JOHN SMEDLEY SHOWCASE BRITISH CRAFT ON A GLOBAL SCALE
In association with The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust and Rémy Martin
2019 marks the 235th year of John Smedley, the oldest and most iconic still manufacturing knitwear factory in the entire world.
In celebration of this momentous birthday, we are curating a year long series of events and product launches, each dedicated to showcasing John Smedley’s passion for British craft in all its forms, uniting craftspeople from across the entire British Isles in a global celebration of quality, fibre and the strive for perfection and constant perseverance that unites artisans the world over.
Beginning at London Craft Week on May 1st, we will introduce our partnership with The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST)– a charity which supports the training and education of British craftspeople. Throughout this partnership we will work together to bring the stories of 10 craftspeople -each a QEST scholar, to the masses via a series of exhibitions within St James’s Market Pavilion across 2019-20, and a continuous programme of workshops and retail activations where each month John Smedley’s retail stores within London and Japan will be transformed to tell the story of each craftsperson, articulating their personal journey and showcasing their products which will be available to purchase exclusively at John Smedley stores.
John Smedley, with support of Cognac House Rémy Martin will also offer consumer workshops to engage the public with each artisan. From luthiers to watchmakers and stonemasons in between consumers will be able to engage with all forms of British craftsmanship.
The programme will launch at London Craft Week on Wednesday the 1st of May with the reveal of John Smedley’s 235 exhibition, and will continue with a talk hosted by Managing Director and 8th generation Smedley family member Ian Maclean on Friday May 10th detailing ‘Craft & Form’ featuring stonemason Zoe Wilson and ceramic artist Alice Walton whose attention to quality raw materials and construction mirrors that of John Smedley’s own to knitwear. Following this the programme moves on to showcase luthier Tom Sands whose talk and performance ‘Sound & Vision’ on Saturday 11th May will detail how his own attention to the minutest of details can affect the sound of the end result, this will be further demonstrated via a live guitar performance on one of Tom’s own instruments.
The programme will launch at London Craft Week on Wednesday the 1st of May with the reveal of John Smedley’s 235 exhibition, and will continue with a talk hosted by Managing Director and 8th generation Smedley family member Ian Maclean on Friday May 10th detailing ‘Craft & Form’ featuring stonemason Zoe Wilson and ceramic artist Alice Walton whose attention to quality raw materials and construction mirrors that of John Smedley’s own knitwear. Following this the programme moves on to showcase luthier Tom Sands whose talk and performance ‘Sound & Vision’ on Saturday 11th May will detail how his own attention to the minutest of details can affect the sound of the end result, this will be further demonstrated via a live guitar performance on one of Tom’s own instruments.
Following London Craft Week, the events continue with a detailed programme across the 2019-20 year, each event syndicated online to engage the global viewer and including the newly launched Bangkok Craft Week and several further retail activations within Milan and Japan.
“The ethos and work of QEST is very important to me. QEST supports those who are passionate about making beautiful objects and learning how to make them to the best of their ability. We share that ambition throughout John Smedley, and we hope that in supporting QEST we can see small craft businesses flourish and grow – just as we have over the last 235 years.”
Following this exploration of British craftsmanship, John Smedley looks to its own rich history of Britishness and the world’s finest noble fibres, and in October we are launching our official 235 collection as part of Wool Week 2019. Not only crafted in Britain, but entirely farmed, spun, knitted and hand finished within the UK and featuring some of the most unusual fibres.
For the first time in its history John Smedley will present a three-fibre collection across menswear and womenswear featuring British Guanaco, British Alpaca and British Sheep’s wool. Whilst British Sheep and Alpaca may be well known fibres, John Smedley’s collection will mark the first ever British Guanaco garments in the entire world, never-before spun for a brand or company this fibre, which is second only in the world to Vicuna in fineness is extremely rare and will be offered in a single unisex style of which only 25 in the entire world will be made available exclusively at John Smedley’s London stores.
The collection offers not only the finest noble fibres, but a completely traceable, ethical and sustainable product that can be traced back to the individual animals, such is John Smedley’s dedication to the fibre that they have protected their own herd of British Alpaca and Guanaco animals – each named after important Smedley family members.
“We are extremely proud to be able to launch the 235 collection, the quality and traceability of these garments is truly unrivalled, and we are delighted to be able to share not only our history but that of the individual garments with our consumers, who will be able to follow the garment’s journey from herd to store. This is not just a campaign or collection for us, it is a global representation of our brand truths of quality, the finest, noble fibres and the most honest and passionate approach to our craft.”
Uniting the two elements of the campaign, John Smedley’s 235 collection will be exclusively modelled by the QEST scholars and shot on location across the British Isles. Furthering this John Smedley will tell the story of each craftsperson involved in the production of this special collection, from the farmers, to the fibre spinners to each of the 50 skilled craftspeople who knit and finish the garments within our factory in Derbyshire. These stories will be showcased at our yearlong exhibition in St James’s Market Pavilion and across our retail and web platforms.
In addition to the above campaigns, in a further gesture to enhance British craftsmanship, John Smedley will work with each QEST scholar to create a customised garment utilising the blend of the world’s finest knitwear and their individual craft. These 10 pieces will then be auctioned at the QEST annual fundraising event in 2020, with all funds raised being dedicated to furthering a new QEST scholar for future years.
Capping off the campaign will be a special Christmas collection entitled ‘Legacy’ born from our archives and the Smedley family’s shared memories of quality and their involvement with John Smedley’s iconic history, this collection will be modelled by three generations of the John Smedley family and will launch in November 2019.