May 22, 2015

Diary of an Intern: Julia at Hand and Lock, week 5

According to the Danish Fashion Institute's study in 2013, Fashion is the second most polluting industry after oil. Big fashion designers and individuals are pushing for a more ethical and sustainable industry and the new Fashion Revolution Day promotes this movement. Fast fashion is likened to 'junk food' and consumers are urged to seek out a more ethical product and 'up-cycle' old clothes as well as acquiring new skills to make their own.

The addition of a monogram gives an item a unique touch which seems to appeal to our increasing need for real worth and reflects a rejection of throwaway consumerism as Lizzi Walton, organizer of SITselect craft Festival explains. "In a world of bland mass production, to own something individual is enhancing. It’s a pleasure to have something that is made with love and made by hand. Sometimes to have less is better." This recent flow of consumers towards hand crafted and artisan products (often more ethically produced due to their nature) is a big reason for an increased popularity in monogramming as it gives a garment a refined bespoke finish and by doing so can allow it longevity, as it becomes part of the owner's capsule wardrobe.

In the last couple of weeks I've decided to learn more about monogramming. I was kindly invited to join a weekend course at Hand & Lock where I picked up some of the essentials of this intricate technique. Monogramming work makes up a core element of the business at Hand & Lock, which has led me on a quest to discover what this type of embroidery entails and why it is so popular.

We are all partial to a personalised item from mugs to stationary and linen to luggage. This type of customisation certainly befits fashion and has been trending in recent years. What was once an embellishment mainly adorned by the Savile Row society is now sought after by the many and is certainly a fashionable way to stand out from the crowd. Consumers are less interested in elaborate logos, so the appeal of a monogram also ties into our cyber world of acronyms and avatars and acts as a way to brand ourselves. Moreover it allows the buyer to get involved in the design process and gives them a greater attachment to the product.

A constant stream of customers come to Hand & Lock to have their goods monogrammed. The house is renowned for its outstanding quality of hand embroidered work and they have also moved into the 21st century to offer machine embroidery at an affordable price, thus a wide range of orders are delivered. Clients can vary: a business tycoon requiring their shirt to be initialled, a mechanic ordering a well considered gift of a monogrammed shammy leather cloth for his co-worker or a lady wishing to personalise an heirloom for a wedding present.

Typically it can take a professional embroiderer a few months to master the technique. Different guidelines are adopted to execute the variety of letters in the Latin alphabet and when an array of font styles are added to the mix then an additional set of rules are applied, making this embroidery work relatively complex. Hand & Lock have their own particular way of monogramming which ensures that all of the embroidery work that leaves the house is uniform and has exactly the same finish.

Many businessmen initial their garments such as shirts, coats and ties. Surprisingly some will even have their socks and boxers labelled. Could this be a die hard habit that harks back to life at private and boarding schools? Traditionally these types of application of monogramming was reserved for wealthy gentlemen and dates back centuries. It is certainly a statement of status amongst peers and a way of adding a delicately customised finish to a bespoke garment. This could be the ultimate expression of luxury especially in men's fashion when compared to women's; where it's easier to add a personal touch to an outfit with a handbag or printed blouse, for example.

For such a small and intricate embellishment there is a variety of customisations available and even an 'etiquette' of how initials should be combined. A larger edged font in a bold contrasting colour can have a very different effect to a soft script monogram subtly embroidered in the same colour silk as the garment. I've also discovered that often a monogram will be placed on a part of the clothing that is not visible to the public, such as by the hem of a shirt. Although this may seem frivolous in fact it demonstrates the growing trend in ownership of a one of a kind item.

The monogram does not only have to be elaborate and act as a personal emblem. It can also be a discreet symbol of a well-loved garment that can make the owner feel special when wearing it. The customer's input in the creation of an item clearly initiates a greater connection between owner and product. By leaving their stamp on a product the owner gives it a form of identity which adds greatly to its purpose. This will become an increasingly, more important aspect of design in a diluted market that is dominated by over consumption.

Hi, I'm Julia! Based in Amsterdam, I am an embroidery enthusiast with a life long passion for textiles. I will be contributing during my work placement at the prestigious Hand and Lock a London based, embroidery and embellishment company with 250 years of heritage.

Join me every other Friday for my Diary of an Intern posts!
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