Model plane crafted from Panama product at our New Bond Street boutique
From the earliest vintage travel posters to today’s digital generation, one thing can be said for certain – the desire to travel has remained ubiquitous. One of the earliest known literary records of travel dates as far back as 1336, when poet and scholar Francesco Petrarch ascended Mount Ventoux in Southern France, reciting the extraordinary views seen from its incredible height. It seemed that without the ease of air travel there was a relentless desire to discover.
As travel advanced through the 1800s, it became something of a fashion to explore the unexplored. Once a necessity for colonialism, exploration and war, voyages slowly evolved into a luxury experience in which the journey was just as important as the destination.
Vintage travel posters
To celebrate our longstanding heritage of luxury travel, Smythson recently collaborated with artist Billie Achilleos to create a staggerwing model plane made entirely from the iconic Panama collection. An innovator of his time, Frank Smythson made history in 1908 when he created the world’s first practical, portable diary. Translated today into a selection of lightweight travel handbags and accessories, the Panama collection merges the past and present through its pioneering design and signature cross-grain leather.
A self described ‘maker of things’, we joined young British artist and designer Billie Achilleos at her studio.
SMYTHSON: Where did the inspiration come from for the plane?
BA: The inspiration came from bespoke Smythson stationery created for the Maharajas of India, dating back to the 1930s. I also visited Popham Airfield and saw a staggerwing plane there, which gave me the idea for the initial shape.
SMYTHSON: Did the idea of a plane materialise immediately or were there other concepts involved in the process?
BA: When I think of travel, I think of traditional shapes such as planes, boats and cars, but this is the first time I’ve actually worked with a plane. It’s also the first time I’ve worked with something motorized so it’s new and exciting.
SMYTHSON: What inspired you to work in the creative field?
BA: I’ve grown up surrounded by art; coming from a very artistic family certainly influenced me. I think growing up in a generation that had very imaginative movies and programmes like The Trapdoor and movies by Terry Gilliam made art very significant as a medium.
SMYTHSON: What other work do you enjoy creating?
BA: I’ve previously worked on creating animals, as well as working in opera and film, creating props and sets. Puppetry is my main field of training though. I started out at Wimbledon school of art and later was trained with Blind Summit.
SMYTHSON: Why did you choose to work with a brand such as Smythson?
BA: I love working with new products, and its really nice to collaborate with a brand where you get that direct contact as you watch the project evolve.
The New Bond Street Boutique will play home to the plane as well as a collection of travel pieces from Smythson’s archives until late August, from the iconic ‘Bon Voyage’ cards to the grooming kit from 1906 – a boon for all travellers.
The plane propellor made from Panama diaries and notebooks
Billie builds the wing from Panama purses and pencil cases Purses and passport covers build the plane’s tail
Tools of the trade