Travel Through The Ages

April 17, 2014

There’s something to be said about travelling. Unlike in the past, in less than a few hours airborne it’s possible to discover new destinations, experience and absorb unique cultures and be re-inspired by an infusion of antiquity. In the words of the late British writer Aldous Huxley, “travelling is a besetting vice,” allowing us to escape the norm in hope of exploring pastures new, irrevocably shaping our outlook on what it means to ‘discover’.

Woman with suitcases smythson travel

When air travel emerged post World War II, a surplus of aeronautical technology and ex-military pilots allowed holiday-goers to discover new locations in record time. Rail travel was revolutionised, and it became easier for people to discover and explore – cue the enticing era that catalysed The Golden Age. During this time Frank Smythson opened his second shop on Bond Street, and as the business increased, larger premises were needed as travellers flocked to Smythson to purchase their luxury travel accessories. A purveyor of leather travel goods since the 1900s, the 1950s onwards saw Smythson receive increasing interest and custom from abroad as travel became more popular.

Smythson at No.54 Bond Street, 1932-1988 Smythson at No.54 Bond Street, 1932-1988

What once was imagined was now a reality for many explorers, and travel rapidly became fashionable. On numerous flights from London to Europe during this epoch, postcards were distributed on board with photos of the aircraft displayed on the front. With no in-flight entertainment, during their flight passengers would write on these cards to loved ones back home, describing the plane journey towards their destination. Postcards in iconic cities also became increasingly popular, and many collected a selection to take back on their return.

Vintage postcards from Paris and Venice Vintage postcards from Paris and Venice

Smythson 'Bon Voyage' cards, 1908, 1898
Smythson ‘Bon Voyage’ cards, 1908, 1898

As travel became more prevalent, the demand for luxury accessories grew rapidly. Embracing the expanding market, Smythson continued to produce goods for the luxe traveller. Still adhering to the meticulous attention to detail that Frank Smythson himself practised, Smythson’s dedication to creating luxury travel goods remains the same today, with an endless list of leather accessories, diaries and stationery for the travelling connoisseur. Why fix something that isn’t broken? And as Oscar Wilde once said; “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.”

 

Smythson spring summer travel collections
Smythson spring summer travel collections

The Panama Legacy Continues: Smythson X Quentin Jones

March 7, 2014

The Panama Legacy continues as we announce the second chapter of our collaboration with young British artist Quentin Jones.

Inspired by the past, made for the future, Frank Smythson’s original Panama diary design from 1908 stirred an entire collection, focusing on the remarkable pliability of its iconic cross-grain leather which allows each item to be rolled, shaped and folded without becoming misshapen.

L-R: Original Panama diary from 1908, 2014 Panama stationery

Six months later, in a covetable selection of leather handbags and accessories, an additional Panama capsule collection is born, wearing Quentin’s illustrations in graphic style and embodying her surrealist, artistic flair. Launching as a worldwide exclusive at Colette Paris on Monday 10th March, the collection and a selection of Quentin’s portraits of Panama advocates from past and present will travel across the globe, bringing the legacy to life in this bold collaboration.

Smythson X Quentin Jones capsule collection

Behind the scenes in her New York studio, Quentin opened her doors to let us delve into the design process. Awash with graphic sketches and illustrations, each wall is overwhelmingly bold, seizing attention with a feast of black and white animated sketches and a symphony of shapes and icons.

Quentin’s illustrations

The ‘Camden cat’ print is arguably eye-catching; its quirkily winking face reminiscent of the playful, surreal drawings Quentin is known so well for. Amid detailed prints and depictions, each picture comes to life against its blank canvas, creating a powerful juxtaposition of light and depth.

Behind the scenes in Quentin’s studio

Once Quentin’s artworks are finalised, each illustration is sent to print on the curated selection of classic Panama handbags and accessories. Unique in design, the Panama’s cross-grain leather surface absorbs and reacts to dyes in unpredictable ways, and securing the right technique is both scrupulous and painstaking. The technique used is highly innovative; digitally printed with use of specialised machinery, allowing a duplicate match to the original artwork across all materials of the bags and accessories. The result is a wearable piece of art; an investment both covetable and collectable. Vividly bold, each piece exudes our history with a contemporary twist – a combination of Smythson’s enduring, timeless designs with Quentin’s distinguishable modern muse.


