As another edition of London Craft Week came to a close yesterday, I was absolutely thrilled to have taken part in a Dunhill workshop over the weekend. Open to the public – by email, with the fastest email first – over three days, the Dunhill Made-to-Measure workshop in north London swung open their doors for both a general tour and talk, as well as the chance to make your own leather cardholder and key ring. As the London Craft Week guide was published about a month ago, I was keen to see what sort of event the British menswear brand was hosting and eagerly booked myself and my finance on to the early Saturday morning slot. Last year, the brand hosted a general craft showcase at their Mayfair flagship, Bourdon House however this proved to be a far more personal, closer look at the brand.
Arriving in Zone 3, a little way between Seven Sisters and Walthamstow, the Dunhill unit is a small, unassuming industrial building in a residential area that can only be found with specific instructions – coincidence or purposefully, it is by no means a landmark. It was only the small logo and London Craft Week sign that gave things a way.
Joined by eight others, we were introduced to Thomaz, one of only five who work on special projects for the brand and who are regular faces of Dunhill – I had met Thomaz once before at a press day where he fascinated guests with leather and skin production techniques. From our brief chat, we individually cut our leather to make a cardholder using a machine press, where we then were shown how to skim the pieces to make them thinner and more workable using a lathe, and then onto embossing the piece with the iconic ‘Alfred Dunhill’ logo. From here, we dyed the edges to seamlessly blend the raw hide in with the skin and then carefully smoothed them using traditional sand paper.
Whilst all of this seemed almost too easy, the next steps were very tricky to master. Using a heated tool, the next process was to mark a detail linage on the cardholder to both give detail and close the edges as not to fray with use. Being left handed, this was far from simple! However, Thomaz was on hand to ‘help out’. From here, things got a bit easier as we glued the pieces together in what seemed a half-way point of finishing the completed piece – although by this time we were pushing the two-hour mark out of a three hour session. After drying, we then stamped where the stitches would be, followed by the penultimate and by far the longest process as a double-stich is fraught with the risk of sewing into the thread, which happened quite a bit for myself and others. However, this fascinating technique is used across leather crafting to ensure the piece lasts a lifetime. Once this ordeal was complete, it came onto the very easy and rewarding final process of embossing my initial onto the finished cardholder.
Whilst I ran into a few difficulties, this was an excellent and insightful workshop that provided a fully hands-on approach to learning about the craftsmanship at Dunhill – one of my all time favourite brands. As time was short, both Thomaz and my fiancé completed my key ring however this collaborative approach has had the piece even more desirable as a keepsake from London Craft Week 2019.