Alice Made This
Alice Made This was founded with a clear and precise intention: to refine industry.
MC: Your brand has seen incredible growth over the last few years. Can you tell us a bit about your experiences expanding the company?
AW: Alice Made This started as a bit of an extracurricular activity when Ed and I were searching for cufflinks for our wedding. We felt there was room to do something fresh and innovative with them and it soon became apparent that there was an opportunity to grow, even though the cufflink market is very niche. The last year in particular has been a massive learning curve for us as a business, mainly to do with the business side of design and streamlining that aspect, as well as bringing on some full time employees and working as a team rather than an individual. But it’s been really exciting and fun.
The key areas of growth that we wanted to see were our online proposition, our product categories and our global reach. With our product categories, there is a lot that we can do above and beyond cufflinks. Although they are our foundations and we want it to remain that way, the processes we use lend themselves to other products as well. We use processes that are out of context for accessories. Looking on them with fresh eyes and being clean and simple can be just as relevant for a keyring, as it can be for a cufflink, as it could be for a belt. The online has been a really exciting growth area for us. It’s fully controlled by us internally by Amelia, our online manager, and it allows us to tell the stories of our processes.
It’s a platform to show our customer more than just the product, tell them about where their product has come from, how it’s been made and what materials it’s made from. All of these aspects are what makes the products what they are to us as a business. And then global reach. Ed, my husband, has come on board to look at the wholesale business and that’s really exciting. When it’s just one of you the UK is within reach, but going much beyond that becomes time consuming and unrealistic. We find that our brand sits really well in stores with a refined aesthetic that sit as leaders in their markets, like Crane Brothers for example. Whether that’s from a tailoring or concept store point of view, that’s what we aim for.
Interview: Murray Crane
MC: Your approach for much of your range is rooted more in industrial design than in traditional jewellery. What do you think it is about this approach that has struck a chord with your clientele?
AW: We’ve found that this all comes down to the whole men are from Mars and women are from Venus debate. Women seem to shop more spontaneously if they like an object, whereas men want to learn more about a product. Where its comes from and how its made. Everything behind it. So the fact that some of our accessories come from factories who usually make airplane or car parts definitely strikes a cord with the customer and creates a loyalty towards the brand.
MC: What is it about British industry and manufacturing that you find inspiring?
AW: I love working with factories. I love the smell of a factory. I find everything inspiring and it’s a really great starting point for a collection to just to learn more about materials and how they’re made. British industry is full of history, reaching back hundreds of thousands of years. Countless innovations have been developed along the way and they are kind of going full circle from being past on to the Asian side of manufacturing to people slowly coming back to the UK. For us it’s just about highlighting the stories, the materials and the innovations that still remain a part of British engineering. We pass this on to the customer. People tend to think that if something is manufactured then it’s mass produced and hasn’t had much thought put into it. If you look at a lot of our processes then yes a lot of it is machine driven and automated, but there is still a lot of hand-based skill that has been honed over years and years by expert technicians.
"If you look at a lot of our processes then yes a lot of it is machine driven and automated, but there is still a lot of hand-based skill that has been honed over years and years by expert technicians."
MC: Knotted silk cufflinks have become pretty ubiquitous, but yours use quite a different approach when it comes to construction. What can you tell us about this process?
AW: Our rope cufflinks are made by an expert rope maker in Malvern who hand knots all our cufflinks using traditional shipping knots, perfected over years of training and study. Our collection is based around the star stopper knot and each of our products uses 2.7m of marine cord.
MC: Your Royal Household collection hews closest to traditional jewellery. What makes the investment casting process you use different?
AW: It isn’t exactly. It’s still the same technique, but the casting house that we use is specialist in household castings as well as smaller castings. They are based in Hatton Garden, have a royal warrant and did 90% of the restorations after Windsor castle burnt down. They also made the original FA Cup, which is pretty impressive!
MC: How did your collaboration with Marwood come about?
AW: Becky French, who is founder and creative director of Marwood, and I used to show together a lot at London Collections and did the whole fashion calendar at the same time. a) we got on really well and b) we were both women doing menswear. We both had a really strong sensibility towards things being made in Britain and unearthing local skills. We both were taking quite an old school product and approaching it with a fresh technique. We both got on and understood each other’s aesthetic and thought processes. We thought it would be really nice to combine our thoughts and our designs. I was inspired by Marwood’s diamond motif whereas Becky took the materials that we use, in terms of copper, gold, silver and rhodium and generated jacquards using those as inspiration.
MC: I understand you started Alice Made This when you and Ed struggled to find cufflinks for your wedding. What advice can you give grooms-to-be who are looking for that perfect accessory to finish their ensemble?
AW: I would say find the accessory that you want because it makes a massive difference to an outfit, especially on a special day like that. It will be a sentimental keepsake so maybe spend a little bit more than you usually would if you find something that you really want. Pay attention to your accessories because they really do complete an outfit.