Art Of The 1887: Architecture of a Handbag

February 14, 2014

The beauty that lies behind the craft of architecture is its scrupulous process. From initial sketches born from illogical ideas to the painstaking development; each step is completed in search of the dramatic, flawless finish. Selecting the precise materials, creating the exceptional framework and understanding each meticulous detail requires a balance near impossible to achieve, but somehow, eventually, a heart-stopping moment is attained as each element falls beautifully into place.

The 1887 retains the same nature; an incessant pursuit of perfection. Its sculpted body takes over 365 days to perfect, is composed of 97 pieces and takes an astonishing 96 hours to create – a painstaking process shared by the designer and artisan.

Bold Silhouettes: 1887 in Black

PERFECTING THE CURVE

The art of the curve is notoriously difficult to achieve. Beautifully twisted and sculpted, this iconic sculpture in Barcelona was created by Frank Gehry in 1992. Famous for his apposition of lines and curves, Gehry’s ‘Peix d’Or’ consists of intertwining stainless steel strips, twisted to precise angles.

Work: Frank Gehry

A scrupulous game of curved shapes and lines, the creation of the 1887’s winged skeleton and its seaming are both milestones in its creation. Soft and sensuous to the touch, a selection of lamb and calf nappa are shaped, sealed and picketed on a distinctive mould, creating a sculpted structure that remains tactile and resistant – the base to its softer disguise.

Striking Contours: The 1887‘s Winged Construction

LIGHT AND DEPTH

In 2011 The Louvre commissioned Cour Visconti; The Department of Islamic Arts designed by Italian architects Mario Bellini and Rudy Ricciotti. The stunning structure appears to float elegantly in its surreal, ethereal form; a sheet of liquid gold that captures the intensity of sunlight against its historic backdrop. Thousands of materials contributed to its sculpted body, with a selection of franc teel space frames and an intricate roofing structure consisting of a lattice of steel tubes and glass.

Work: Mario Bellini & Rudy Ricciotti

Each piece of the 1887’s highly complex construction must be skived, reduced, glued and trimmed with close attention to the correct thickness to guarantee proper assembly. A symphony of shapes falls upon one another to create a beautiful convex effect, strikingly unique against its linear structure. This beautiful juxtaposition is seen in Cour Visconti – feminine curves created by strong lines; a bold apposition of light and depth.

Light Meets Shadow: The 1887 in Cobalt

Enigmatic in structure and elegantly tailored , the 1887 explores a sculpted world of unequivocal beauty in its design, and, much like an architectural journey, its precision is captured in its painstaking process; from research and development to the final, anticipated showcase.

Shop 1887

Watch the Art of the 1887 video

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Head Over Heels With The Dorchester

February 10, 2014

Valentine’s has been synonymous with Smythson from the outset; an enduring craft dedicated to the creation of beautiful handmade leather gifts and accessories to travel the distance, wherever you choose to venture.

Smythson has always been at the forefront of travel goods since the opening of its doors in 1887; the first of its products such as the historic writing attaché allowing adventures and memories to be collected on route all over the world. Owing to its surprising versatility, each moment could be easily captured and sent to loved ones back home, or simply treasured to nostalgically uncover in the future. The ultimate purveyor of luxury travel stationery, Smythson still adheres to this philosophy, ensuring no detail worthy of note is ever left behind.

L-R: Grosvenor Folding Jotter, Original Catalogue featuring Writing Attache, Panama Tote

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, Smythson partners with luxury hotels The Dorchester, 45 Park Lane and Coworth Park to endure our love of travel. We delved deep into our archives to create an iconic keepsake inspired by the past, made for the present; perfectly pocket-sized to slip away in light of a spontaneous adventure, capturing anything you discover you’re head over heels for.

Head Over Heels Flip Book and Original Chauffeur Character

Beautifully bound in red, cross-grain leather, the “Head Over Heels” Panama flip book takes inspiration from deep within Smythson’s archives, depicting the ‘Chauffeur’ – an iconic silver pepper pot featured in Smythson’s catalogues from 1906. Beautifully brought to life as you flick through the pages, the Chauffeur topples head over heels, leaving a trail of red love hearts in his wake. The limited edition flip book is the perfect place to keep your most loved notes; be it captivating views, outstanding food, favoured quotes, stirring literature or memorable travel moments. So take the long route, collect moments; it’s the journey that counts, not the destination.

Discover more

Shop Valentine’s Gifts

Valentine’s at Smythson: A Labour of Love

February 6, 2014

“When I think of what life is, and how seldom love is answered by love; it is one of the moments for which the world was made.” – E.M Forster

Valentine’s Day has a copious history; from turn of the century romantic Roman love letters to a contemporary assortment of trinkets; yet today the romantic memorandum intended is often so easily lost in an eleventh-hour corner shop card or last-minute wilting bouquet.

