• Fashion Revolution Day begins @fash_rev Will be asking throughout the day - who made your clothes?  Hope everyone joins in! #InsideOut (pic via @gettyfashion)
  • It was announced a while ago but wanted to say how happy I am to have been asked to select Dress of the Year 2013 at Fashion Museum in Bath. My choice was this @christopherkanestudio SS13 beauty.
  • Love this concertina beach scene print on @marios_official tote available at @therefineryhk now! #PMQIS
  • Congrats to my cousin @elizabethlauldn and her new shop @therefineryhk in the new PMQ building @PMQHKDesign #PMQIS much love for @BernstockSpeirs bunny ears!
  • Love that I always see the best pieces by Brit designers abroad @nicoll_studio @liger_hk

During the week that the Royal Baby landed on our planet and people acted like they had NEVER witnessed the birth of a baby boy before in their lives, the legendary bespoke embroidery company Hand & Lock, based in Central London, were busy taking commisions for gifts for the blessed child.  There was a curious influx of people wanting blankets simply embroidered with the words "Royal Baby".  Why?  I haven't a clue.  

Hand & Lock's longstanding association with the Royal Family though is likely to have sparked the comissions.  Much of that pomp and ceremony that we see on say the epaulettes or aiguillettes on the uniform of the Queen's bodyguards or on the guards present at Prince William and Kate's wedding was down to the goldwork handiwork of Hand & Lock.  A Hugenot refugee known as 'M Hand' started his gold lace and embroidery business in 1767, specialising in intricate goldwork for the military, royalty and tailors throughout the Commonwealth.  In the mid-50s a specialist couture embroidery business was taken over by Stanley Lock to form S Lock and was awarded the Royal Warrant for working with couturiers such as Christian Dior, Norman Hartnell and Hardy Amies on gowns for the Queen, Queen Mother and Princess Diana.  In 2001, M Hand and S Lock merged to form Hand & Lock.  They have become one of UK's very few (perhaps only one, save for the Royal School of Needlework which is a charity) elite embroidery houses.    

I'm excited to be getting involved in Hand & Lock's annual prize for embroidery design with a grand sum of ¬£26,000 up for grabs for a new generation of embroidery talent out there and so I dropped by the atelier to meet designer Jessica Jane and have a poke around an institution I have only heard of in passing but don't know a great deal about.  The name doesn't get batted about as much as say, Lesage in Paris, but Hand & Lock have also worked with all the fashion greats with non-disclosure agreements preventing them from making a real shout about what they do.  In fact, their work is evenly split between hand crafting accoutrements for the military world (not just for the UK but for other countries) and their fashion and lifestyle work.    

IMG_8895

IMG_8945

IMG_8974

IMG_8961

IMG_8951

IMG_8959

IMG_8979

IMG_8950

From a distance, it's difficult to appreciate the amount of work that goes into the uniforms seen in rituals such as Trooping of the Colour or even when you look at portraits of royalty or high ranking officers in their military decorations.  It's only when you get up close can you grasp the detail that goes into Hand & Lock's signature goldwork where a coil of metal is embroidered on to fabric.  I could throw out terms such as passing, bullion or couch work but just working out what terminology correlates with which method is no easy task and goes some way to explaining the level of skill required to excel at this type of goldwork that we passively come across on military badges, flags, sashes, banners and other military accoutrements.  

IMG_8843

IMG_8845

IMG_8852

IMG_8865

IMG_8867

Hand & Lock still specialise in making gold lace, which comes in an inexpensive mylar or as a 2% gold option.  These laces are literally made out of spun gold thread, assayed at approximately 2% gold (sometimes more, never less) – it all sounds a bit Rumpelstiltskin, but for high ranking officials, that strip of 2% gold lacework running along the seams of their trousers bears much significance.  

IMG_8869

IMG_8874

IMG_8878

IMG_8877

Jessica also showed me the original epaulettes worn by the Queen's bodyguards during her coronation back in 1952.  

