As well as admiring the world of interior design, we are naturally fascinated by all forms including beautiful functional items. Having met Adam Atkinson at Design Junction this year we wanted to get to know his brand Cherchi better – they have great designs, great ethics and real roots and are made in Britain. Adam started by designing a range of beautiful men’s tweed and leather work bags, wallets, luggage and now with the help of Marwood is designing stunning accessories with wool tweed. Featured recently in GQ, Time Out and the Telegraph, we see Cherchbi making a big impact in men’s styling, which is laking in authentic, sustainable, beautiful yet modest design.
Tell us a little about Cherchbi, and your background leading to this fantastic brand?
I established Cherchbi in 2007. At that point I’d worked in the bag industry for almost 15 years in the employ of some very large sports brands. All good experience, but I had begun to tire of the helping to make product in an unsustainable way; ever faster, ever cheaper and in ever increasing quantities. All the while the inherent value of said product seemed to deteriorate.
I became less comfortable with my position in this industry and the environmental impact of this type of manufacturing and sales model. I’d been considering setting up my own business for quite a few years but didn’t have a strong enough idea. In late 2006 I left my job and left London to return to my birth-town of Kendal in Cumbria to take some weeks off and consider my position.
I’d only been back there a couple of weeks when I read a story in the local paper about a farmer who burned his clip of Herdwick fleece in protest at the obscenely low price the wool commanded. A small bulb switched on and I began to consider ways to use this wool. The end result, three years later, was Herdwyck No. 10 tweed. A labour of love in it’s creation but well worth the effort, although at the time it often seemed like a lost cause. I named the final cloth Herdwyck No. 10 as nine trials (or failures if you prefer) preceded the creation of a material of strength and substance we could make bags from.
Black Sail rucksack, Union
As interior designers, materials are fascinating to us – tell us about the materials used by yourselves? Tell us about the no. 10 tweed?
The materials we use are integral to our designs. We work very closely with the material producers to achieve quality and specification suitable to our designs. In some cases this means an entirely new specification. The brand was founded on an idea to use the wool of the oldest British sheep breed and so from the start it made perfect sense to source as many of our other materials as possible from British suppliers. From Cumbrian fleece to Donegal spinner, Pembrokeshire weaver and finishing in the Scottish borders to the final waterproof bonding process in Lancashire Herdwyck No.10 is certainly a product of the British Isles.
Indeed, we have tailored the design language of the brand to suit the homegrown materials available to us here in the British Isles. The design handwriting and choice of local materials inform one another throughout the design process, the end result is a harmonious blend of the two.
Adam works very closely throughout the process of design and manufacturing
The leather you use looks stunning.
We source the majority of our leather from Clayton’s tannery in Derbyshire. They are specialist in veg tanning having done so on the same site in Chesterfield for over 170 years. Their heritage is important to us, as is their depth of experience of course. According to their website Claytons are ‘specialists in heavy leathers’, machine belts for example. This suits our ethos and our products entirely. Right now we are using two of their leathers; a saddle, which trims most of our bags, and beautifully tactile oiled leather that is a real showstopper.
Barrett Flap brief, Oiled leather
What is the inspiration behind the range?
Our design handwriting was developed over a number of years. It draws on some disparate strands of Britain’s design and manufacturing heritage although pulled together coherently we hope. Equestrian leather goods and saddlery are an obvious inspiration. The Gothic Revival and Arts & Crafts are there as is modernism; the simplification and paring down of an idea to its essence.
I do reference our growing bag archive when designing, however all Cherchbi designs are entirely new. We don’t go in for reworking’s of classic bag designs, although this seems to be popular. I prefer our collection to have a strong, continuous DNA strand through every piece. This is very important to the design of the collection as a whole and to the brand itself.
This may sound odd, but the two factors offering most inspiration are the materials themselves, as I mentioned earlier, and the end function.
Are trends important to you? Would you say you follow trends or aim to set them?
I struggle with the term trend. It suggests transience and the instability of the fashion industry. However I must acknowledge Cherhcbi is part of a broad movement of brands, organisations and consumers who are interested in a return to quality and service and are appreciative of heritage in many forms. We don’t follow specific trend information as part of our design process however we do observe broader changes. Our approach is macro as opposed to micro you could say.
The attention to detail in Cherchbi’s bags is exceptional
Do you have a favourite designer?
I think SEH Kelly are making the best menswear in the country at this point in time. I talked about harmony in fabrication and design in our bags, they do this in clothing. Becky French’s brand Marwood are making the best accessories. Her approach to seasonal collection creations is beautifully considered.
I understand you have travelled a fair bit – worldwide do you have a favourite place?
Our most recent trip was in a campervan trip around the Westfjords of Iceland. This area is isolated and incredibly beautiful. Our borough in London has the same population as the entire nation.
And a favourite spot in the UK?
The Western Isles of Scotland. Culture, natural beauty, history, cuisine, climate and people; the islands are unique and utterly breathtaking. Kirsty and I spent our honeymoon on Skye; the best fortnight of my life.
What can we expect next from Cherchbi?
We’ve been working on a Small Leather Goods collection for some time. This is launching in a low key way soon but will grow over the next year. We’ll introduce some exciting new leathers in this collection too. A women’s collection is on the drawing board too, perhaps next year. Again we’ve planned this for some time and are looking forward to seeing where this takes the brand.
Thank you Adam!
View Cherchbi’s collection here