The renaissance of Smythson’s illustrious history holds true sentimental value, encompassed in an arrangement of quirky stationery, leather gifts and accessories. Dipping into our archives to celebrate the art of the heart-felt gift, for over 125 years Smythson has been crafting the perfect Valentine’s presents, never failing to create the perfect moment of anticipation, the second the iconic Nile blue box is revealed.

Smythson Valentine’s Gifts

The history of Valentine’s is embraced in a collection of tales of famous couples though the ages – from the memorable anecdotes of Romeo and Juliet to the Greek mythical legends of Hero and Leander. A testament to an illustrious past of romance, Smythson’s die stamped Valentine’s card has been created as an accolade to the greatest love stories in history – all that’s left to do is fill in the blanks.

Smythson Famous Lovers Card

“Straight from my heart a loving thought” – Smythson Valentine’s Card, 1912

Delving deeper into the archives, Smythson takes inspiration from two whimsical characters dating back to the early 1900s, with the launch of two exclusive, limited edition Panama flip books. Brought to life as one flicks through the gilded featherweight pages, each notebook portrays a romantic scene hidden within its affectionately named cross-grain leather cover.

Originally introduced on Smythson stationery printed in 1900, the Catch Me if You Can flipbook features Smythson’s spirited imps, clambering on one another’s shoulders as they reach to catch a falling heart. In 1906, the ‘Chauffer’ debuted in Smythson’s catalogues – a charming silver pepper pot that made the perfect quirky gift for the home that had everything. Today he is recreated, falling ‘head over heels’ as he tumbles down each page, leaving a trail of red hearts in his wake.

Catch Me If You Can Flip Book

Original Smythson Characters

Enduring this extensive legacy, Smythson continues to craft perfect moments and memories for Valentine’s; a timeless practise of impeccable craftsmanship resounded in a modern world, ensuring no detail is ever left behind. For the perfect personal touch, Smythson gifts can be personalised with a loved one’s initials or personal message – a notion of love to last a lifetime.

Shop Valentine’s Gifts For Her

Shop Valentine’s Gifts For Him

Visit the Smythson Valentine’s archive exhibition in our New Bond Street store to discover the extraordinary pieces that inspired our 2014 collection.

 

 

LA DOLCE VITA: A VERY BRITISH AFFAIR

January 31, 2014

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
– Augustine of Hippo

Italy Coast

Smythson slips into the spirit of Summer with a taste of the Mediterranean this season. Inspired by the vibrant colours and languid glamour of the Italian coastline, the Spring Summer 2014 collections bring a quintessentially British edge to the evocative flavours of Italy’s rich culture and lifestyle.

A Taste of Italy: Smythson’s Spring Summer Collections

A Very British Affair

Throughout the 16th and 17th century, young Englishmen began embarking on a post Oxbridge expedition of Europe known as The Grand Tour; a journey of rich history in which Italy was the most essential and otherwise compulsory location to visit. Travellers ventured thousands of miles to pursue the ‘dream destination’, escaping the constraints of the British chill to study the beautiful ancient architecture and local culture of the stunning Italian coastlines. Visitors would often return with pocket size trinkets and souvenirs – intricately detailed works of art quintessential of the country.

Throughout the 1800s and 1900s, the first seaside resorts, such as those in the Ligurian coast became increasingly popular – this vogue of summer travel developed in the fin-de-siècle epoch, during Smythson’s establishment and initial production of luxury travel goods.

Since the opening of its doors in 1887, Smythson’s offering of versatile yet sophisticated travel accessories has remained prevalent – from early travel kits to quirky portable barometers; Smythson’s items were coveted by Grand Tour travellers across the globe.

Smythson Original Catalogues
L-R: Smythson Travel Kit containing folded slippers, Barometer and Compass Traveller’s Set

The introduction of the original featherweight diary in 1908 proved exceedingly popular. Famously light and bound in fine leather, it was exceptionally soft and malleable yet distinctly elegant, containing snippets of expedient information for the intrepid adventurer. Today’s collections express the same philosophy; exquisitely crafted products that guarantee longevity combined with uncompromised style, playfully injected with colours of the coast.

