Friday, 6 January 2017

Make It British

Way back last year October I think (before the unbridled craziness of Christmas kicked in) I went to the Make It British conference in Leicester.  Leicester the city decorated with images of Richard III their newest poster boy and home of an incredibly healthy textile industry.  It was a really interesting and inspiring day with several coffee breaks where you got to network with others trying to forge a way for their British based textile company.

When I was young (the seventies and early eighties) clothes were made in the UK and they were more expensive consequently lots of people made their own clothes.  I had a number of Clothkits outfits I loved.
Gradually throughout my lifetime things have changed.  Clothes have become significantly cheaper and even those of us who aren't regular shoppers don't tend to think twice about simply buying replacement clothing when what we have begins to wear out.  This is a massive shift.

During the nineties as a consequence of lots of different factors; changes to trading tariffs, increased globalisation, the opening up of various countries and so on British manufacturing started to move overseas in a big way.  Today as they have done for the last few decades most of the big players in the mass market manufacture their products overseas.  These brands may do some sampling in the UK to test the water but the big production runs will be done elsewhere.  Even those companies who very heavily market the fact that their fashion is British are very unlikely to actually get their clothing made in the UK. 

This shift abroad has had a massive impact on the textile industry and many, many factories have closed permanently over the last twenty years, cherished family businesses simply were not viable to be handed on, suppliers and merchants had no one to sell to and a lot of expertise was lost.  That said the textile industry did not disappear it just reduced in size.  Small business like ours helped it continue.  We make a lot of our own products but some items we sample and test initially and then hand production over in small runs to British factories. We did this for our Wax Cag. For small businesses like ours it makes sense to get items produced in this country where we can go and visit a factory, check on the samples and the quality in person and build a relationship with the people there.

What the conference made very clear is that we are reaching a very interesting period in British manufacturing. Whisper this but I think there may be a renaissance in British based manufacturing.

The reasons why there might be an upturn in the domestic textile industry are as complex as for it's demise but here are a few;
-post Brexit the pound is a lot weaker there is no way around it we are going to have to pay more for our clothing so the price differential between getting products made abroad or domestically is decreasing
-the key to incredibly successful brands like Inditex's Zara is thought to be the shortness of the supply chain they see a new trend and can get it from factory to shop floor in a speed only possible by cutting the number of miles that item has to travel.
-there seems to be a groundswell of feeling for British manufacturing at the moment.

One of the interesting things the manufacturers at the conference said is that they believed a return to high levels of British Manufacturing would require a shift in the prevailing retail culture.  Away from buyers over-ordering masses of cheap stock with the intention of discounting most of it to shift it halfway through the season to a much tighter operation where the shops are filled with items people really want to buy and sales are expected to shift a few awkward end of line items.  I for one welcome this and find the current Sales and Discounts culture incredibly depressing as a shopper.  Our philosophy here at Stabo has always been to operate as economically and sustainably as possible to try not to create unnecessary things and keep the mileage on our products as low as possible.  That said we are a very small, pragmatic family business who needed to be economically viable.  Although we make many of our products from start to finish in our workshop not all our materials come from the UK but we are constantly reviewing this.

If you're interested in reading more there is an open access facebook page for the Make It British Community.  I enjoy the posts although they do seem to attract a certain sort of amusing absolutist pedantry about making it British.  So take a look and discover lots of wonderful British made things.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Halloween the easy way

We've been having fun playing with slightly furry and very reflective materials and have come up with a range of themed T shirts you'll love for Halloween.  So if you're forced to join in with Trick or Treating but not that enthusiastic about donning a full length flammable supermarket costume here are a few alternative suggestions.  Layer up with thermal tops and these T shirts are great fun.

Firstly we have our very witchy Black Cat T shirts.

The adults version has a pop art feel with the bright zingy colours and slightly stylised form (black cats are quite stylised anyway).

The cats are made from black flock so have a furry feel and the eyes are made from highly reflective green so when you are out Trick or Treating you can have loads of fun playing with a torch making the eyes flash like real cats eyes.

The second T shirt features a cat taking it easy across the T shirts's chest once again with reflective cats eyes style cats eyes.
If cats aren't your thing our boggly eyed black hoody is a great option for kids.  The white boggly eyes and funny monster teeth are made from white reflective material so glow in the dark when you flash a torch at them.  

And the best thing about all these T shirts and Hoodies is that they're so much fun you'll want to keep wearing them all year round.

Happy Halloween.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Stabo Make some Proper Oxford Shoes

Northampton - The home of fine shoes and a great place to learn the gentle craft of Cordwainery.  So armed with note book, camera and an inquiring mind I hopped in the Stabo wagon and motored the 40 miles for the 3 day course.

Over the long weekend we worked on a pair of men's Oxford shoes, transformimg a few pieces of leather, nails, glue and thread into a pair of high quality footwear.  Although, this did take many hours and hundreds of nuanced steps along with specialist tools.  

Here are some of the steps:

Outer and lining cut, skived (seams thinned) stuck together and a first lasting

A second lasting, adding a toe stiffner and preparing the underside for the sole

Preparing the sole, adding a leather rand and preparing the sole and upper for attaching
The workshop, the finished Oxford shoes and a sample pair of our own Chukka style of shoe we are working on.

A great course, learnt new skills, knowledge and contacts.  Feeling inspired to develop our own simple shoe.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Quirky Wedding Guide

We just came back from a magical wedding halfway up a Welsh Mountain it gave us loads of ideas.  Here are some of them.


