This month (3-5 October 2013) played host to the Best of Britannia event, where a variety of British manufacturers, designers and artists were brought together at the Farmiloe Building, Clerkenwell. To say that BoB (as it is affectionately known) was a surprise is something of an understatement. I cannot emphasise enough how impressive this curation of British artisans was. If this sounds somewhat emotive then it is, unapologetically so. This was a great celebration of design, encapsulating that increasingly elusive notion of authenticity. If there is one thing that you take from this review it’s this: sign up to their mailing list to ensure that you don’t miss it next year. So, having laid my cards on the table – on with the review.
I have to confess that we didn’t know what to expect from BoB. We hadn’t read a lot of press beforehand but tickets were free and as fans of home-grown talent TFW decided to take a look. The ethos of BoB hits you the moment you arrive. The first, unmissible, impact is the building itself (of which these iphone photographs don’t do justice). The Farmiloe is an incredible space – the Victorian warehouse offers over 40,000 square feet of space that occupies four floors, each wrapped around a central atrium. The industrial architecture echoes the traditional methods being utilised by the exhibitors at BoB, whilst the congruence of architectural function and design reflects the aesthetics of many of the modern goods on offer.
The central atrium was home to a constant stream of live music whilst offering refreshments courtesy of Small Batch Coffee (whose coffee we thoroughly recommend), the Disappearing Dining Club and Kamm & Sons to name but a few. Meanwhile each floor of the Farmiloe was home to an incredible array of fashion designers (from lingerie to jewellery and bespoke tweed), artists (curators, photographers and painters) and product developers (from Morgan’s Aero Supersport to bicycles and kitchenwares). Oh and did we mention the on-site barbers? There may be an eclectic array of products on offer, but the one thing they have in common was an unwavering commitment to quality. This short video is much better equipped to explain this unique experience, which brings together such a diverse, yet completely aligned, group of service and product providers.
A few of the exhibitors are worth a specific mention. First up is Artomatic, which offers a limited edition magazine ‘Container‘ made of objects (necessarily delivered in a container hence the name). Let me explain. Artomatic curates bespoke art from a variety of collaborators, each designing to a specific theme. For its first ‘edition’ the theme was hot and cold, with the number of containers limited to 200. In essence, you are buying limited edition art, curated around a theme on your behalf. Now, Container is a perfect example of the benefit of events like BoB. Had we not attended BoB, not only would we (in all likelihood) never have heard of Container at this stage but I’m not sure we would have properly understood it either. It is only when you speak to the designers and hear the stories behind the products that you truly appreciate their value (emphasis on value, not cost). For £200 we have received ten (very) limited edition pieces of art and have supported a new venture that has an exciting future. Container is currently on its first ‘edition’ and when we left there were still some boxes left. If you are interested in art, British design and are able to invest in Container it’s something that is well worth considering. We are still enjoying exploring our box and look forward to seeing what the second edition brings.
A couple of fashion designers warrant a special mention. Ayten Gasson offers beautiful silk lingerie (some incorporating vintage lace) at highly competitive prices. The prices, whilst not cheap per se, are incredible value when comparing them to well known lingerie brands and considering the manufacturing processes involved. Moreover, the quality exceeds that offered by better known designers. Second up is Pip Howeson who offers a bespoke tailoring service (mainly coats), using British textiles (including some incredible tweeds), and whose tailoring is sublime. The quality of Pip’s pieces was second to none and we look forward to visiting her soon to be opened Marylebone store.
The facts: Best of British is due to run again next year. Their website is here, their twitter is @BestBritannia, tickets are free and, as mentioned, subscribe to their email list to receive notification of the next event. In the meantime, as Best of Britannia explains “if you care about the provenance of product – you should be at BoB.” We couldn’t agree more – see you in 2014.