factory visit

A VIP tour at ASOS HQ

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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…?

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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…)

A day at Dr Martens

Heritage is the watchword of the moment, so how timely that Dr Martens should invite me on a trip to their super-dooper factory last week. The British workwear boot company celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and has, ooh, millions of projects on the go to celebrate. On arrival at the HQ in Northamptonshire, our first stop was the showroom where the AW10 collection was unveiled. Ta da! There are polka dots, suede brogues, kiddy colours and a whole family of metallics in store for next season…

I was quite taken with the velvets. Although they may look a bit ‘Dr & The Medics‘, they’re made with very posh Italian velvet. I was urged to stroke them and yes, they did indeed feel lovely and luxe. These made me think of early 90s Nick Knight shoots, Sonia Rykiel, Ann Demeulemeester and dandyish blouses with floppy bows.

I was also drawn to this Redwing-like silhouette. Fact: 75% of the Dr Martens range is available in both mens and womens sizes and this is one of them.

Typically, my favourite style was the most fancy offering, the pebbled leather 1460s which are so super-precious they were secured behind a glass cabinet. Dr Martens are only selling 1460 pairs in each colour as a special celebratory collector’s item and they went on sale last Thursday (I know, I know) so may well be sold out.

There is also an attempt at enticing the Ugg customer with a £200 shearling bootie. Note, it’s made from real shearling, hence the price, none of this cheap stuff.

Also in attendance were creative directors Andrew Bunney and his wife Tommy who have been working with Dr Martens to get the right balance of fashion and function in the collections. These guys have really nailed it and looking at the number of failed rebrands I’ve seen over the years, this is no easy feat.

Dr Martens’ heritage is workwear but from the 1970s onwards, it was adopted by one youth culture after another. Punks, skinheads and indie grunge kids all adopted the boots as their own reactionist uniform, giving it a reverance that few other brands command. Part of the celebrations this year include ten bands recording ten cover versions of cult classics. We were given a sneak preview of three, of which I loved If The Kids Are United by The Duke Spirit (the Jamie Morgan-directed video is a beaut too).

But onto the fun bit – the factory tour! Why am I such a factory geek? Dunno but it was fantastic to watch a whole shoe being made from start to finish.

Outsole waste product is recycled…

Making tongues…
Fascinating fact: I call these ‘Tim Walker’ trollies. Tim Walker has one in his house. Amazing!

A machine for dispensing double-sided tape!

What I learnt:

*In the early 90s, the factory produced a million pairs of Docs a month. The factory was in use 24 hours a day to keep up with demand.

*There is a machine just for making the grooves in the side of the soles. Who knew?

*The Dr Martens leather protection cream can also be used on leather jackets and sofas. Fancy!*Kate Lanphear appears in this wee Dr Martens documentary

*The factory will be open once a week to the public so you too can have a guided tour.
Happy anniversary Docs!