Archive for the ‘News’ Category

An Extraordinary Window into the World of Kerry Lemon

May 29, 2012

In celebration of Her Majesty the Queen’s 2012 Diamond Jubilee, we commissioned charming illustrator and artist Kerry Lemon to create a quintessentially British installation with a twist for our store windows.

We invited her in to share her inspirations and tell us how she will be celebrating the Jubilee this weekend. During the interview, her simple, direct turn of phrase and humble, quirky humour belied the exquisite intricacy of detail in her drawings, illustrating why she was the perfect partner for our royal tribute.

Kerry’s easy, open manner brimmed with all the irreverent dynamism that shines through in the fresh, bold lines of her work. Sitting down she smiled, settled into her chair and cupped her hands around a mug of tea.

Having initially drawn inspiration from The Wallace Collection, and the graphics and colours of London photography volume This Is London, we commissioned Kerry for her inimitable style and ability to capture the essence of all things British; from churches and cathedrals to seaside scenes and flowers. Her drawings of roses in particular brought an added element of fantasy to the concept.

 Using the staged photography style of high society and royal court photographer Cecil Beaton as a key reference, we devised a ‘pinhole theatre’ concept, and thought this was the perfect fit for collaboration with Kerry.

Kerry: “I think the creative brief and my own illustration style met so naturally, the colour scheme of soft pink and sepia tones was lovely. I thought the vintage-inspired blend of sepias and pinks was really pretty.”


Q: What was it about Smythson that made you want to work with us?

 “It was definitely the craftsmanship that attracted me to Smythson, the exquisite attention to detail in the design and play with texture of your products. As soon as I read the proposal, I thought ‘This is amazing, I have to do this!’  It’s such a cool project, because it enables me to use my drawings on a massive scale which is so exciting. I also unashamedly love the Royals, so the fact that I was able to draw crowns and Buckingham Palace is just dreamy!

“It was a really fun project to work on, everyone knew exactly what they wanted and it was a very clear brief – they’d done mood boards, which I love! And then I could go off and play with my ideas.”

Kerry’s illustrations for our windows

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself

“I’m an illustrator and an artist, most of my work is editorial – I draw pictures for magazines, book covers and album sleeves. I originally studied Fine Art, which involved lots of installations in large spaces. I used to find a space I liked which could be the corner of a room or a ceiling, out of which I would create something sculptural.” Kerry beamed and flung her arms wide to illustrate her point, “I’m 4”10, so I like working on a big scale!

“My background in installation art has been really helpful, because I’m not intimidated by scale and it makes me think quite differently to other illustrators. After finishing my degree, I received a Queen Elizabeth’s Scholarship, QEST, to which artists and craftspeople can apply to further their studies. I was given a grant and I then went on to study illustration at Cambridge. I then set up my illustration business, with a three year business plan like proper geek!”

Q: How did you start working on window installations?

“My first commission came about when I was approached by Electrum Gallery on South Molton Street, who asked me to hand-paint their window. I said no initially because I thought “Oh crikey, no way, that sounds too scary”, but I was eventually persuaded and I loved it. I loved the interplay with people when they came past to see how I was getting on, it opened up the process in a really refreshing way and I thought ‘I want more of this!’. I’m inspired by the notion of taking something as simple as a sketch and launching it into extraordinary new dimensions by recreating it on a huge, interactive scale.”


Q: You’ve worked for institutions such as The Times, Liberty and The National Trust. What do you think it is about your drawings that appeal to British brands like us?

“My illustrations are relatively traditional, but also a bit quirky! They’re clearly hand-drawn rather than computer-based, so there’s a real craftsmanship involved which I think resonates with a brand like Smythson. I draw everything by hand, I love drawing – I’m obsessed with it!”

Q: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

“I try and take Fridays out of the studio to go and draw. I love to draw in museums, the British Museum is amazing and the V&A is great to draw in.  In every collection, there’ll be something that really inspires me, for example I recently went to see Howard Hodgkin’s collection of Indian Paintings at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, and I cannot stop thinking about the colours. There was a really beautiful hot pink and a mint shade which I loved, and the compositions and level of endless detail was amazing, you could even borrow magnifying glasses!

“I try and go on drawing trips every year, this time I’m going to the Orkneys and Iceland, last year I went to Wales and Finland.  All I want to do is draw! I come back with sketch books full of colour. Finland was really green – it’s amazing, and the colours of the houses were a particular kind of rusty red that I would never normally use.”

