The New Craftsmen is an online shop which is about to make the leap into becoming a bricks and mortar one. This is craft, but not as we know it - it's the bespoke Savile Row version. They are taking the best of the best and bringing what people expect from a luxury brand eg. beautiful presentation, availability all year round (rather than just at craft fairs) and online, and now very soon in a permanent retail space.
One of the problems with the craft maker is to be able to price their products appropriately and then get it to the right market, this is where The New Craftsmen come in. They have spotted a gap in the market as there are very few permanent outlets for beautifully crafted pieces and if, like most people, you've not got the time to go round to endless fairs and spend that necessary time developing an appreciation for quality, you can come here.
At their last pop-up it was not just casual passers by who visited, people were coming with a purpose, to share information, it was both educational and experiential. The prices may feel high, but so is the quality.
Who are you? Catherine Lock, co-founder of The New Craftsmen (on the right, pic below)
Where can we find you? We’ve got a small selection of our products on our online shop at www.thenewcraftsmen.com and excitingly we’re also opening a permanent retail space this May in North Mayfair.
Describe your store in five words: strong, tactile, storied, authentic, contemporary, discerning.
What makes you different? We look for iconic pieces rooted in the craft traditions of Britain, and collaborate with makers to combine values of tradition and quality but in an utterly contemporary way. Most of all, we’re dedicated to celebrating the role of the maker by connecting customers to the skills, processes and materiality behind the product. Our focus is functional pieces, rather than ‘art’. There are very few companies in this country, definitely in the heart of the luxury quarter of London, who have both a shop and website dedicated to selling the best of British craft.
How you decide what makes the cut? We take a layered approach. We start off by looking at the roots of British craft; British material, making and cultural traditions. We then choose and develop pieces which are relevant to our customer. Our general aesthetic is one of stripped-back luxury, functionality, and a raw appeal; pieces that show off the materiality of the product and skill of the maker. Contemporary pieces and shots of seasonal colour are layered on top. Best quality is fundamental to what we do.
What were you doing before you did this? Working as a product developer for Habitat and Sainsbury's. Following that I took to the road on a journey around Britain to explore vernacular craft and why things were traditionally made – how they link to culture and locality. I met an extraordinary network of craftspeople from the length and breadth of the country and this knowledge I acquired helped form the basis for what we are doing today. My co-founders have backgrounds in luxury, fashion, and the arts: Mark (Henderson) was the CEO of Savile Row tailor Gieves and Hawkes and is now its chairman, while Natalie (Melton) was commercial director for Arts and Business. The two of them met running “Crafted” - a mentoring scheme for makers - and we all started plotting together in 2011.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Be prepared to work very hard, and warn your friends that they won’t be seeing so much of you.
What are you most proud of? Taking a risk. I left my career on the high street to help create something that I care for very much indeed. I feel fulfilled and constantly motivated as a result.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? Always the Brodgar Chair. It embodies so much about who we are, what we do, and what we stand for.
What's hot for 2014? We are developing new lighting pieces and turning our attention to more ancient arts - blacksmithery is going to be turned on its head.
Every Wednesday 'Indie of the week' celebrates the best independent stores around. These places sell interesting and varied collections of design-related things you don't see everywhere else. They may support young or local designers or be great at finding unique things from around the world. By thinking a little more creatively about what they stock they are fighting the bland homogenisation of so much of the high street. And since I'm down with the realities of modern life, online only stores count too, because a beautiful and easy to use website is just as delightful an encounter in cyberspace.
Do you you have a favourite store? I'd love to hear from you.