Luxury men’s accessories brand Banvard & James started out of a desire to inject some colour and personality into men’s fashion through beautifully crafted fashion accessories.
The South West London based brand was founded in 2013 while Alexander was working as an Equine vet and his brother Toby was still at university. They then decided to leave their jobs and work full-time with the company in 2015.
“It was clear Gentlemen are keen to add personality to their outfits, often through coloured silk linings in their suits and jackets or by adding a pop of colour with their socks. While still remaining fairly conservative, myself and my brother set out to design a range of accessories and gifts for men that feature our signature discreet, vibrant colour,” Alex said.
With such a vast range of accessories available to purchase Alex explains: “We started with the Walker Umbrella, which is still one of our best selling items today. We realised there are a lot of gentlemen that didn’t want a plain, black umbrella, but equally didn’t want to walk around with a bright yellow one. The idea came for a double canopy umbrella, with a beautiful charcoal grey outer and a coloured lining. It was discrete, yet different.”
“Another little known arm of the business is using our expertise in design and manufacture to create umbrellas and a variety of other accessories for other companies and luxury hotels around the world.”
He continues: “We have a much larger range of products now compared with the five umbrellas we started with, but all the accessories and gifts we design carry our brand ethos. That of discreet, vibrant colour, used to add some personality to your outfit. Our Walker Umbrellas are always a very popular gift are our Wilson Coloured Shoe Laces.They are a great way of refreshing your shoes and make a fantastic gift. Recently our handmade Italian leather and suede gloves and our 100% mercerised cotton socks have become best sellers.”
Alex insists that they have never used the colour black and never will. He emphasises: “There is enough of that around as it is; take a look outside! We have always ensured we only work with the very finest artisan manufactures we can, who use the best raw materials, producing beautiful products that last for many, many years.
“We sell through our website, at a variety of pop-up stores for sporting and charity fairs throughout the year (our event calendar is on our website) and we also supply a variety of independent and department stores within the UK and USA. Another little known arm of the business is using our expertise in design and manufacture to create umbrellas and a variety of other accessories for other companies and luxury hotels around the world.
“The pop up events we attend are fantastic for meeting new and repeat customers, hearing feedback and new product ideas. This was very obvious two winters ago – we lost count of the number of customers asking if we sold gloves. Clearly there was a gap in the market for beautifully hand crafted leather and suede gloves with some personality. Through this research and working with a superb manufacturer, our gloves have now become one of our top selling items. We draw on inspiration from Europe for colour and combine this with traditional British products and design.”
As a small business, Banvard & James pride themselves on ensuring a lot of work and research goes into every product and the materials needed to make it, before they are finally launched. He explains: “When you hear that we design fashion accessories and gifts, really the sky’s the limit with regards to what products we launch. We work with a variety of artisan manufactures within the UK and Western Europe. Our range of cashmere and woollen scarves are made in Scotland, and use beautiful Italian vegetable tanned leathers and suedes for our range of leather accessories, belts and gloves. We use Italian material and German hardware for our zips, buckles and frames across a variety of pieces. Regardless, we will not compromise on the raw materials.”
Whilst the city gentleman was their first customer, their customer base has spread throughout the country and overseas. Alex explained: “It is actually quite difficult to stylishly accessorise a suit and that’s one reason we became so popular in London. We meet a huge variety of people at the pop up events we attend and now sell to a lot of men and women, looking for stylish, traditional accessories and gifts that are not too crazy, but also have some personality, often with a splash of discreet, vibrant colour. They appreciate beautifully, hand crafted products.”
“We draw on inspiration from Europe for colour and combine this with traditional British products and design.”
Alex reveals that one of his favourite products from the range is the Dark Green Huxley Suede Belt: “Beautiful Italian suede, backed with dark grey vegetable tanned leather, complete with contrasting green stitching and edging paint. I am wearing one as we speak in fact.
“We feature a lot of orange across our range too. Anyone who has visited one of our pop-up stores will know this straight away. Dark grey contrasted with a beautiful burnt orange is always a classic combination. We like it so much it features on all our packaging and retail bags. But we are about to launch a new navy and orange Walker umbrella online and I think this will easily become my new favourite colour combination.”
Banvard & James are expanding and selling more frequently to international customers: “We are also increasing our presence at the retail pop-up events we attend as well as starting with some international ones. We are launching our new online journal which will feature a variety of style guides, ‘behind the manufacture’ content and other lifestyle pieces. We also plan to translate what we have learnt from the pop-up events into physical retail stores, even internationally.”
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