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Our Signature Piece: the British Spirit

TBM British Spirit Belt

Our Signature Piece: the British Spirit

Last time I talked about beginning to plan ahead for that special gifting period at the end of the year. Continuing in that vein, I’d like to dedicate this page to our Signature Piece: the British Spirit.

Our British Spirit was born from a time that is not unlike this one in many ways. It was inspired by the sense of team spirit that was exhibited by the players, supporters and volunteers that were ‘Team GB’ at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The red, white and blue stitching represents the colours on the British Union Flag or ‘Union Jack’. 

Union Jack
Union Jack

When the volunteer Games Makers made the London 2012 Olympics happen, their selfless energy and skills were given so that we could benefit from the history being made. Sound familiar?

TBM British Spirit Belt
TBM British Spirit Belt

We love to make this belt

We love to make this belt and are very proud of it. The Raise style enables us to safely secure all the start and finish ends for each of the three decorative thread colours on the inside. 

Each of the red, the white and the blue stitches – always in that order – are painstakingly hand sewn with a long back stitch, evenly along the full length of each side and around the tip. When done correctly this produces a candy cane style of striping along the inside.

A piece of thinned leather will sit between the two rows of candy stripes and the entire top layer can then be sewn onto a base piece, producing the raised effect. 

In a medium sized belt that’s around 1,360 stitches and a lot of work, as you can appreciate!

Which made us think.

Thank You NHS on blue heart

Like those amazing, proud Games Makers of 2012 but this time with utmost, awe-inspiring bravery: the doctors, nurses and other members of our NHS risk their lives in British Spirit in this historic time of pandemic.

For every bespoke TBM British Spirit Belt sold between now and 30th November 2020, we’d like to donate £25 to NHS Charities

Can I say that again?

For every bespoke British Spirit sold between now and 30th November 2020, we’d like to donate £25 to NHS Charities.

Order one for yourself, for your partner, for your sibling, your best mate. Together we can repay some of the awe-inspiring workers of the NHS. 

Have a browse

Our incredible belts are now accompanied in store and online by a wide range of accessories. For items that will suit the office, studio and working from home environment the website is open 24 hours.

The shop is open for business 10am-5pm from Tuesday to Saturday. In store appointments are available for private browsing for just you and your household/bubble. Please get in touch if you need this service by filling in the contact form, button below 👇

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Would you would like to be among the first to hear our news, direct to your inbox? You can sign up for our newsletter right here 👇

‘Our Signature Piece: the British Spirit’ was written by Marie Buckfield

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The New Season begins with Briefcases and Bags

The Full Monty Briefcase in Dark Brown with gun metal silver coloured fittings by Henry Tomkins Leather - inside

The New Season begins with Briefcases and Bags

It’s been an unusual year so far, to say the least. One of the strangest summers seems to finally be over and the children have gone back to school. 

You know what that means? 

It’s time to start planning for the end of the year. Let’s take it steadily, one gift at a time. 

We have many lovely things

We have many lovely things on our Friends website and I’d like to introduce you to them, and to some of the people who make them.

Let’s start with our bag maker, Henry, of Henry Tomkins Leather.

We’ve known Henry for a little while now and, although he is semi retired, we were delighted that he was pleased to have the opportunity to place a few items from his extensive catalogue in our new shop.

Henry from Henry Tomkins Leather at work
Henry from Henry Tomkins Leather, at work

He makes sturdy briefcases and lovely, soft bags and satchels in his studio, just 2 miles from our shop near the city centre. His hand made products are tough, durable and come with his personal 5 year guarantee.

We carry two of his briefcases; one very basic design and the all bells and whistles version called The Full Monty. 

The basic Essential Briefcase comes with plenty of features 

The bold buckle strap front is complimented by a strong and sturdy comfortable handle, with reinforced leather covered metal bar to keep the briefcase in shape while carrying heavy items.

You have two internal pockets, for separating your home and office gear for example, and the front pocket has additional sections for storing those smaller items that always find their way to the bottom, eg. pens, passport, tickets etc.

The Full Monty comes with everything

There are three separate compartments in the main section, with a total of seven additional internal pockets. These are ready to hold whatever you need to fit in them, including pens, phone, wallet, etc.

There’s a handy zip compartment that 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!

Currently we also carry two of Henry’s other bags: a back pack and a satchel. We hope to add to these for the upcoming shopping period with some more designs so we’ll keep you posted with progress!

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Summer of Kindness

Close up of our shop window with handwritten chalk pen banner stating Come & Browse, Free Prize Draw, #RetailWeek, #SummerofKindness

Summer of Kindness

Close up of our shop window with handwritten chalk pen banner stating Come & Browse, Free Prize Draw, #RetailWeek, #SummerofKindness
Close up of our shop window with handwritten chalk pen banner stating Come & Browse, Free Prize Draw, #RetailWeek, #SummerofKindness

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.

Preparing a daisy for hanging
Preparing a daisy for hanging

Here at The Belt Makers and Friends, we have teamed up with Frocks in Swing Time (vintage fashions) and The Black Pearl (Italian fashions) on our own Fore Street; Zebel Bespoke (tailoring) who moved from Fore Street to just behind the High Street; and Loake Shoemakers Exeter on Catherine Street, in view of our most excellent Cathedral.

A whole new kind of shop display!

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! 🥰