The British Isles are blessed when it comes to craftsmanship. Factories that have stood proudly for hundreds of years continue to produce the world’s finest goods, from Goodyear-welted shoes to waxed jackets. Yet in the shadows of these industrial behemoths sit smaller operations: workshops, local factories and artisans producing small batches of products, taking utmost care and pride in making something that not only has character, but is built to last. Often using traditional techniques passed down through generations.
In a world of fast-fashion and mass-produced goods, these beacons of craft and artisanship are a welcome change. Here at Ape we’ve pulled together a list of our favourites.
Hailing from Brighton and with 20 years of experience working with denim, Kelly Dawson and Scott Ogden of Dawson Denim (featured image, top) design, cut and sew each of their products themselves. Specialising in simple, well-built workwear including jackets, jeans and accessories, each garment comes with a logbook that entitles the owner to a service on the product with wear and tear repaired in-house.
If you’re looking for something well-made but slightly different, consider one of their aprons. Inspired by 1950s grocery store attire, they are made from substantial Japanese selvage and are part of a numbered production run.
A modest sewing and weaving business on the Isle of Skye, key to the Skye Weavers’ brand is quality and preserving Scottish textile-making traditions. Using a bicycle pedal-powered loom, their small team produce a variety of scarves, ties, throws and lengths of tweed. All of this craft takes place in a small shed on a remote Scottish island, with other parts of production such as finishing and label weaving aided by small businesses in Wales and the Scottish borders. Their range of throws in 100% pure new wool come in stylish natural hues and make for the perfect gift or interiors addition.
Another brand made in Scotland, Trakke bags are crafters of versatile and durable waxed canvas bags. Made with quality British materials by a small team of artisans, Trakke’s origins are rooted in founder Alec Farmer’s yearning to make things with his hands. As a broke student, he would cycle around Glasgow searching through skips, liberating materials from old sofas and suitcases. Extensive sewing practise, R&D and prototyping followed before an a business emerged.
The resulting bags range from sturdy backpacks to sleek messenger bags. Designs are minimal but hardwearing and blend a little on-campus style with outdoor functionality. The Finnieston Tote is a great option for a general use day-to-day bag – the ideal upgrade to your branded version.
McNair Mountain Shirts
The idea behind McNair mountain shirts is a novel one: surely there’s a way to make performance gear fit for the great outdoors without kitting everyone out in expensive brightly-coloured plastic? Why not fit in with the great outdoors a little? Wear something made from natural materials? McNair were conscious that so-called “performance” materials so often sacrificed comfort and breathability.
So they make merino wool overshirts in Huddersfield at the heart of the country’s woollen industry. The merino is processed to improve thermal efficiency and weather resistance, and has proven to be extremely effective. The shirts also look timeless and provide a welcome change from the nylon-clad hiking masses.
Inspired by Victorian street imagery, Workhouse Clothing specialise in relaxed tailoring using the finest British cloth to construct signature pieces with a unique twist. Coinciding with a resurgence in sturdy utilitarian workwear and 1950s-inspired café racer denim, the brand’s designs blend quality craftsmanship with an exploration of fabrics, construction and dying techniques. Their Bury St Edmonds studio and workshop is also well worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Small-batch pen nerds you say? Right up our alley. If you’re happy with any old pencil you probably won’t understand, but for those who are particular about their writing implements – yearning for a weight, construction and click that feels right – look no further than Ajoto. Working with the world’s leading factories to source each component before assembling the final product in the UK, the brand’s attention to detail is startling. They make the sort of exquisite brass pens that one dreams of receiving at Christmas.
Alice Made This
Precision jewellery for men and women, Alice Made This is a brand that mixes fantastical levels of engineering with the handmade feel of a unique piece to treasure. The men’s collection features a host of stylish accessories including cufflinks, bracelets, rings, shirt studs and lapel pins. With Alice Made This it’s the small details that stand out. For instance, their James brass Heraldic Dot cufflinks are engraved and polished by award winning engravers Sam James. Their distinctive engraving technique means no two pairs are ever the same.
You can keep your Vespas, thank you very much – if you want to know which type of motorcycle we daydream of bombing around the city on, it’s a Mutt custom. Located in a – dare we say it – badass warehouse in Birmingham’s former industrial centre, Mutt will make you a custom motorcycle dripping with cool for a price that doesn’t break the bank. If the bank is there to break, however, they’ll manufacture a bespoke machine that’s the closest thing to art on two wheels. At the very least, follow them on Instagram and upgrade your daydreams.
Kennedy City Bicycles
Something a little less dangerous on two wheels (depending on who’s riding) but equally beautiful. Kennedy City Bicycles make those head-turning bikes you see on the streets of London – the ones you immediately wish you had. Each bike is assembled from scratch in Hackney, with many of the high-quality components either built or prepared in the city (copper plating in West London, double butted spokes in Islington).
Each frame is made to your exact size and even the saddles, made from cotton and rubber, have an eco-friendly backstory (they’re vegetarian). Hipster jokes aside, KCB really are push bikes to be seen on and cherished, with every inch telling a story of craftsmanship and care. Make sure you invest in a good lock.
There’s a longevity in the product standards at McRostie Leather. Each and every one of their handmade products continues to embody the level of exemplary quality that the Scottish workshop has maintained for over a century. Using the finest British materials and harnessing skills and artisanship passed down through generations, the brand’s belts and document folios are serious long-term investment pieces.
Malloch’s – Premium British Knitwear
Any brand that champions timeless style is a win for us. And this recipe is one by which Malloch’s abides. A premium British menswear brand with a focus on knitwear, and an aim of delivering high quality timeless wardrobe staples to the every gentleman. Malloch’s tell us they were and continue to be inspired by a mix of classic Hollywood style and the honest, hard-working men of the sea, countryside and town. Their focus is on the best of British manufacturers, and while Malloch’s is starting small we are pleased to see an ever growing product range, not limited by the restrictions of trend-led fashion. Get in there early doors, and secure yourself an ‘original’ Malloch’s.