Q: What would be your dream commission? If you could draw absolutely anything, what would it be?

“Drawing Buckingham Palace was one, so thank you Smythson! I love to work with architecture, nature and animals. When left to my own devices, I could draw anything.  At the minute, I’m obsessed with flowers and using a lot of gold and copper leaf and gloss paint.

“I get commissions to draw all sorts – typewriters one week, shoes the next – that’s why having my personal sketch books and scrapbooks to flick through matters so much, it means I can play with composition and themes for inspiration and ideas.”

Q: Tell us about where you work.

“My studio is at home in Virginia Water in Surrey and it’s really peaceful, there are birds, it’s green, it’s lovely.

“There are banners hanging from the ceiling and the walls are covered in quite crackers stuff! For example, today I went to do some brass rubbings in the crypt of St Martin’s- in- the- Fields that’ll go up in the studio. I drew a crazy knight in different colours – I liked the pattern of his chainmail, I’m really attracted to patterns.”

Q: And finally, how will you be celebrating the Jubilee?

“If I could celebrate in any way, I think a giant house party with girlfriends would be my choice, as I’m such a fan of dressing up! We’d make our own crowns and tiaras with lots of red, white and blue fabric and safety pins for ridiculously festive, patriotic gowns. There would also be gallons of tea, cakes, scones and pink lemonade!”

Images of Kerry Lemon: © Clare Kelly:



Susie Lau: Delving into Smythson’s Archives

April 2, 2012

As our heritage timeline launches on Facebook, we open up the Smythson archives to guest blogger Susie Lau of Style Bubble

Delving into Smythson’s archive material is a potent reminder of gentler times, when a Christmas card would contain messages such as “May Christmas bring you many a kiss and never a tear or a sigh”.  I’m not personally one to go riding waves of nostalgia, but it is lovely to know that such a time existed when you’d wish for someone that they never experience tears or sighing without a shade of irony.

I also love a time when invitations to a dinner party or a wedding were incredibly small, with this specimen here on the left measuring about 7cm x 5cm.

The Smythson story is a simple one that started in 1887 when Frank Smythson opened his first shop at 133 New Bond Street.  Initially, Smythson worked in the silversmith trade but turned his hand to luxury stationery for the well-to-do.   The well-kept scrap books reveal a fastidious character, with every Smythson bit of memorabilia preserved and neatly organised.

The more interesting thing about Smythson was that whilst they primarily made stationery, they also offered other little trinkets that ranged from the conventional to the very quirky indeed.

Jewellery seems like a natural link to Frank Smythson’s silversmith beginnings.

A combined bag, hand muff and cushion looks like a product worth reviving today.

A “Victoria” housewife’s kit is nothing out of the norm of the early 20th century.

However a sardine/sandwich server and a suffragette-themed novelty pepper dispenser are the slightly odder offerings from this book of presents.

Smythson’s handiwork can really be seen in the stationery that was created for the Indian Maharajas during the early 20th century.  I especially love the mother of pearl surfaces that can be seen in the embossed emblems.

I had to chuckle at the sheer frivolity of this card which invited people to fly to the Prince of Jodhpur’s sherry and cocktails ‘do.

I copped a feel of the first ever Smythson ‘Panama’ diary, created in 1908 which was a real innovation of Frank Smythson because of the super thin paper used as well as the flexible lambskin used for the cover.

These bijoux sized notepads continued on into the 1920s and spawned some really fascinating gender-aimed notebooks.  There’s some vaguely sound advice in both books.  For instance, a man is told to “Choose a woman with your ears not your eyes” and women are reassured that “He is a fool who thinks by force or skill, To turn the current of a woman’s will.”  It’s difficult not to be charmed by the quaint aspect of these notebooks.

At London Fashion Week autumn/winter ’12

February 23, 2012

From attending the Jonathan Saunders and Erdem a/w ’12 shows to spotting Smythson handbags and notebooks looking chic on the front row, here are our highlights from London Fashion Week autumn/winter ’12

The finale at one of London Fashion Week’s opening shows, Corrie Nielsen a/w ’12.

We spotted Liberty London Girl Sasha Wilkins looking chic in one of the key shades of s/s ’12.

Shop our Rose collection here.

At the BFC tents wearing the new Antonia and Rose collection iPad case.

The colour-blocked Cooper shoulder bag in turquoise.

Smythson invitations to the Jonathan Saunders autumn/winter ’12 show.

