British based brand, Will Bees Bespoke is based in Salcombe. The quaint, picturesque seaside setting and gorgeous interior of the shop is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the beauty of these products which include stunning leather and fabric handbags.
We could not resist talking with Will, owner and designer at Will Bees Bespoke, to find out more about him, his beautiful shop and stunning bags.
You started as co-founder and designer for Quba Sails, turning sailcloth into clothing and thereby helping the environment. What prompted you to change direction, leave Quba Sails and start Will Bees Bespoke?
My time at Quba came to a natural end. I had new ideas I wanted to explore and that needed my time and dedication to follow them through.
Is there a story behind the name of your company?
I asked the advice of a friend with a branding company and he said if you’re convinced about your idea and product then there’s no better way to back that up than by putting your own name behind it. The bespoke element speaks for itself really: the range of choice to cater for all tastes and the personalisation.
Why did you choose to set up shop in Salcombe?
I have lived here for a long time, I know the area well and I’ve had shops here before, but it’s different this time. We’re not on the high street. I wanted to combine the retail space with my workshop. Island Street has been home to traditional boat building workshops for a long time, and I wanted to respect that history of manufacturing.
Will Bees Bespoke creates beautiful, hand-crafted items from fabric and leather, can you tell us more about your products and why you are so passionate about them please?
I’ve put so much time into researching it all; sourcing thousands of fabrics, and offering such a diverse range of textiles that can cater to every taste. I’ve loved learning to work with a natural material like leather, and finding out what works best with our products. The personalisation is hugely satisfying for everyone; the addition of initials instantly makes a purse or bag something really special for the customer.
Where do you source your materials? Do you support the local industry?
All our fabrics and leathers come from the most reputable UK suppliers, and a lot of time was spent finding the best ones. All of our products are handmade here in the UK and we’re really proud of that.
What inspires your designs?
Most of my inspiration comes from vintage eras. I like simplicity; I like quality you can see, feel and touch; and I like things that get better with age and tell a story.
Your workshop is incredibly atmospheric, how did you design the layout?
I definitely wanted a vintage industrial feel, and I sourced our furniture, fixtures and fittings from various auctions, reclamation yards, salvage, even skips. My first idea was to clad the walls of the boatshed with reclaimed wood but as we stripped it out and exposed the old painted breezeblock, it just felt natural to keep it. The same with the lights; we kept the old strip lights but we added the chandelier and other touches. But the shell remains as it has been for the past couple of decades.
Was it important to be able to work in full view of your customers?
Yes, really important. It’s part and parcel of what I set out to achieve; a true artisan workshop offering bespoke goods. It’s about honesty in an age of mass-produced fashion.
Do you have a favourite design from the collection?
It’s difficult to choose, but I do love the Liberty fabrics, and I’m looking forward to working with waxed canvas and leather together in one of our new ranges.
You offer embossing a monogram as part of your service, what process do you use to create this?
For the smaller accessories we use an embossing machine. We set the letters in the machine and position the machine over the leather. The result is very accurate, perfectly spaced. The totes we emboss manually; it’s a much more traditional process and that shows.
Do you have any favourite designers?
None of the big names really. I’ve come across some great independent artisans, mostly in the US but also in Europe, but they’re largely unknown in the UK. There’s very little like that over here.