My mother recently visited London, so I sent her on an investigative reporting assignment on embroidery! She signed up for a tour of Hand & Lock’s embroidery studio, which was absolutely fantastic. Here is her report:
There are two main divisions at Hand & Lock. Hand (goldlacemen founded 1700s) traditionally deals with heraldic design, goldwork, military insignia, intricate braids and laces, epaulets, badges, all things military. For instance, Hand & Lock produces the intricate embroidered badges for the Yeoman Guards (Beefeaters) at the Tower of London, the gold (real gold) epaulettes, sashes and braid for military uniforms and drum majors
Lock (1900s, fashion) creates for couteries (Christian Dior, Norman Hartnell, and Hardy Amies), high end broadway shows (Lion King), royal Events (Princess Anne’s wedding) and anyone else with an extraordinary amount of money – we are talking about hand embroidery after all. This means multiple highly skilled (read trained for Years) people who have to earn enough to eat working on a garment for many many hours/days/weeks. Further, the fabrics are all special (Not in the sense of special sale at Walmart either), as are the sparkles (Swarskovi crystals), as are the pearls. They are pearls as in oyster grown.
On a tour of Hand and Lock you are first shown into a cozy room with four comfy leather armchairs surrounding low tables. Two walls are covered floor to nearly the ceiling with drawers holding beads (Not plastic), crystals, feathers, and possibilities probably not even imagined by the novice. The third wall is hung with sample squares. All kinds of fabrics, including but not limited to cotton, silk, net, felt, and leather are embroidered, embellished or both. As you sit in front of these samples the guide presents a bit of the history of the company and explains just what all Hand and Lock does.
Turns out, they do just about anything involving textiles that you want to pay for. This first stop on the tour is where, for example, a fashion designer wanting a special fabric for a runway show
or a coronation
or a special dress
or costumes for Tom Cruise in Valkyrie
sits down with the H&L designer to discuss their ideas and to begin choosing fabrics, colors, threads, sequins, crystals, feathers, stitches.
My mother also got to see the workrooms where all these are created! Really, if y’all have a chance to visit London, y’all should try to stop by (and, they are opening one in New York City for us Americans!).
To be continued!