Not just any old English embroidery company, Hand and Lock are the Royal embroiderers, makers of all the rich and intricate ceremonial military goldwork that's so familiar it's hard to really see. But what I love most about this company is that, after 250 years (they recently celebrated their sestercentennial! Not many can say this), they are more relevant than ever.
The huge-windowed studio in London's West End buzzes with young persons (nearly all at H&L are under 30) stitching an inscription on a boxing glove ("HELENA. UNLIMITED YOU") or a silver braid horse for a rocking horse saddle, or tambour work for one of the many designers who commission them (Mary Katrantzou, Burberry, Chanel, Vuitton, Givenchy, Hermès...).
H&L also hold the world's most important--and richest-- embroidery competition, and produce historically correct or riotously embellished pieces for theater and film and stars--Marilyn Monroe's red sequin dress in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes? Michael Jackson's military jacket? Wicked's Wizard of Oz? Queen Elizabeth II's throne cover? Hand and Lock. They embellished totes for charity in a carpeted trailer in Carnaby Street, stitched Miss World's sash --and Mr World's-- use to have a concession in Topshop to patch and monogram the pre-ripped jeans you just bought (I know. Irony), and sewed all over an M16 Assault rifle for Peace Day.
They are The Establishment, but they are carrying embroidery into the future, an evolving, growing leader of the textile world.
Hand and Lock, despite being the single most posh and important embellishment house in the universe (not an exaggeration), were delighted to try visible mending when I asked a few years ago. Here's their first one. Feel free to commission them for one of your own: you can go as high and mighty as you like.
London-based mixed media textile designer and artist Karen Nicol is quite simply one of the world's best, and best known, embroidery artists. The holder of multiple awards, Nicol... View full details