projects re-kindled my love of art. Then, once they grew up, I had all this free time, which I used to paint. It’s such a relaxing thing."

    Do you have any exhibitions coming up?

    "I have a permanent exhibition in the gallery at Waterperry Gardens, a lovely attraction with tea rooms, just outside Oxford. I also have my website www.thiswouldlookniceonyourwall.com

    "I create pleasing artwork because they are pleasing for me to do."

    Jan has designed these beautiful notecards exclusively for us, which make lovely gifts and can also be used to write out thank-you cards for Christmas presents. Take a look here >

     

    For more interesting updates and special offers, sign up for our email newsletters here >

    Heritage Partnerships: The Scottish Mills

    We are proud to work with three heritage Scottish mills and manufacturers, who are renowned for their exceptional craftsmanship and expertise in cloth manufacture.

    The first mill is Lochcarron of Scotland, which was founded in 1947 in the village of Lochcarron in the Scottish Highlands. They started with just 15 employees, using hand looms and traditional weaving methods, mainly making school scarves and accessories for the tourist market. After weaving their first tartan in 1949, they rapidly grew, so that eventually in the 1960s they moved from Lochcarron to a larger premises in Selkirk, where their mill and factory are. Today they produce over 700 tartans and they dye, prepare the cloth and weave it on their premises. They have hundreds of visitors a year, including royalty! You can even visit the Lochcarron Weavers Shop where the original site was located 70 years ago.

    Our second mill is based in the Scottish Borders, founded over four decades ago where they started making fabric for men's ties. This family-run mill weaves a large proportion of our Scottish cloth, which includes the beautiful check fabric for our double-breasted jacket, featured later. It was woven on one of their looms, pictured in the right-hand side image. See a loom in action in the video below. What's more, all of our pleated skirts have only a short distance to travel from the mill to a local factory where they are made, making them true heritage Scottish pieces.

    We also work with a family-run Scottish knitwear producer, who use locally-spun yarn. Based on the beautiful north coast of Scotland, three generations have been running the company since the 1920s, taking inspiration from the traditional knitwear designs of the Fair Isle fisherman. They source local spinners and clean the wool through the fresh cool water to remove any natural oils from the fibres. They pair modern technology with traditional methods for exceptional results.

    Checked jacket:

    Made from pure wool, the striking check fabric has been woven in the Scottish Borders to create this beautiful double-breasted jacket, which features a rever collar, pockets and expert tailoring for a flattering silhouette.

    Fairisle cardigan:

    Knitted on the north coast of Scotland, using a traditional technique that reduces wool waste, this classic piece is based on original Fair Isle patterns for a modern heritage piece.

    Knife pleat skirt: 

    Made using pure wool fabric woven in the Scottish Borders, this wonderful skirt features all-round knife pleats, side back waistband elastication for optimum comfort and a full lining.

     

    Bouclé coat:

    Featuring a luxurious blend of wool and mohair for supreme warmth, this limited edition bouclé coat is made from check fabric woven by the world's leading supplier of tartan, Lochcarron of Scotland. What's more, the oversized checks are very on-trend, combining classic tailoring with contemporary designs.

     

    Knife pleat skirt:

    This classic all-round knife pleat skirt is made from pure wool, which is dyed a beautiful shade of amethyst, reminiscent of heather-strewn hillsides, and woven in the Scottish Borders. With side back waistband elastication and a full lining, this is an easy-to-wear and stylish option for the coming seasons.

     

    Take a look at how our skirts are made here >

    For more interesting updates and special offers, sign up for our email newsletters here >

    Heritage Partnerships: Binda

    Located a five-minute drive from the stunning shores of Lake Como sits the family-run Binda mill. We work in partnership with them to source exclusive prints for our collections.

    This Italian print mill is run by the third generation of the Binda family. Working with an experienced and dedicated team, they are constantly refining the skills passed down through the generations, to produce exceptional prints.

    Founded in 1945 by G. Binda, Michele and Giovanni's grandfather, the company specialises in printing high-quality fabrics. Their in-house design team create stunning prints using an archive filled with wonderful paisley, flowers and animal prints for inspiration that dates from 1880.

    They print using a variety of methods including digital printing, using the latest technology, as well as machine screen printing and the more traditional hand screen printing.