The amazing view from the nineteenth floor of Broadgate Tower, the Saunders show venue.

Stylist and Fashion Editor Laura Fantacci wore her Emily shoulder bag and shared her London Fashion Week wardrobe on her daily blog, Wearing It Today.

At Erdem autumn/winter ’12 held at the White Cube Gallery in Bermondsey.

Harper’s Bazaar’s Sarah Bailey at Erdem using her Runway Notes book and Nancy Tote.

And Vogue’s Emily Sheffield spotted looking stylish with the Emily East/West Zip Tote.

At London Fashion Week: Jonathan Saunders autumn/winter ’12

February 21, 2012

We attended our collaborator & BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund winner Jonathan Saunders’ autumn/winter ’12 show at East London’s Broadgate Tower on Sunday evening…

The Smythson invitations complete with tissue-lined envelopes.

The amazing view from the nineteenth floor of East London’s Broadgate Tower, the show venue.

The show finale – a ladylike, equestrian-inspired collection of patterns, texture and a palette of colour-blocked brown, reds, greens and sky blues.

And we spotted some Smythson at the after party:

Our PR Manager, Casey York wearing the Cooper in turquosie.

Jonathan Saunders’ PA, Sophia wearing a Smythson Sling.

And British Vogue’s Emily Sheffield wearing her Emily East/West Zip Tote.

Fashion Week Windows…

February 16, 2012

London Fashion Week begins tomorrow and we’ve installed our latest windows to celebrate, featuring every editor’s essential, our Runway Notes book alongside spring/summer ’12 Cooper and Emily handbags.

Our Visual Merchandiser, Marco,  shares the inspiration behind the display:

The theme of our new windows is “timeless elegance with a modern twist” expressed through the classic architectural structure of columns painted matt white to give a modern, artistic feel. Certain columns are tilted, bringing a kinetic surrealism to the display.

Light plays a very important role in this scheme, diffusing a soft and delicate mood. Spot lights are aimed on to the product in order to give a theatrical feel to the ensemble, especially at night-time.

Susie’s Chinese New Year

January 23, 2012

Our guest blogger, Susie Lau, tells us how she celebrates the holiday and shares a special family recipe for a traditional sweet treat…

When people ask how I celebrate Chinese New Year, the unfortunate answer is that I’m now normally working as Chinese New Year falls during New York Fashion Week.  Hurrah for the Year of the Dragon then as Chinese New Year has fallen early.

We kick off Chinese New Year Eve this Sunday on the 22nd and then Chinese New Year begins on Monday followed by fifteen days of festivities.  In other words, that’s two solid days of eating.  I’ll be stuffing my face with my mother’s cookies and cakes that she makes especially for this time of year.  In particular, the peanut puff or “little horns” as we call them in Cantonese is a favourite of mine because they’re portable and I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t find them addictive and moreish.

They sort of look like tiny Cornish pasties and the pastry has a crunch/biscuit texture to them as they’re made by deep fat frying.  You bite in to find a sweet peanut filling that can vary from recipe to recipe.  

I’ve probed my mum for her particular recipe and here it is.  She likes to make them quite small and dainty so they’re bitesize but you’ll see them in all sizes.  The tricky bit is the pinching and locking of the puffs but it’s always funny to see how they turn out depending on how nimble your fingers are. 

To make 48 little puffs.

Sieved Plain flour 225g
1 egg
Water 60ml
Peanut oil 2 tablespoons (try to buy it at a Chinese supermarket – my mother says it’s more fragrant)

Sesame seeds 60g
Unsalted peanuts 60g
Finely desiccated coconut 60g
Granulated sugar 120g

Vegetable oil for frying

Make the filling first so you have it ready to work with.  Toast the sesame seeds and peanut in a pan over a low heat until they are golden.
Break up the peanuts in a food processor until they resemble fine breadcrumbs.

Mix the sesame seeds, peanut crumbs, coconut and the sugar together so that you have a dry filling. 

Now make the dough.  Mix all the dough ingredients together, kneading it until it forms a smooth dough.  Add flour if it’s too sticky or a little oil if it feels a bit dry. 

Divide the dough into four. 

Roll each lump of dough out into a rectangular shape that is about 20cm wide and then roll from the longer edge like you would a cigarette so that you get a tube.  This forms the layers in the pastry that puffs up when fried later. 

Cut up the tube into twelve small pieces. 

Do the same with the other three piles of dough so that you end up with 48 little chunks of dough.