L-R: The ‘En Route’ Writing Pad, Handy travel tips presented in the featherweight diary

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
- Ernest Hemingway

Today, Italy’s oceanfront is infused with abundant history, containing charm and antiquity that reflects the noblest productions of architecture, art and cultural beauty, embodying the tranquil atmosphere found on the Amalfi coast. Inspired by the relaxed lifestyle of Italy’s shorelines, the Smythson Spring Summer Collections embody a juxtaposition of Italian glamour and the hallmark of British quality. A palette of bright coral, white, warm biscuit and powder blue is peppered with the occasional bolt of cobalt, conjuring the picturesque medley of pastel tones that is so evocative of Italian seafront towns and promenades.

Discover the Spring Summer Collections

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Behind The Scenes: 125 Years of Magical Gifts

December 13, 2013

For over 125 years Smythson has been crafting presents with love - something that has been synonymous with our brand from the outset. Our enchanting Christmas campaign video directed by Virgilio Villoresi, ’125 Years of Magical Gifts,’ projects a sensation of playful nostalgia and wonder, connecting the magic of the festive season with the familiar feeling of anticipation and awe we adopt as children in the countdown to Christmas. The video highlights this emotion with a theatrical magic show taking centre stage.

Reminiscent of the brand’s history, ’125 Years of Magical Gifts’ creates a charming juxtaposition of the past and present – the traditional practise of magic resounded in a modern world – much like Smythson’s timeless, handcrafted products.

Bold and bright bursts of the iconic Panama notebook mystically disappear whilst the Venetian Red Eliot handbag, beautifully tailored to the very last stitch, is transformed from our iconic paper. A Nile blue backdrop creates the perfect contrast to a reel of exciting illusions that draws the spectator in to what feels like an intimate experience. The versatile yet effortlessly charming Grosvenor document case follows in a flash, its sudden appearance as surprising as its uncompromising versatility. Smythson’s perfect gifts have always offered resounding sophistication paired with certain longevity – the traditional Nile blue gift box embodies this, enticing a feeling of excitement in so many each year.

After 125 years Smythson remains true to this legacy – creating memorable gifts not only for Christmas, but for a lifetime.

 

Watch the video here: 125 Years of Magical Gifts

Visit our website: www.smythson.com

Frank Smythson’s ‘Little List of Xmas Gifts’

November 27, 2013

Frank Smythson was the true connoisseur of Christmas gifting.

Renowned for his quirky collectables, Smythson’s ‘little lists’ included an array of beautifully crafted miniature Christmas cards, charming leather-bound post boxes for the home and ‘little baskets of good luck.’

Continuing the legacy today, Smythson’s Christmas catalogue displays a delectable assortment of gifts – artfully animated with our iconic paper to give life to a host of whimsical characters, capturing and celebrating the festive season in spirited style.

Smythson’s Christmas Grotto

Explore the remarkable history of Christmas at Smythson and uncover the truly magical story behind our charming Christmas gifts. Smythson’s Christmas Grotto takes a retrospective glance at the past and present, marrying both collections together to create a beautiful juxtaposition of Christmas then and now.

 

Smythson’s Christmas Grotto opens today – New Year at 40 New Bond St, London


 


 

The Joy of Gifting

November 12, 2013

 

One of the most joyous customs over the Christmas period is the exchanging of cards and gifts between friends and family. Taking a retrospective glance through history this tradition is linked to the historical figure, Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus, the benevolent Bishop of Myra (known today as Turkey). He was a notable figure due to his generosity, offering food and gifts to poor children around the Christmas period.

Today the tradition of giving acts as a token to display our love, respect or gratitude, or merely a sign of appreciation to the person we are gifting, which is why Smythson gifts and cards continue a legacy of being designed and crafted to be given with love.

Album of Christmas cards c.1889

Album of Christmas cards and stationery c.1889

It all started with the card…

Christmas is the most magical time of year for us here at Smythson, filled with festive elegance and enchantment. Gifting has been synonymous with our brand from the outset, dating back to our original cards and stationery from 1889, through to our luxury gifts today. The Smythson brand has a storied legacy, showing Frank Smythson was renowned for his quirky novelty gifts as well as unique and exquisite handcrafted pieces.

Oak post box for the home 1902

Oak post box for the home 1902

Quintessentially British and eccentric in concept, this charming oak post box was crafted in 1902. Designed to be used in the home, it celebrated the act of giving and receiving cards within the family. Loved ones would deposit cards and notelets during the build up to Christmas, then the opening of the post box would be a joyous, festive ceremony or act as a party centre piece.

Perhaps one of the ultimate symbols of playful decadence was the introduction of the Smythson post boy. Employed in smart uniforms, the efficient young delivery boys would hand-deliver Christmas cards to customers for that perfect personal touch.