    Their expertise in fabric printing means that they can print on a huge variety of fabrics that take great skill and care, making them a very specialised mill.

    They supply many renowned brands from around the world, including us, of course. For autumn, we've partnered with Binda to create these beautiful floral fabrics, printed at their mill on the shore of Lake Como in Italy. The fabric is then shipped to the UK, where it has been expertly manufactured into the finished articles.

    This exquisite outfit takes centre stage, featuring a flattering drape neck top in stretch jersey for shape retention and comfort and an eight-panel skirt which is fully lined. Wear it together for occasions or break up it with a plain top or bottom for a more casual ensemble.

    Featuring a dramatic floral print, this pure wool skirt is fully lined with soft pleats, in-seam pockets, side back waistband elastication and a button fastening. A lovely skirt for any season.

     

    View both outfits in our Autumn video here >

    For more interesting updates and special offers, sign up for our email newsletters here >

     

    Photo credits: G Binda & Thomson Holidays

    Artisan Partnerships: Beefayre

    We are delighted to be working in partnership with Beefayre, a family-run business that is passionate about bee conservation and a lending a helping hand to nature.

    Their story begins in Transylvania, where their founder, Sharon, visited beekeepers and started learning about this ancient tradition. In the beautiful, clean mountain air the bees thrived on the plethora of wildflowers that grew on the hillsides. This visit inspired her to found Beefayre, with the aim of conserving bees. Together with her son and a talented team, Sharon has developed a range of luxurious well-being products that will pamper you and conserve the environment.

    All the charming illustrations featured on beefayre's products are hand-drawn by Sharon, inspired by the flowers and insects around her. She created an exclusive illustration for our gift boxes, shown below, depicting the wonderful flora and fauna you may find in your garden.

    Nature is at the heart of Beefayre's ethos, with 3% of their profits donated to bee research and conservation, as well as creating products that are free from parabens and vegan-friendly.
    Beefayre's products are handmade in England and use the very highest quality natural ingredients, which are sustainably sourced.

    These lovely gift boxes feature Sharon's exclusive illustration on both the box itself and the gift card. They also include a packet of wildflower seeds for you to create your own haven for bees. The votive candle is made with 100% natural plant wax for a longer burn time, which is hand-poured into the recycled glass holder. The glass is printed with a lovely flower and bee design, making an ideal tea light holder or water glass once you have used the candle. Both boxes also include luxurious organic soaps.

    The luxurious scent of orange and jasmine will invigorate you for the day ahead! Both the body wash and lotion are SLS (sodium laureth sulphate) free and contain moisturising cocoa butter. The body lotion also includes aloe vera and sweet almond oil for beautifully soft skin.

    Inspired by nature, this collection of pure indulgence is the perfect way to treat yourself or a loved one!

    10 BRILLIANT BEE FACTS:

    1. They have been on the planet for more than 30 million years.
    2. They fly at a speed of around 25km per hour and beat their wings 200 times per second.
    3. They have a special way of communicating with the rest of the hive where the best sources of food are. It's called a waggle dance, which involves moving in a figure-of-eight whilst waggling her body to indicate the direction of the food source (it's also the inspiration behind the print on the glass candle holder).
    4. Their brains age backwards if they take on a role that is normally done by a younger bee. Researchers believe this discovery can help us to understand how to slow the onset of dementia.
    5. They can recognise faces (including humans), and it might help computer scientists improve facial recognition technology.
    6. They have personalities. Honeybees have been shown to exhibit signs of laziness, timidity and thrill-seeking, as well as pessimism.
    7. They are incredibly efficient, working out the shortest route between flowers, something that other animals, and even computers, struggle with.
    8. A honeycomb has been mathematically proven to be the most efficient structure in nature, as it uses the least amount of wax and features perfect hexagons.
    9. Bees are the only insect in the world that make food that we can eat. Honey contains all of the substances needed to sustain life, including enzymes, water, minerals and vitamins.
    10. Eating honey can help you become more clever. It is the only food to contain pinocembrin, an antioxidant that improves brain function. Make sure your honey is sustainably sourced!

