As Burberry grew strongly during the last 20 years, in order to cope with the additional volume it has had to move away from it's traditional Cut, Make, Trim "CMT" manufacturing process (where the various steps of production of it's products are outsourced to numerous small specialist craftspeople), to a fully factored manufacturing process (where the production steps are controlled by fewer more generalist producers).
This consolidation had a significant negative impact on many small businesses around the UK who had come to depend upon Burberry as the cornerstone of their order book.
Makers House is an attempt by Burberry to reconnect to these people and their skills, by letting people get close up not only with their clothes collection, but also the inspirations behind it, including some very special craftspeople.
We visited the exhibition to see if they'd succeeded.
Courtyard entrance to Makers House (Image: @darbymade)
Makers House is in Soho, in the same site that had been occupied for over a century by Foyle's bookshop, one of the oldest and best bookshops in London (Foyle's moved to a new building next door in 2014).
The exhibition is split into three areas, downstairs at the back contains Christopher Bailey's mood boards for his SS17 collection and upstairs houses the runway used for Burberry's show at this month's London Fashion Show, which has been filled with mannequins dressed in the collection itself for visitors to see.
Both areas provide the general public with glimpses of the exotic world of high fashion they don't usually see, but both look and feel like they've been put together by Burberry's marketing machine and as such aren't particularly inspiring. The main area downstairs is where the magic lies.
Saddle by Kings Troop Saddlers (Image: @darbymade)
It is home to a different group of makers each day, from the mainstream silversmith Grant McCaig, to the more unusual crafts of saddlery and bookbinding, all of whom can be seen practising their craft.
Kings Troop Saddlers provide saddlery services to the Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery, a ceremonial unit of the British Army. They produce and maintain an array of military tack, including the beautiful saddle above.
Leather bound notebooks by Bespoke and Bound (Image: @darbymade)
Bespoke and Bound combines time-honoured, artisan leather-working and bookbinding with contemporary design techniques to handcraft made-to-order photo albums and notebooks. They had produced some intricate hand stitched notebooks especially for the Makers House show.
Our favourite display was from Ernest Wright & Sons of Sheffield, who had provided a wall full of scissors, both old and new. Their 24 carat gold plated dressmaking scissors (below) are simply incredible.
24 carat Gold Plated Dressmaking Scissors by Ernest Wright & Sons (Image: @darbymade)
On our way back to the world of Darbymade we reflected on some of the great skills and items we had seen. We realised the sad thing was that there was very little obvious link between the craftspeople's exquisite creations and Christopher Bailey's collection, but we applaud any steps Burberry takes back towards it's traditional roots. After all, it was the skills and commitment of such craftspeople that helped generate Burberry's enviable global reputation for quality apparel in the first place.