Roll each piece out into a circle shape, about 7cm wide and 1-2mm thick.  

Spoon a small teaspoon of filling into the middle and then fold over into a semi-circle shape and press the edges together.

Now lock the edges.  This can be a little tricky.  Starting from one end, pinch the edge and fold over and do this pinch and fold action until you get a sort of twisted braid going around the edge of the peanut puff.

Repeat for the other 47 puffs.  It’s a real family exercise to fold and lock these little puffs and I used to help my mum do this even if mine always turned out a little misshapen. 

If you use deep fat fryer, heat to 170 degrees and if you’re using a wok or a pan, heat the vegetable oil to medium heat.  Make sure the oil isn’t too hot as you don’t want to burn the puffs. 

Then drop in the puffs, ten to fifteen at a time, depending on the size of your wok or the deep fat fryer.  Use a metal fish slice to stir the puffs into the oil to ensure an even colour.

Once they are golden brown, lift out and drain on kitchen paper. 

It’s best to cool them for an hour before storing them in an airtight container (we use old biscuit tins at home) lined with greaseproof paper. 

They should last a few months in the tin but you’ll probably eat them within two weeks!

Thank You on Paper

December 19, 2011

From her consultation in our New Bond Street salon to witnessing the traditional printing process at our Wiltshire factory, Susie Lau follows the progress of her very own set of bespoke stationery

Fashion does perversely honour tradition in unexpected ways.  One of the quirks of the industry is the abundance of thank you notes that go back and forth. In just one week, I’ve received three notes in the post and incidentally, they’ve all been printed on Smythson stationery.   I put this down to the industry’s love of print and the tactability of paper, which Smythson have a rich history in providing.   There’s something truly lovely about receiving a handwritten note in the post that is infinitely more intimate than a quickfire email.

That said, it’s taken me up till now to gather up the resources to make up my own correspondence cards.  It could be my insanely illegible handwriting that has stopped me from getting my first proper set of stationery done.  I’ll have to take the chance that people out there will somehow be able to decipher my scribble.  Plus I now have a legitimate excuse to use the insanely cute coloured pens I’ve picked up from my travels to Tokyo to write on these cards.

Smythson’s stationery salon is a quiet haven of rustling cards, tissue paper inlays and lovely die-stamped letters and a bulging catalogue of motifs for you to choose to head up your cards or stamp your envelopes with.  I settled for a grey border, grey tissue lining and pink text and motif combination, clashing the sensible and the frivolous.

I did resist the urge to go for a motif that was ultra literal and slightly cheesy….

Instead, I chose a camera motif, which wasn’t actually in the catalogue but was a never-before used motif from the archive.

I was then lucky enough to visit Smythson’s factory in Wiltshire where decades-old machinery have been printing their stationery for years with the traditional methods of copperplate printing.

A negative image is put through a copper plate etching machine to achieve the final plate that will be used in the printing press, a process that has thankfully been speeded up but would have taken hours to achieve just one plate, when done by hand in the past…

The plate is then loaded into the printing press and once the rollers are inked up, each piece of paper or envelope is individually placed there and stamped with the motif or text.  It’s an eye bogglingly manual process, one that requires a knack of timing and an in-depth knowledge for how the machines are run.

We then moved on to the section where borders and gilding of card edges are done.  It’s another highly skilled manual process that isn’t governed by science but by simply knowing by eye, how the paint or gold/silver leaf will hit the card.

The application of this gold leaf on to the edge of these cards was pretty stunning to watch….

Then I watched my set of cards get their grey borders and was amazed at how evenly spaced the cards were in order to be sprayed with precision…

Even the envelopes were made up by hand with the all over tissue lining being something of a Smythson signature.  I had a go at gluing together a few of them but I don’t think I got the full hang of it.  Hopefully nobody actually receives my duff envelope in their stationery set…

We then went into the finishing room to see some Christmas cards being packaged up ready to go out, which reminds me that I’m woefully late with my own Christmas stationery.

Smythson keeps all their plates archived and never throws them away.  It was pretty special going through the ‘Celebrities’ drawer stuffed full of luminaries’ names…

My Smythson Stationery journey ends with these familiar blue boxes.  I’ve not yet sent one out yet but after my birthday and the Christmas period of December, I’m sure these will be winging their way, complete with my childish scrawl, to some hopefully grateful recipients.