     

    "Every third bite of food you take, thank a bee or other pollinator." E.O. Wilson

    These amazing creatures face a number of different threats, including lack of habitat (over 97% of their grassland habitat has been destroyed within the last 60 years) and malnutrition due to intensive farming practices as well as disease and parasites such as the Varroa mite. Bees are responsible for pollinating one-third of all the plants we eat (75% of all the crops we eat are pollinated by bees), and it takes 1100 bees to make 1kg of honey by visiting 4 million flowers! Without bees, we would struggle to grow food, so what can you do to help?

    How you can help bees:

    • Buying Beefayre's products, as 3% of their profits are donated to bee conservation and research.
    • Planting a variety of flowers, with different shapes, colours and scents. Lavender, wildflowers and herb gardens are a favourite with bees (blue and mauve flowers are the most nutritious).
    • Providing a source of water in the summer. Collecting pollen is thirsty work! Add marbles to a bowl of water so the bees have somewhere to land and don't drown.
    • Make sure plants you buy have not been treated with insecticides as these will affect your existing garden and harm the bees. Avoid the use of pesticides for the same reasons.
    • Leave an area of your garden to grow wild, as this encourages more bees.

     

    "If we and the rest of the back-boned animals were to disappear overnight, the rest of the world would get on pretty well. But if the invertebrates were to disappear, the world’s ecosystems would collapse."             Sir David Attenborough

     

    For more interesting updates and special offers, sign up for our email newsletters here.

    Bee facts obtained from: www.beefayre.com, www.mentalfloss.com and www.bees4kids.org.uk

    Behind-the-Scenes: Our Italian Hats

    Title

    Located in the scenic Tuscan countryside lies the traditional straw hat-making area of Signa, where our two hat suppliers are based.

    Signa has a rich cultural past. Surrounded by fertile farmland, where there are plentiful wheat harvests, straw hats have been worn since the Middle Ages when braids of straw from the waste of the wheat harvest were made into headgear by the farm labourers to protect against the rays of sunlight as they worked in the fields. By the 18th century, Signa had become a leading centre of industrialised hat production, with special varieties of wheat being grown specifically for hats. The grains had longer stems, which were thinner and more flexible, making them easier to work with. The Florentine Straw Hat became world-famous, renowned for its quality (it even has a play, Un chapeau de paille d'Italie, and an opera, Il cappello di paglia di Firenze, named after it).

    Our suppliers are both family-run businesses which have over a century and a half of hat-making experience between them. The straw hats were originally handmade made by ladies who lived locally, either in Florence or in the surrounding Tuscan countryside. They wove the straw together to form braids which were combined to make wonderful hats.

    Vintage Sewing Machine

    As technology developed, the factories were able to make advances in their manufacturing, which enabled them to use felt and other premium materials, such as sisal and paper, as well as straw, allowing them to expand whilst maintaining their high level of craftsmanship. Shown above is a twisted chain stitch sewing machine, used for making straw hats from plaited straw. It dates from the 19th century but is still in use today. The combination of new and old allows these artisan factories to produce large quantities of hats, whilst ensuring that the high quality and attention to detail that are to be expected with the more traditional methods are maintained.

    Hat mould

    These are hat moulds or blocks, which are made from aluminium and create the shape of the hat. There are dozens of different ones in the factory to create different styles of hats.

    Hat block

    This hat press uses heat to fix the hat in its final shape, using either steam or heat applied directly to the metal pan.

    Hat in mould close up 2

    Once the hat has been moulded to the correct shape, they are removed from the blocks and left to dry on the on the hat trees shown above.

    Hat bands and threads

    The edges are then finished and hat trims are sewn on.

    Hats on floor

    The finished hats are then ready to be packed up and shipped to us or delivered to their showroom.

    Straw hat & cotton hat 2

    Specially sourced and developed by our buyer, Michelle, to complement our existing collection, our range of Italian-made hats are expertly crafted, ensuring you'll want to wear them again and again. Take a look here >

    Can't make it to Italy? Visit the fascinating Hat Works - Museum of Hatting in Stockport. View here >

    For more interesting updates and special offers, sign up to our email newsletters here >

    The Chelsea Flower Show & Pat Albeck

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    This week the RHS Chelsea Flower Show takes place, as well as an exclusive exhibition featuring Pat Albeck's work. Read on to find why we are embracing all things floral.