IMG_8879

IMG_8883

Like I said, gifts for the Royal Baby were in full flow and here's a drawing of a coat of arms embroidery, intended to go on a Stevenson Brothers rocking horse for little George/Alexander/Louis.  

IMG_8888

What was really mesmerising was seeing the rows of neatly lined up satin stitches of goldwork with the contrasting textures of rough and smooth coils creating different visual effects.  There are many other stitches and techniques to employ within goldwork so there's an infinitive nature to the textures that you can achieve, something that again, can only be appreciated when you can see and feel the rows of thread.  

IMG_8892

IMG_8893

IMG_8896

IMG_8899

IMG_8901

IMG_8902

Hand & Lock have done embroidery for a number of fashion houses (Chanel, Burberry, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney) as well as current young designers in London such as Christopher Kane and J.W. Anderson.  Jessica concedes that perhaps they're a bit of a "dirty secret" in the fashion world as brands/houses would like to claim that they do all their embroidery in house which strikes me as odd, considering the heritage of Hand & Lock and that it's no different to openly employing the skills of say Lesage or Lemari√© in Paris.  Hand & Lock are keen to make their own name be known amongst the wider public and it would be great if their working relationships with designers and houses were more openly acknowledged.  For example, I had no idea that Louis Vuittion commissioned Hand & Lock to create these intricate floral designs, inspired by Dinos and Jake Chapman's hellish flora and fauna prints.  The embroideries weren't used in the A/W 13-4 show but the crazed teddy bears gracing velvet slippers in the collection did, and Hand & Lock have just finished a batch of teddy embroideries, ready for those slippers to go into stores soon.   

IMG_8907

IMG_8910

IMG_8912

_D7Q2537.683x1024Louis Vuitton A/W 13/4 slipper

Monogramming is also a big part of Hand & Lock's business and they're currently working with pyjama designer Olivia von Halle to provide a monogrammed pyjama service.  

IMG_8918

IMG_8930

IMG_8932

IMG_8935

IMG_8937

IMG_8938

IMG_8941

Hand & Lock's shop currently stocks badges and military regalia directly for the public to buy and commission but they will soon be moving into more of a fashion territory which equally demonstrates the atelier's level of skill and craft as they have created these tiger and floral motifs to sew or pin on shirt collars.  These are not the cheap machine embroidered embellishments that you might find in the dusty corner of a haberdashery shop.  They feel precious and a little like pieces of jewellery, when you hold them, once you have learned a little about the process of goldwork and silk shading.  In the context of fully finished garments, embroidery can so often be lost and can fade into the background when we are confronted by the overall silhouette or a block of colour and so it's up to Hand & Lock to pipe up every now and again to point out how much work actually goes into that "minutiae".  

IMG_8831

IMG_8832

IMG_8834

IMG_8836

IMG_8841

Comments (12)

  1. Yin says:

    Gorgeous embroidery!

  2. Anya says:

    Oh so beautiful!!
    World-Edit

  3. Anya says:

    Oh so beautiful!
    world-edit.blogspot.com

  4. Sul Gi says:

    Wow…Nice post! I could feel the artisan spirit. I wonder how to make that!? I want to make like that! I just knew the one step for on the way to great embroidery. Thanks for sharing information!

  5. Lara Darling says:

    You don’t get any more stylish than that. I love this stuff. Love to visit. I would be there for ages! Thanks for a great post.

  6. Abby Saadeh says:

    That embroidery in amazing!

  7. Paprika says:

    I love that video its really well made and the music goes wellxx

  8. Your opening paragraph: Hilarious. The embroidery is beautiful, too!

  9. rachel says:

    I’m somewhat of an outlier as someone in their mid-twenties who embroiders, and has embroidered since she was a young child. I truly appreciate all of the work and skill that goes into creating these designs. Thank you for sharing images of the behind-the-scenes craftsmanship involved in the production of hand & locks pieces!
    Best,
    Rachel
    http://www.thecuratorial.com

  10. Wow! Thankyou for the beautiful and inspiring post! Such skill….. I was lucky enough to see into their studios and all I can say is, I have a lot of practice to be doing!
    Charlotte

Comment below