“LITTLE MINDS ARE INTERESTED IN THE EXTRAORDINARY, GREAT MINDS IN THE COMMONPLACE”
BUNNEY HAS A SIMPLE AIM IN LIFE. IT WANTS TO CREATE BEAUTIFUL OBJECTS THAT WILL STAND THE TEST OF TIME.
So often in life, we hear the word ordinary and we’re drawn to its negative connotations. We might think of something that’s not unusual, different or special, as the word has become a synonym for boring, uninteresting and forgettable. However the majority of our lives are made up of ordinary things, but if you know what you are looking for it’s easy to find wonder and joy in them.
Put through a fresh pair of eyes, some designers have the ability to take the ordinary (or commonplace) and turn it into the extraordinary, something unique, rare and engaging. One such set of eyes would be those belonging to the formidable Andrew Bunney, creative consultant to some of the world’s most exciting brands and founder of the eponymous London-based brand, Bunney.
Bunney has a simple aim in life. It wants to create beautiful objects that will stand the test of time. To make the good better. And the better, best in class. With sub-cultures of all descriptions a long-standing fascination for the brand, Bunney’s open-minded approach to design is typified by blending tradition and youth with the very best of formal British craftsmanship and the ‘punk-inspired DIY spirit’.
Any Bunney creation may look simple at first glance, but a closer examination will reveal details and ideas that are contemplative and intriguing, often in a playful and tender manner, yet at the same time, have the warmth of the familiar.
For one of its most recent projects Bunney teamed up with the iconic Italian scooter brand Vespa, to give its PX 150 scooter, which was first released in 1946, to give it a 21st Century Bunney overhaul. The resulting updated Vespa boasts a Japan-made, Scottish leather seat finish, hand-crafted headlamps, hand-planished bezels and sterling silver peaks.
Manufaktur catches up with Bunney’s founder to hear more about the collaboration and a parka it created with KTC to accompany the project.
ONE OF THE STORIES I REALLY LIKE IN YOUTH CULTURE IS THE IDEA OF PEOPLE TAKING SOMETHING AND MAKING IT SPECIAL AND OWNING IT.
WHAT WAS THE IDEA BEHIND LAUNCHING BUNNEY?
When I was working as Creative Director at Dr Martens, I decided I wanted to do something for myself. I started with the idea of making some studs in precious metals that could be worn as a badge on a collar or lapel. So I started to learn about the craft of jewellery making. I immediately started selling to a few stores in London, Paris and Japan and it was received really well. It wasn’t long before I had an entire line.
WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE BRAND?
I always had always been interested in jewellery, but I never really liked men’s, so I would always look at the women’s sections, which I generally preferred. Working with lots of different brands I realised the thing that I like is when a brand creates products that lots of different people can use or wear or interact with – that might be age based or gender based. I want Bunney designs to have a strong enough character that different sub-cultures would want to claim them for their own.
TELL US ABOUT THE COLLABORATION WITH VESPA?
The scooter is still very much part of the British consciousness and I’ve always been interested in Mods in the original sense of the word. I’m interested in the idea of the Modernist – the person who’s always on the hunt for an imported culture, for something new. I believe that spirit exists across generations. So we worked with Vespa to create the most special scooter possible using solid silver parts.
YOU PROBABLY LEAPT AT THE CHANCE TO WORK WITH VESPA, GIVEN BUNNEY’S FASCINATION WITH BRITISH FASHION SUBCULTURES?
One of the stories I really like in youth culture is the idea of people taking something and making it special and owning it. There’s something very nice about the way you might have a rocker from the 1960s and how they would want to cultivate a very tough image. They might get a leather jacket and spend a very long time decorating it in order to look tough. It is a delicate and charming way that people try to make something special for their own ends.
Despite the bikes originally coming from Italy, I liked the idea of young people taking something industrial and ordinary like the Vespa and trying to make it their own. It communicates what they like, their personality, their tastes, but this idea of specialness is very important. That’s why we wanted to create the most special version of a Vespa possible through beautiful mirrors or components for the bike. It is all very much in that same spirit.