    The Chelsea Flower Show attracts over 157,000 visitors every year, inspiring people with dramatic and beautiful flower and garden displays. It was originally named the Royal Horticultural Society Great Spring Show and was first held in 1862. It moved location to the Chelsea Hospital, where it has been since 1912, renamed to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

    The stunning displays of flora challenge our conceptions of nature and garden design and influence future trends. This celebration of spring, new life and the beauty of nature is enjoyed by millions, whether by those fortunate enough to attend or, like most of us, from the comfort of our homes on television.

    Embracing all things floral, we are re-introducing this beautiful floral print, exclusively designed by renowned artist, Pat Albeck.

    Pat Albeck Blouse GC309

    Back by popular demand, this cheerful blouse embodies summer and is a celebration of the Cotswold countryside. Made in collaboration with a family-run mill in Cheshire, the design was printed onto swathes of pure cotton and then cut and sewn into the beautiful pieces shown above, according to our in-house design specifications. Whether styled casually with jeans as an over-shirt or tucked into a chic skirt for a more refined look, this statement blouse is sure to turn heads this summer.

    Pat Albeck started out in her career designing for Horrockses in the 1950s, going onto to design for John Lewis (the 'Daisy Chain' print is one of her most famous), the National Trust and many other famous brands. With over six decades of design experience we were thrilled when she agreed to design a print for us.

    Prints

    Pat designed this exclusive print for us in her picturesque Cotswold cottage, where her studio is overflowing with fabulous prints that she is working on and overlooks her garden. She feels she is experiencing her own renaissance as vintage prints rise in popularity.

    Her Cotswold cottage and garden provide her with plenty of inspiration for new prints. She is devoted to her passion: going out everyday to pick a flower and draw it. When asked which was her favourite flower, she said that she likes "each flower as it comes", especially zinnias, sweet peas, lupins and waterlilies but her favourite flower is the rose, so we were not surprised that the print she designed for us featured an abundance of gorgeous roses.

    Pat Albeck's latest work will be on display at Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler's latest exhibition, 'A CUT ABOVE', featuring 20 of her pieces.

    Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler was founded in the 1930s and is the longest established interior decorating firm in Great Britain, as well as one of the most respected. Founded in 1938 by Lady Colefax, a glamorous socialite and interior decorator, who drew upon her childhood in India and European travels for inspiration when decorating.

    Their impressive showrooms on Pimlico Road host Pat's intricately crafted paper flower collages from Monday, 22nd May to Saturday, 27th May 2017, during the Chelsea Flower Show.

    Pat's latest work is a result of experimenting with a number of different techniques and by doing so she has "discovered that cut paper is my very favourite technique.”

    Whether you are in Chelsea this week for the Flower Show or not, be sure to visit Pat Albeck's latest exhibition. For more details, click here >

    Did you know, we also created a beautiful skirt in the same print? Take a look here or read more about Pat's exclusive print >

    Heritage Partnerships: Beckford Silk

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    To celebrate National Mills Weekend on the 13th and 14th May, we went behind-the-scenes at our local silk mill, Beckford Silk.

    The journey to Beckford is filled with picturesque Cotswold cottages and stunning scenery and as we pull up into the drive we are presented with the beautiful red brick building, surrounded by lush green fields, that is Beckford Silk.

    Michelle Beckford Silk Buyer

    Working with Beckford Silk for over two decades, our accessories buyer Michelle produces beautiful designs for our collections that you will treasure for years to come.

    Glass pane Beckford Silk

    Beckford Silk is a family-run company with nearly half a century of silk printing expertise behind them. Founded in 1975 by James and Marthe Gardner, who wanted to make things by hand in the Cotswold countryside, much the same as the Arts and Crafts Movement, from which we draw our heritage. Their first order was from the National Trust in 1978, which propelled them into the silk printing industry. They have been working with their silk supplier for over a decade, ensuring close ties and a great working relationship.

    Anne and Marthe Beckford Silk

    Marthe and James are still the figureheads of the business but have passed most of their knowledge onto their children Anne and Robbie. Marthe is pictured here with her daughter Anne, who now oversees the design and sales side of the business. It was a pleasure to meet this charming mother & daughter team and to hear how the company has progressed over the years. Surrounded by ledgers filled with accounts, Marthe relaid tales in her delightful French accent of her childhood and her current struggle with all things computer-based (something many of us can relate to), preferring instead to manage the accounts with pencil and paper, whilst liaising with her son. This meeting of the old and the new is a reflection of the business as a whole: Beckford Silk use both screen and digital methods to print, with old methods used side by side with new, as well as the knowledge being passed down the generations. It is this fusion of both that drives the business and leads it forward.

