‘Jimmy most certainly has good taste!’ declared founder of London Craft Week, Guy Salter, as he inspected the specially commissioned early-20th century style leather goods showcased at The Beaumont. The collection, featuring travel accessories by nine designers, including Ettinger, Purdeys and Charlie Borrow of Trunk Clothiers, was created exclusively for the famous friends of Jimmy Beaumont - Ernest Hemingway, Sir Cecil Beaton and Clark Gable, and other big names.
But, you might well be thinking, who on earth is Jimmy Beaumont?
Jimmy is, in fact, a fictional character created by The Beaumont hotel’s co-owner Jeremy King to give the Mayfair establishment (built in 2014) an authentic 1920s feel. Photos of Jimmy’s ‘friends’ adorn the walls of the Art Deco bar, The Colony Grill Room restaurant and even the lavatories. And it is around these characters that this year’s London Craft Week event revolves, following the success of last year’s similar Savile Row tailoring initiative at The Beaumont.
Ettinger presented an original 1934 attaché-case-based collection alongside the equivalent 2018 collection, for English post-war cinema favourite and dapper gent, David Niven. Both cases were kitted out with wallets, jewellery or stud boxes, travel photo frames, pen cases and jotter pads. Each also contained a wallet, with the modern day wallet made for 20 credit card pockets, something not present in the 1930s design for obvious reasons. The coin purse in the 1934 collection was also replaced for a credit card case in the 2018 range, and the modern attaché case included an Ipad case for convenience. Onlookers were fascinated as to how the collection had evolved but also by the consistency in quality and design.
An original 1934 collection
A 2018 Ettinger collection
Other designers and makers also demonstrated their leather-work skills, with Purdeys presenting an exceptional folio case designed for Ernest Hemingway, fashioned from leather resurrected from a sunken ship - quite the show stopper. And Hemingway has a special place in Jimmy Beaumont’s evolving narrative, as we discover from Jeremy King, owner of The Beaumont and one half of the eminent London restaurateur and hotelier duo Corbyn & King. ‘Ernest Hemingway spent a lot of time in the hotel before the war,’ explains King, ‘and I have a first edition of The Sun Also Rises. I very nearly dropped it the other day, when I opened it up to inspect it and realised that the dedication was to Jimmy Beaumont!’ The story continues to unfold…
Young designers were also well represented at the showcase, with Charlie Borrow, in association with Trunk Clothiers, presenting a raw linen and oakbark tanned leather rucksack created for Swiss hotelier and expert fly fisherman, Charles Ritz. A neat navy kid leather portfolio for Sir Cecil Beaton was the offering from another young pair of collaborators, Billy Tannery and Charles Laurie.
And it wasn’t just male icons represented at the event, Caroline Groves Couture presented a kit bag and pair of shoes for the ‘bad girl of the couturier set’, Elsa Schiaperella. ‘I wanted to echo the Deco feel but also to reference Elsa’s work, particularly her shoe hat that she worked on with Dali,’ explains Groves of the dramatic, structural shoes. Geraldine Larkin also presented a series of jewellry pouches for 1940s heiress and girl-about-town, Doris Duke.
Given that this showcase was only one of hundreds events taking place at this, the fourth year of, London Craft Week there is clearly an appetite for talent. There was even an event held at No. 10 to mark the occasion. And it’s not just happening in Britain. ‘The exciting thing is that it [the surge in craft and manufacturing] is not just British,’ explains Craft Week’s champion, Salter, ‘it’s a global phenomenon right now. The amount of talent around the world is incredible. People are also hungry for something different – and we’re trying to introduce them to this amazing pool of talent.’ Exciting times lie ahead for British craft.
A visit from David Evans of the Grey Fox Blog
Robert Ettinger (in the blue suit) entertains guests during the opening of The Beaumont hotel exhibition