I knew there was something familiar about today’s date.
Other than my being a science fiction fan, May the fourth last year was significant because it was the day we announced that we could restart the supply of our non-essential goods to customers (see the Covid-19 info on the Belts site).
So today marks a year since we began a new normal; one that has continued to evolve, and will continue to do so. We are still sanitising hands and surfaces, wearing face coverings and keeping our distance…
We are delighted to be able to welcome customers into our new-look shop, with the belt maker’s workbench right in the window, and a spacious shopping area inside.
Those exciting plans I mentioned a year ago became a shop called ‘The Belt Makers and Friends‘ and inside you can now find a good range of gifts and accessories that compliment our belts, and that you might find around a person who belongs – for a part of their day at least – in an office, study or studio. Things like suitable leather bags and briefcases for the trip to work. Other items that brighten your day, such as a smart shirt and cufflinks to team up with a more casual trouser; comfy and bright, British made woollen socks; and leather pens that have been expertly hand crafted from our very own leather trimmings.
The range is expanding all the time and ‘desk decor’ is an area we are aiming at for the near future. Where will we be this time next year? To quote Dave Lister, of the JMC mining ship, Red Dwarf: “It’s going to be fun finding out!”
We’re really seeing the benefit, goodwill and warmth that a campaign like Exeter’s Summer of Kindness can bring to a community. It’s following on from the buddy style plans that were due to happen shortly after lockdown began, but… well… lockdown.
Lockdown prevented the previous campaign launch
The original idea had been to team up with a business or businesses in a different sector or area from us, and come up with a plan to promote each other over a particular weekend in March.
We were going to put simple belt displays in Eat the Bird on Sidwell Street and in Recycled Candle Company on Gandy Street. In return we would display Eat the Bird menus in our shop and have a plate of their delicious wares in store during the Saturday morning. Obviously we would ensure that these were given out to our customers! A display of Recycled Candle Company’s products would reside in our shop too, and I had purchased a number of delightful cacti from them for our own product photography, for good measure.
Suddenly, city-wide, all plans changed; some were shelved, some were axed.
Summer of Kindness is Exeter’s latest city-wide advertising campaign
In a change to that previous billing, our local BID (Business Improvement District, known here as InExeter) have come up with the start of a team rescue plan. They have provided us with delightful paper daisies, that look fresh and inviting, to hang in our windows, giving a clear sign to customers that the campaign continues inside those stores. Participating businesses have been encouraged to team up amongst themselves, coming up with their own appropriate deals or offers that would invite their customers to visit the other businesses too.
We have mannequins in our shop! Frocks in Swing Time have loaned us a gorgeous, lacy, royal blue dress with a matching sparkling necklace, which we have teamed up with a contrasting bright red, narrow belt. This compliments the nautical theme in their current window display.
The Black Pearl, whose mannequin is called Manny, is cool as a cucumber in a flowing, silky turquoise number, teamed up with a yellow necklace and silver shoulder mini bag. We have cinched in the dress at the waist with a turquoise belt.
Zebel Bespoke have sent us a blue suit jacket and matching waistcoat with a white woven shirt and a tie which picks out tones in the jacket lining.
Finally, we have a lovely pair of leather shoes with brogue patterning from Loake Exeter, in a delicious chocolate brown which works beautifully with the blue suit.
Those other terrific members of our #SummerofKindness team are also carrying items from our stock in their shops, such as belts, cufflinks and braces. They may choose to sell these on our behalf, as well as explaining to their customers where we are and inviting them to visit us.
Now let me tell you a heartwarming little story…
This week we had a visit from a lovely couple from two different continents, trying to get married. They, like so many other couples in the same situation around the world, have been struggling to organise their special day within the confines and uncertainty of COVID-19.
Having had to reorganise our own wedding due to Foot and Mouth disease (back at the turn of the century) we really felt for them.
They had bought wedding shoes from Loake Exeter and they needed to match a belt to the colour. The manager Kelvin sent them to us for a bespoke belt. We made up a couple of different samples for them, in different leather colours with different edge colours, and they picked their favourite.
During the conversation we chatted about cufflinks, and matching them to belt thread colours and to suit linings, and we were able to recommend Zebel Bespoke for the wedding suit. They headed back up the hill to make those arrangements and we will make the belt especially for them.
We were unable to help with a recommendation for the bridesmaids’ dresses as they are all in New Zealand (we did try!)
We felt all warm and fuzzy that we are all recommending each other and especially that we’d helped out some customers in need, in this time of such confusion and delay. I wholeheartedly hope that they manage to have a wonderful wedding in New Zealand, and that the organisation and travel for all the different family members and friends goes as smoothly as possible! 🥰
… so I had to do something else for a bit. I needed to take the product photos for Henry’s most excellent leather briefcases and bags so I greedily picked my favourite briefcase to begin, and brown and silver began to take over my day.