1.) Stabo's version of a Stag do T shirt - rather than get something printed up which is unwearable why not choose one of our T shirts and we can put your Stag slogan on the inside.

2.) Grooms party ties. We screenprint campervans, bikes, cassette tapes, cameras, cricket matches and rugby lineout stencils onto wool ties.  We can even add a little message to say 'Thanks'. 

3.) Our personalised throws make great wedding gifts, something the happy couple can snuggle up under for the next 50 years.  We personalise them with your message engraved onto a leather patch this one is on lovely gold leather.

4.) Key fobs , Our take on the wedding invite - a leather keyfob with the wedding details so you don't find yourself driving around in the middle of nowhere because you can't find the right piece of paper.

5 and 6.) A little something for the honeymoon - a new sunglasses case for the bride if, of course, she becomes a 'Mrs' and matching luggage tags, all in leather.

7.) The most useful thing you can take to a wedding (apart from a stash of snacks if you're there with children) is a large bag.  Your beautiful clutch just won't cut the mustard when you need to ditch the heels.  Take a shopper bag and when it reaches the point in the proceedings where you need to start shedding layers you've got something to decant everything into.

8.) Our photographic leather pencil case is a leather pencil case engraved with choice images from the nuptials.  It would also make a great gift for the 'Leather' (third) wedding anniversary.

9.)  Bridesmaids gifts - a little thank you for all those hours the bridesmaids have put sorting out your veil and holding your hand in the wedding dress shop.  We can add a little message on a leather patch on the inside.

10.) An etched wedding venue portrait.  For a contemporary take on a Wedding Venue picture here is our etched picture.  Etched in blue on brown board - a cool piece of art.  A lovely wedding gift you can hang on your wall.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Father's Day Gift Guide - 10 Unique Gifts for Dad

Here at Stabo we've developed a number of fun and original ways to personalise our products.  So make Fathers' Day extra special with one of our unique gift suggestions.


 1. If Dad doesn't have a decent bag why not treat him to one for Father's Day.  Here's our Mens karabiner bag.  Add a message under the flap.


2. Surely what could any Dad want more than a picture of you!  Carved family silhouette picture.  In the top picture we carved four brothers, here we see three generations of the same family - spot any similarities?

3. Our pure wool throws work brilliantly as old fashioned picnic blankets.  They don't have plastic linings but they are made of lovely thick wool and can be rolled up and packed away really easily.  Personalised with a choice of leather patches.  Why not take Dad on a picnic as well!

4. We have a wide range of great men's T shirts to choose from.  Make it that little bit more special with a personalised neck label. 

5. Our printed leather sunglasses cases are really good fun.  We can even engrave a message on the back.

6. Photo engraved leather cardholder choose from a stylish tan leather, or a funky yellow, green or light blue. We engrave your photo directly into the leather.  It doesn't have to be a photo of the kids you could personalise it with Dad's favourite car, lawnmower, shed....anything.

7.  Leather key fob engraved with your child's drawing or writing.  Choose from neon, natural or more neutral coloured leathers. These key fobs are a particularly great gift from infants or pre-schoolers.

8. So we haven't worked out an elegant way to personalise our printed wool ties.  But as each one is hand screen printed with our images each one is unique anyway.

9. Our Vintage Washbags are recycled from genuine WW2 bivouac tents, each one unique and with an amazing provenance.  Great for the Dad or Grandad interested in history.

10. Printed leather belts. Choose from a campervan, bikes or robots print.  We can also engrave your message on the inside of these belts.

PS. We even offer a gift wrapping service, look out for it at checkout!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Our Mens Leather Bags

We made our first Men's Karabiner bag in 2005 from black army boot leather see below.  They proved to be a hit and we have been developing them ever since.  

The Leather  

We tried many colours and weights before chancing upon a fantastic rustic, oiled American leather called “Crazy Horse”. The bags made from this leather were a real hit.  So we commissioned a Northamptonshire tannery to produce a run of leather for us.  This is an amazing process.  Like many parts of the British Leather Industry you visit  factories which have worked with leather for decades (or centuries).

The crazy horse leather is a lovely thick, full-grain, waxy leather sourced from European cattle.  Reared slowly the leather has (in the technical language) a competent tight grain without branding marks.  

The Cutting 

'Clicking' to cut the leather
Positioning the clicker press knife

The bag components; front, back, strap, gusset, flap etc are cut using a Clicker Press. This is basically a beefed up version of a pastry cutter powered by a hydraulic press. 

Then the sewing starts.....     

We use a strong German industrial sewing machine capable of maintaining an equal stitch length through thick leather (up to 1cm).  The needle is suitably big and the thread is a really strong nylon bonded heavy weight variety made for leather work.
Our Industrial Leather Machine - a monster

We piece together the components, thread up the strap and sew it up. The bags also have a little fabric pocket at the back for valuables which we sew in at this stage. 

The key design feature which sets the bags apart is the karabiner closure, justaposing a very traditional style and construction of bag with something urban, raw and contemporary.  They are really strong and we are told have a tendency to be confiscated by customs.

A new feature for 2016 and our ability to make bespoke amendments

A personalised message engraved into the bag flap
We can now engrave a message on the inside of the flap or your contact details if you have a tendency to leave the bag behind.  As with most of our products as the bags are made in house if you are desperate to have an additional feature get in touch we can normally oblige. 
A bespoke buckle bag with an extra large gusset