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The Return to Traditional Craftsmanship

The world is changing. Consumers want different things today than they did 5 years ago.

You can see it in the current trend towards more sustainable products and traditional techniques.

The return to glass milk bottle delivery is a great example. This industry almost entirely disappeared from the UK in the 1990s when the nation opted instead for cheaper, plastic bottles of milk from the supermarket. Now, more people are appreciating the benefits of our trusty milkmen. Recyclable bottles delivered by electric vehicles provide local jobs and a way for teenagers to earn their first pay packet.

You can see it in the return to bars of soap, instead of disposable plastic bottles of shower gel. Not only is shower gel contained in plastic, it’s also wrapped in sexy marketing, promising benefits that likely make no difference. People had been using soap for over 5000 years, then our love affair with plastic, with convenience and marketing, steered us towards a far less environmentally friendly option.

Mass production is the key to all of this. The ability to cheaply produce disposable products is having a catastrophic effect on the environment. Craftsmanship has been pushed aside for profit. Who needs the butcher, the baker and candlestick maker when the supermarket has all three under one roof, for less money? The goods may be of lower quality, they might damage the environment, but they are convenient and cheap. 

Sam Brown London

This decline in standards was one of the prime drivers for creating Sam Brown London. Before we founded this company, we worked in fashion. In the past, when you opened a box containing a Chanel dress, the smell rushed out to meet you. Every element was made from the finest materials using the best techniques. The wool was rich and thick, the stitching hand-woven and solid, the buttons and buckles cast to perfection.

Over the years this changed. The price tags remained high, but the quality deteriorated, craftsmanship being replaced by mass-produced elements. Profit taking over from purpose. 

Return to Traditional Values

When we created Sam Brown London, we focused on incorporating the finest British craftsmanship. So many talented craftspeople were being overlooked, their craft slowly dying out, replaced by disposable alternatives.

To create artisan leather goods and not work with the best tannery in the country seemed crazy to us, so we visited the few remaining tanneries in the UK, talked to the owners, and found the perfect partners for our venture. The ‘honest leather’ we use has been cured traditionally, no shortcuts, no dumbing down of procedures just to make some extra cash.

Whether it's a traditional leather belt or one of our customised English leather bags, every element we use has been sourced ethically. We want to celebrate craftsmanship, to stimulate interest in the ‘old ways’ to showcase their importance to our local economies and to our culture.

The environmental impact of the materials and techniques we use is a world away from mass-production. Not because we have dedicated ourselves to becoming an environmentally friendly company although that is important to us, but because traditional methods never incurred as much waste in the first place. 

We have a duty to look back, to find what worked when our planet and local economies were in a much better state. Take the ideas, shape them for the modern world and start appreciating the work it takes to create something that will last, rather than be drawn in by the marketing around something disposable.

Keep an eye out for future posts where I'll be talking about our artisan suppliers. The British tannery, the Harris Tweed supplier and the foundry. I'm really looking forward to telling you all about their traditional processes and their passion for what they do.