factory visit

Smythson stories: how the Mara diary is made*

Making of a Smythson diary Mara midnight

“Our Featherweight paper is the same paper that’s used for bank notes. It’s extremely thin but durable enough to be written on without the ink showing through.”

I’m being taken on a personal tour of Smythson’s Hertfordshire bookbinding workshops, where its famous diaries are produced, from printed page to hand-finished leather covers. My guide is pointing out each artisanal technique while I take in the familiar sky blue paper hue that serves as a permanent presence throughout the premises. (more…)

A VIP tour at ASOS HQ

1 asos-design-studio-stitching-academy-disneyrollergirl

Running a fast fashion empire is a tough old task! Aside from the sheer volume of product to be managed, there’s the competition to worry about, not to mention the cheap labour issues and carbon footprint headaches that entail from manufacturing overseas.

ASOS is one fast fashion company that’s tackling these issues in interesting and highly profitable ways. Last week I spent an insightful afternoon drinking in as much info as I could on a personal tour of its Stitching Academy, its brand new design studios, plus the infamous photo studios at ASOS HQ in Camden… (more…)

Ever wondered how Smythson business cards are made…?

Smythson-Factory main

Shock confession: in six years of freelancing I haven’t had a business card. The shame! I’ve somehow survived on the dual methods of LinkedIn requests and pitiful scraps of Moleskine paper but that only gets you so far. Much better, I decided, to step things up and investigate the process of designing and printing bespoke business cards. Not just any business cards you understand, but the ultimate in luxury and elegance – Smythson’s copperplate printed cards.

Here’s the thing: we’re all self-branders now. From bloggers to entrepreneurs, to graduates, to CEOs, how you present yourself is everything. (more…)

Workshop visit: The Hermes silk scarf workshops in Lyon


“It takes two years to make and two minutes to buy!” So says Kamel Hamadou, the affable communications manager of Hermès silk, hosting a rare tour of the company’s silk printing facilities in Lyon. Two weeks ago I was invited on a whirlwind trip to learn the many meticulous stages of making one of those familiar silk ‘carrés’ of which I’m the proud owner of a few, neatly folded and stored in their equally familiar flat orange boxes.

My most astonishing discovery? The utter complexity of printing involved in a silk scarf of many colours. The average scarf has around 30 colours, of which each shade has its own precise mixing process. The printing itself has to be seen to be believed, but next week, you’ll have the chance to see it all when HermèsFestival Des Metiers lands on the London leg of its world tour. (more…)