If you want to sum up what makes London Craft Week such an important expression of the capital’s creativity, you just have to look at the history of dunhill. From his beginnings in his family’s harness company in the second half of the 19th century, founder Alfred Dunhill’s passion for the emerging motor industry taught him how tradition and technology, craftsmanship and creativity could and should be perfect partners. Today dunhill is a global brand that stays true to this founding philosophy.
During this year’s London Craft Week, dunhill is celebrating the brand’s new global HQ in Mayfair. Designed by London-based architect Linda Morey-Burrows in partnership with dunhill, this has been crafted over two floors of a heritage building and embodies the qualities of tradition and forward-thinking design that have been synonymous with dunhill since its beginnings in 1893. To encapsulate this in a modern masculine space that inspires the team, the design plays with details that reflect the brand such as black leather, brass, ironmongery and tailoring fabrics alongside etched glass and wood, exposed concrete columns and steel balustrades. The result neatly sums up the dunhill approach.
According to dunhill CEO Andrew Maag, “Not only is new technology revolutionising the retail experience in the digital sphere, such as our new WeChat boutique, but it is also helping to make the craftsman’s job more interesting and innovation is helping to attract a new generation to engage with a wide variety of more interesting materials and provides the tools that help do things smarter, faster and better. But, of course, you need people who can touch and feel.”
This commitment to craftsmanship still has its roots planted firmly in London’s rich soil. dunhill’s workshop in Walthamstow opened in 1936 and the team based there continue to produce the finest leather accessories in the business, as well as offering a bespoke service for anything from wallets to luggage. “Craftsmanship is all about telling stories,” explains Maag. “When you are buying a leather bag you can start by comparing quality and price but discovering the story behind a piece – how it was made, the thought and the engineering that went into it and what did (or did not) make it to the final offer – is what makes the real difference to a luxury brand. Our knowledge of skins, of pattern making and engineering has to be the foundation of what we do.”
This commitment is reflected in dunhill’s tailoring, too. Today, the bespoke tailoring all takes place at the flagship store Bourdon House where Maag has had the space redesigned, partly with an eye to attracting young craftsmen to join the business, such as the two new strikers (assistants to cutters) that have recently been signed up. “I see a vibrancy in the young people of London who are passionate about what they do,” says Maag.
So, it comes as no surprise that dunhill is one of the Headline Sponsors of the fifth London Craft Week. The brand’s centuries-old roots in the capital is proof of the astonishing range of craftsmanship and creativity that has always been found here.
Text by Robert Johnston
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