Show us your Smythson – Conde Nast New Markets

November 14, 2011

From Vogue India to Tatler Russia, our friends at Conde Nast New Markets show us their Smythson diaries and share what they love about them…

Laura Burkitt, PA to Anna Harvey, Editorial Director of Conde Nast International and her fuchsia Soho Diary

“A beautiful diary, with everything I could possibly need to know inside, from the best theatres and restaurant lists to visit, to New York subway maps and American / European clothing sizes which helps Anna as much as me!
Also, its nice to have a pop of fuchsia on my desk.”

Nes Denizer, London Correspondent for Vogue Turkey and her Jonathan Saunders Panama Diary

“It’s JS, it’s chic and it’s not the everyday diary too! Plus I live by the info pages!!”

Matthew Reinhold, Fashion Assistant for Vogue Russia and his silk-bound address book

“I think this book might be the most important tool in my arsenal… Every PR, photographer, assistant, intern freelancer… And also, its elegant AND black and gold!!”

Carla Bradley, Fashion Coordinator for Tatler Russia and her Peridot Soho diary and iPhone case.

“As I travel so much with my job, my Smythson diary is my lifesaver! I particularly love the to-do list on the side of the weekly diary – It helps me organize all the upcoming shoots and allows me to keep on top of important press day appointments.”

Lorna McGee, Fashion Stylist for Vogue India and her orange Panama diary

“I love my tiny note books for credits on set!! And the orange makes it perfect to find at the bottom of my bag!!’

Riana Pervez, Fashion Editor for Glamour Russia

In Conversation with Susie Lau…

October 27, 2011

What is the secret of a good blog?

Finding an original voice and saying something fresh. It’s such a crowded sphere and it’s really hard to make yourself heard. I’m lucky that I started quite early.

You began your blog in 2006. Why?

There’s no exciting answer. Purely out of boredom. At the time I was doing a pretty dull job that wasn’t very stimulating. I just wanted something on the side to keep up my interest in fashion. For me it was always a hobby. I did the blog for a long time with a full-time job. Susie Bubble was a nickname I’ve had since primary school that just stuck.

You were among the first wave of fashion bloggers to post photographs of yourself online. Why?

Purely to illustrate what I was talking about. So much of what I was writing was about my personal experience of fashion. I’ve always had a great interest in expressing your personality through what you wear: putting your money where your mouth is, wearing what you advocate. At this point I was using a point and shoot, photographing myself in the mirror, and then I started using a tripod. Finally I got a boyfriend, who is fortunately an obliging photographer. There is an in-joke: that all fashion bloggers need a boyfriend to facilitate their success.

What blogs do you read every day without fail?

I read The Coveted and Park & Cube. I have 400 or so. I read all the news sites first: On the Runway, T Magazine and Vogue, then personal blogs like Jak & Jill and Kingdom of Style. I like looking at new ones too.

Your name is synonymous with new media. Do you ever write with a pen and paper?

My earliest memories are of writing on paper. Now it’s something that I reserve for a handful of people. I’m not on Facebook so I write to people in Hong Kong, where my parents are from, using stationery.

People in the fashion industry  seem to have a particular affinity with stationery. Why?

I think it’s inherent in people who consume fashion media—we have an attraction to the tactile nature of printed stuff and stationery is of course one of them. You can have so many variations and the colours of the paper or the font can really say something.

Do you have a favourite Smythson product?

I like the camera cases. I used to go in the store and eye them up, and now I’ve finally got one in pink. I like anything that resembles a secret box: there could be anything inside.

Images courtesy of Nigel Shafran

In Conversation with Jonathan Saunders

October 12, 2011

What was the appeal of collaborating with Smythson?

It made sense straight away. I’ve always really admired the timeless quality of Smythson products—it’s just desirable isn’t it?

Their use of colour is something I feel affinity with in terms of my own label. And when I went in to the office we had a great creative meeting. They’re a brilliant team and everyone is really passionate.

How did the creative process differ from designing your own line?

Actually, what I do lends itself very well to this project, because it’s about colour and choice of materials. When I was designing the Smythson products I was in the mindset of my Autumn/Winter collection, so they are in keeping with those inspirations: an art deco colour palette, enamel, gold plate and polished brass for the clasps. The prints I drew for inside the covers reference an old school elaborate William Morris style.

What’s your preference:pen and paper or iPad™?

Pen and paper. I’m the person who thought that emails would never catch on—but I am trying to learn.

Shop the collection here

Images courtesy of Nigel Shafran