Adam Atkinson and Becky French talk David Hellqvist through their tweed and silk tie collaboration
Sitting at a corner table in St John’s Bread & Wine restaurant on Commercial Street, washing down toast with cappuccinos, Marwood’s Becky French and Adam Atkinson, the designer behind Cherchbi, are considering the concept of collaborations. Mainly because they’ve just launched their own; an especially designed tweed bag containing a bow and a bow tie.
“There’s lot of brands who collaborate and it’s purely a marketing exercise, it’s not about the products whatsoever, it’s just about getting two brand names together and hoping the other will do them some good – that’s not in the spirit of collaboration,” Adam says. Marwood and Cherchbi though, two British specialist accessory brands dedicated to UK-only production, takes a different point of view: “What we’ve done is taken two things that are inherent to our brands and combining them in an equal way that creates something that represents both of our brands and creates something new”, he explains. Combining Cherchbi’s signature heavy Herdwyck tweed and Marwood’s neckwear expertise and fine staircase silk, the product is truly unique to this set of creatives. By being recognisable to both customer bases, yet introducing new shapes and materials – and ultimately new products – the Travel Case is perhaps the definition of a ‘good’ collaboration.
Words David Hellqvist
Photography Jasper Fry
Having met at a Centre of Fashion Enterprise course, the two instantly found each other’s brand compelling. Though different products, Marwood and Cherchbi share many fundamental DNA strands. “They’re an organisation that help on the business side of things, they’ve got various stages of programmes that you can go through. I think it was an accounting meeting,” Becky remembers. “We realised we’ve got a really similar customer who appreciate the same things – I really loved Adam’s Cherchbi bags and what they stand for, the shared qualities are definitely innovation with fabric.”
Later on, after a few months, the idea of a collaborative product was born: “I saw Marwood in a few places, and I thought I’d get in touch. I just wanted to say hello so we could introduce ourselves properly, and maybe do something together in a slightly more interesting surrounding,” Adam says. The rest, as they say, is history.
Originally inspired by a 1920s collar case, the bag that the neckwear comes in is very much part of the story. Bags, in general, is Cherchbi’s area of expertise. For the Travel Case, Adam developed a completely new bag, a wash-bag style version featuring a waterproof silk lining and trimmed with English saddle leather and a solid brass Riri zip.
Deciding on the tweed and silk combination was an easy decision. “They complement each other; they’re completely different, the staircase silk is really refined and beautiful while our tweed is robust and they really work together beautifully straight away,” Adam says.
And in terms on settling on the actual bag contents, Becky adds, “we were thinking of something that uses the Cherchbi skills from the bag making without making a bag. We talked about different ideas and ways of keeping ties – we make boxes, so when you buy a Marwood tie online you get a cube box and the idea is you’re supposed to roll your ties rather than keep them folded or pressed.”
The reason for rolling the tie is practical: “It’s a good way to keep them and make them last. It’s the trickle down affect, if you keep all the stitching lined up, the whole thing is pivoted from that central construction, so if you start to fold it you’re going to weaken it and you’ll get folds in the tie and it won’t wear as nicely. So that was the main point of having that packaging and thinking how can you encourage people to look after their products,” Becky explains.
Marwood makes ties, bow ties and pocket squares in its fine silk and famous lace. This bow tie is made out of a thick and harsh tweed, not a combination that’s often seen. “Yeah, the factory was like, ‘really, do you want to do this?’… I don’t think they enjoyed making those ones as much as the ties! We tried backing it with silk to make it thinner, but it actually worked better with double wool, which is strange,” Becky says.
“I have to say I had never worn a bow tie in my adult life before, but I thoroughly enjoyed wearing it and I’m not just saying that because of the collaboration. It’s a lovely thing and it raises a smile,” Adam adds. Though often seen as preppy, something Becky works hard to avoid, the bow tie gets a completely new look through the unconventional use of fabric. “I think it works in another way as well, the same reason the bags work; it’s an interesting fabric with great texture. It’s monochrome, it’s all about the texture, it’s greys and browns, the ties work with lots of different colours,” Adam says.
Coming full circle, analysing the idea of collaborating again, now against the back drop of their own product, Becky is happy with the result: “It’s very satisfying to be part of a collaboration where you learn something through it and you feel like two people are bringing something to the table and you come up with something that you couldn’t have done on your own, collaboration is something that people use time and time again as a term, but it’s such an important part, and something that I will carry on doing with Marwood.” I feel that’s a pretty good way of rounding up this piece.