Beautiful bespoke embroidery has been Hand & Lock’s hallmark since its beginnings as a lace and accoutrements atelier in London’s Spitalfields in 1767. In its 250 years, it has been the purveyor of exquisite garments and accessories to everyone from the Queen to the Royal Forces and haute couturiers, securing its place as the world’s leading maker of handcrafted goldwork, as well as a noted specialist in the traditional arts of beadwork, monogramming and subtle silk shading.
With a client list that includes Balmain, Burberry and Victoria Beckham, as well as private customers in search of dazzling wedding dresses (price on request), one-off embellishments (from £12) and classic family crests (from £75), no project is deemed too large or too small and the studio’s two designers and two embroiderers delight in translating a person’s wishes into vibrant – often exuberant – bespoke embroideries.
After an initial meeting to determine the aesthetic and budget, the designers set to work on sketches of items ranging from ornate handbags(price on request) and lavish floor-length coats (price on request) to simple patches or badges (£5). Depending on the size and scope of the project, pieces can take anywhere from a week (for a family crest) to eight weeks (for an ornate replica of Serbian military jacket, costing between £30,000 and £50,000, depending on the price of gold at the time, complete with jaunty epaulettes and shoulder cords).
Among the firm’s standout projects are a pair of embroidered chairs commissioned for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, costumes for the 2012 Olympics, shoe embellishments for Louis Vuitton and the decoration of a decommissioned M16 assault rifle that was sold to raise money for the non-profit organisation Peace One Day. But it is the customers who come to Hand & Lock via word of mouth that keep the artisans really on their toes. From multicoloured monogrammed yoga mats to last year’s request for a jacket lapel to be embroidered with the image of an Apple circuit board for the Met Gala’s Manus x Machina party, no two projects are the same.
Initials (and lately emojis) are another hand-sewn specialty and Hand & Lock works closely with Savile Row tailors, including Gieves & Hawkes, to personalise everything from pyjamas to business suits in varying shades of the finest silk threads.
“The military trend that’s in fashion now with designers such as Mary Katrantzou and Dolce & Gabbana has been wonderful for us. We have a rich history in military clothing and this translates well to today’s tastes,” explains Hand & Lock’s Robert McCaffrey. “We delight in the collaborative process,” he continues, “and we always find a way to make someone’s imagination a reality.”