Smythson cards today still uphold the Smythson heritage. Available in a stunning array of personalised designs and styles, they are hand crafted in the UK, come with elegant tissue-lined envelopes and often incorporate unique, intricate gilding.

 

Smythson post boy and cards

Smythson post boy and cards

125 Years of Perfect Presents…

These catalogues titled ‘Frank Smythson’s little lists of Xmas gifts,’ dating back to the 1920s are a perfect example of our fascinating heritage. Featuring novel gift ideas such as the ‘Princess Companion’, the ultimate luxury present for the lady who travels, to the ‘one pound bag’ billed as being ‘smart in design. Useful in character.’

 

Gift catalogue covers from 1925, 1927 and 1929

Gift catalogue covers from 1925, 1927 and 1929

Our gifts still adhere to that sense of playfulness – always functional and covetable yet with the contemporary audience in mind.

As a continuation of Frank Smythson’s legacy, today’s collections still reflect the timeless Smythson character. The Mara crocodile leather pieces combine elegance and quality for a luxury Christmas gift like no other, whilst the iconic Panama range is an ideal stocking filler; delivering a diverse collection of versatile styles in a beautiful selection of colourways. Our personalisation service offers gold stamping with your recipient’s name or initials, adding that personal touch to an unforgettable gift.

With over 125 years of experience delivering the magic of Christmas to our customers, Smythson is the ultimate destination for perfect presents.

Browse our exclusive array of perfect presents for him or her.

 

 

 

 

 

The heritage of men’s style

October 21, 2013

‘A Man’s best things are nearest him, lie close about his feet’, Lord Houghton.

‘The happy marriage is the one where the husband endures discomfort without complaining.’

‘Don’t try to do things as well as other people, try to do them a little better.’

These witty little excerpts and quotes are just a few modicums of wisdom gleaned from Smythson’s A Mere Man’s Calendar dated 1914.

When Frank Smythson established his luxury stationery emporium in 1887, his ideas were pioneering and evocative. His functional, durable products were inherently stylish and often juxtaposed with British wit and humour.

Foot stool and travel cushions advertisement

Foot stool and travel cushions advertisement, 1909

His playful, irreverent tone coupled with the luxury of his products made his brand stand out from the rest. Quintessentially British in all that he purveyed, Frank Smythson was the original connoisseur, a true trendsetter and tastemaker of his era.

Travel and adventure have always been tantamount to the Smythson design process. With these key themes in mind, it’s clear how Frank Smythson’s ideas and pieces were not only geared to the needs of the Victorian gentleman traveller, but have also transcended the test of time.

The Monitor Bag

The Monitor Bag, 1902

The brand has constantly updated and adapted to the needs of the contemporary generation. Join us while we take a retrospective look through some of our more innovative and unusual men’s pieces.

1902 saw the introduction of the Monitor Bag, advertised as ‘the most convenient of all bags’. It featured useful compartments and fasteners on the interior, focusing on the needs of the intrepid adventurer and those on the move.

Inside the Monitor Bag

Inside the Monitor Bag

 

Flat clothes brush case

Flat clothes brush case

 

Forever focusing on ways to entice the gentleman globetrotter, this grooming set, dating back to 1910, incorporated two specially designed lightweight suit brushes, which were, as the catalogue announced, ‘handy and very flat – indispensable for the weekend case’.

 

Whisky library set

Whisky library set

 

The ‘Silent Friend’ whisky soda library set, with a bookish facade concealing a secret compartment for a whisky and soda bottle and 6 whisky glasses, is another charming example of the Smythson wit. The Blondes, Brunettes and Redheads notebooks made an audacious debut in the 1950s. The tongue in cheek inscription boosted sales of the notebook and it is still one our bestsellers to date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blondes, Brunettes, Redheads notebook

Blondes, Brunettes, Redheads notebook

Smythson’s men’s accessories have adapted to the requirements of each contemporary generation. It is interesting to think that in 1902 Frank Smythson was innovative in his thinking by introducing the ‘en route writing pad,’ complete with postage stamps and blotting paper. Today we are still creating cases for this era’s portable writing station, the i-pad. It is indeed a testament to over a century of understanding the needs of the modern connoisseur, that Smythson continues to hold its ground as the world’s leading purveyor of stationery and luxury goods.

En route writing pad

En route writing pad

 

‘Fall in love and keep on falling in love if you would remain young.’ Dr J Oldfield.

A Mere Man’s Calendar 1914