It’s a Brown and Silver masterpiece
Henry calls this The Full Monty
And with good reason. All Henry’s briefcases can be ordered in different colours, with extras or with other changes, however, this comes with the full works. The whole shebang. Nay, it’s the pinnacle of the briefcase department.
Inside the main section are three separate compartments, with a total of seven additional internal pockets. I’ve counted! These are ready to hold whatever you need to fit inside them, including pens and a phone.
A handy zip compartment is accessible from the back and the look is completed with a locking front fastener and two buckle straps.
The Full Monty also comes with a fully adjustable shoulder strap with integral comfort panel. The comfort panel is fixed in the middle and the strap can be adjusted from both ends so you can always be sure the comfort part is right where you want it!
I thought it would be wise to put a group together while I had the camera and the opportunity. Hmm, now what goes with a very dark brown briefcase with gunmetal fittings…?
How about a nice brown and silver belt?
This shade of brown is called Dark Havana. A very traditional colour for English saddlery, it is an ideal, all purpose colour for when black is little too dark but nearly black will do perfectly.
The silver coloured stainless steel in the West End Roller buckle is non-rusting and extremely durable. Having a roller on the buckle is designed to be kinder on the leather than not having one, however, it has to be said that the quality and standard of leather used in these belts puts the choice of whether or not to select a buckle with a roller, simply down to preference.
Following the silver theme
If your lover deserves a symbol of your depth of feeling, perhaps a pair of these cufflinks would be a useful and daily reminder?
A knot without an end, this design is, of course, widely known as a symbol of never-ending love.
Teamed up here with the utilitarian colour and nature of the stainless steel buckle, the silver coloured finish is achieved with practical, non-tarnish, rhodium plating.
Somewhere to keep them
It can be easy to lose track of tiny things. Our cufflinks are such a lovely product to handle; and to lose one, or both, would be a sad thing indeed. I would recommend keeping them together in a receptacle that is just as eye-catching… so it’s obvious that is has been made for an important job.
Alison Miles designs and makes these stunning pieces in her Shaldon workshop. Porcelain is delicate, it’s true, but it takes no time at all to become used to handling cufflinks in conjunction with this material that can bring so much aesthetic and tactile joy. Her lovely, textured trinket trays are available in lots of different shapes, sizes and colours.
Our web guru, Aaron from Takeoff-Development, was easily able to fix my website issue so I wasn’t stuck for long. Just long enough to take you on a two-tone wander through a small section of our shop…
‘It’s a brown and silver day today’ was written by Marie Buckfield
It has to be said, this has been the strangest year of our lives, and not in the way we expected
The original plan, after moving all sites under one (much more convenient) roof, had been to give all of the different TBM belt lines more space to breathe; to fill our much larger shop not only with Classics, Borders, Raises and our characteristic hand sewn patterns, but also with plaits, braids, inlays, guest leathers and, when the product reaches our requirements, to venture into the world of vegan leather substitutes.
The global coronavirus outbreak has changed things somewhat
As mentioned in our About TBM & Friends, we have witnessed the struggle faced by some of our fellow artisans and, not being bin collectors, food providers, doctors or nurses, we tried to think of other ways (in addition to social distancing and hand washing, etc) that we could contribute to the National Effort.
… and so TBM & Friends was born
We put out some feelers , talked to a number of local artisans who had lost outlets, and curated a collection of products that would work with our belts. Items that could be found in an office or studio setting, or in the dressing room of someone nipping across the hall to their work from home den.
Things besides our beautiful hand made, leather trouser support solutions, such as lovely cufflinks that you will really get a buzz from wearing, braces that are hand made in England, also available with button hole ends, leather wallets; all these supplied to us from a company only about 8 miles from our shop.
Natural fibre socks in wool, sometimes also with cotton, are not made in commercial volumes quite so close to home but we have found a maker further north who produces these items that are soft, colourful and… wait for it… machine washable!
Elegant and functional leather briefcases and bags are hand made by an artisan only 2 miles from us, so close! These are incredibly practical and delightfully comfortable to wear; guaranteed and repairable. You don’t really need to look any further for a bag that will suit your needs, as you can customise not only the colour but the number of pockets, pouches and zips, should you wish to place a bespoke order.
If you are looking for desk or study solutions, you can also find those here. Perfect porcelain pen pots, mini planters, trinket trays and lighting solutions are all in stock. Colourful and uplifting lamps and soy candles to light your way, CO2 absorbers for a more comfortable atmosphere, and somewhere to keep together all those things you can never quite put your hands on.
Elegant and functional is the name of the game in this shop. If it’s actually useful, look for it here. If it also looks, feels or works in some stunning way, search for it here. We aim to raise eyebrows and expectations… and support local artisans, wherever we can.
Browse the website, pop into the shop… you are assured of a warm welcome!