    Victoria Beckford Silk Designer

    Their in-house designer Victoria works with each client to produce the designs which are then printed. She is currently working with the V&A on over a dozen designs this year and also works with many other institutions, such as the National Trust, Highgrove, Westminster Abbey, the Tate and the Royal Academy, to create high-quality products that reflect the unique heritage of each client.

    Silk printing block Beckford silk

    Their building is filled with the trappings of a working mill, as well as historical artefacts, such as these intricately carved antique silk print blocks.

    Dye recipes Beckford Silk

    We are shown into the hub of production, where their exclusive dyes are formulated and recorded in recipe books that have taken years to refine. It is an on-going scientific process, involving a lot of time and experimentation. This room is crammed with intriguing pots that are filled with eye-catching colours, vaguely reminiscent of chemistry lessons. It is a visual feast that belies the hard work behind these amazingly colourful dye recipes.

    Silk dyeing Beckford Silk

    Here reams of cloth are spinning on machines that use steam to open up the silk fibres, which aids absorption of the dye molecules. They are used to dye their rolls of silk which they sell to designers and the general public.

    Hand Screen Printing Beckford Silk

    We are then shown upstairs to the screen printing room. This light and airy room houses the traditional printing process. Giant screens are used to impart the dye onto the silk. One screen is used for each colour. The silk is taped down onto the canvas-covered table and then the screen is placed on top and the dye pushed through. The screen is moved down the table as the fabric is printed. This is also the method used to produce devoré fabric. Once printed the length of silk is pegged up to dry above the table. It is a time-consuming but rewarding process that is keeping this traditional craft alive.

    Silk drying Beckford Silk

    One of the final stages of this complex process is steaming the silk, which ensures that the dye is fixed and any coating is removed. They use a Clip Stenter Finishing Machine, which feeds the fabric through an infra-red oven, drawing out the moisture leaving the fabric dry and crease-free. The silk is then cut into individual scarves, which are hand-rolled by a team of local women, who range from young mothers to experienced seamstresses, including one who has worked for them for over a decade.

    Shop Beckford Silk

    The finished items are then boxed and shipped to their clients or displayed in their well laid-out shop.

    Anne's knowledge and passion for her family's mill, combined with her easy manner and genuine interest in answering our many questions on the tour, makes it easy to see why Beckford Silk are so successful, adapting readily to the changing world of printing.

    We hope you have enjoyed discovering the complex processes involved in producing our scarves and the family behind the brand, as we did.

    Beckford Silk Scarf GB915

    Shop our classic spot Silk Neckerchief from Beckford Silk and look out for more of their stunning scarves in our upcoming collections.

    Visit a mill near you! Take a look at the National Mills Weekend website to find one near you >

    Do you own one of our Beckford Silk scarves? Let us know by leaving a comment using the box below.

    Behind-the-Scenes: Our Italian Necklaces

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    We source our beautiful Italian necklaces from two separate family-run businesses based in Venice and Florence.

    Earring archive

    They are third and second-generation sibling teams whom we have worked with for over a decade, who also work with some of the top European designers. They have fabulous archives that contain over a century of jewellery fashion. Pictured are some of the earrings from their 1980s archive.
    Tray of beads

    Their archives of necklaces feature a wonderful array of shapes and colours!

    Hands on

    Our buyer, Michelle, works closely with our artisan jewellers to select the colours and shapes that will work best with our forthcoming collections.

    Purple beads

    She hand-picks the beads to match the fabric swatches for each garment in our collection.

    Jeweller

    Our artisan jeweller then hand-strings the beads to assemble the beautiful necklaces.
    The care and attention to detail that goes into our necklaces ensures you have a high quality piece that you'll want to wear for seasons to come.
    Colour coordinating

    The finished pieces displayed with our fabric swatches, designed especially to complement your ensembles.

    Necklace small link banner

    View our range of necklaces here >

    Which is your favourite necklace from our Summer collection? Let us know by leaving a comment using the box below.

    For more interesting updates and special offers, sign up to our email newsletters here.

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