Its levels of craftsmanship are head and shoulders above what can be offered anywhere else in the world.
HOW DID THE JACKETS COME ABOUT?
The one companion piece you think about alongside the Vespa from that era is the Mods fishtail parka. To accompany the Vespa, it only seemed right to try and make the most beautiful and special version of that parka too. With the parkas there was a certain utility associated with them as they were originally used by the Mods to cover their suits and protect them from the elements. So in terms of thinking about creating the most beautiful version of that parka we still wanted it to protect against the elements, but it also needed to look good and feel modern at the same time. On one level it’s about staying true to the original spirit and idea, but we wanted to see how we could create the best in field version today. It needed to retain a silhouette that was similar to the original - retaining the voluminous shape of the hood, retaining some of the styling aspects such as the leather trims and fur – but we wanted to try to take advantage of modern fabrication to see what was possible.
TELL US HOW YOU GOT INVOLVED WITH KTC?
Growing up in the UK, sportswear has always been quite important, whether that’s training shoes or kit and coats. I have never climbed a mountain or been set adrift at sea, but I was always interested in technical garments and how they were made. I wanted to find ways to incorporate that technology in a more casual way. When it came to KTC, I was fully aware that it had been making some of the greatest pieces in that field. It was the perfect opportunity to work with them on this project.
HOW DOES THE RELATIONSHIP WORK?
Seeing what they could do compared to other factories in Europe was the really eye-opening thing for me. KTC’s understanding of how to work with fabrics was crucial to the project working. The partnership worked so well as they have such a clear understanding of what’s possible from a technical point of view, whereas I knew what people would want to wear on the street. It was about getting that balance right. KTC is open to trying out new things and putting new solutions on the table - ones that perform a certain technical criteria but also look a certain way.
WITH YOUR BACKGROUND, YOU MUST HAVE HAD A VERY CLEAR IDEA OF WHAT YOU WANT FROM A PRODUCT PERSPECTIVE?
I was interested to see how KTC would manage the shape and silhouette, as they had to deal with two jackets that worked at the same – a down liner and an outer layer. I think that was a particularly good resolution. Its attention to detail on stitched and bonded seams, the wired hood, the finish were second to none. KTC has taken technology from the 1950s and 60s, and brought it right up to the present day, while retaining the original spirit of the jacket. Their attention to detail is the sort of thing that makes all the difference when customers get the product in their hands.
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE LEVELS OF CRAFTSMANSHIP KTC OFFERS YOU?
One of the compelling stories we have with Bunney is authenticity and how things are made. It would be too simplistic to say that Bunney wants to make UK made products, for me it is always working with the best in field. The UK would never be able to produce apparel in the same way that a factory like KTC can, particularly not technical apparel. So it is logical to work with the best place for producing those things. Its levels of craftsmanship are head and shoulders above what can be offered anywhere else in the world. KTC’s knowledge and skillset speaks for itself.
FOR MANY YEARS ‘MADE IN CHINA’ HAS HAD A NEGATIVE PERCEPTION IN THE WEST? WE BELIEVE THAT PERFORMANCE SPORTSWEAR MADE IN CHINA IS THE BEST IN THE WORLD? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS IN RELATION TO KTC?
It’s too simplistic to say that everything made in China is bad quality. China has produced some of the finest things that the world has ever seen under various different emperors. It’s about what you are trying to make and who you are trying to make it for. When I was a child ‘Made in Japan’ didn’t stand for all that much, but times change and people now recognise that stuff made in Japan stands for very good quality. It takes time, sometimes a lot of time, but attitude changes. Nobody has had the level of investment as China at this level of the market. It’s been able to hone and refine its production process and that’s why brands at a certain level of the market go there for production. KTC is a testament to that.
BUNNEY LIKES TO CREATE BEAUTIFUL OBJECTS THAT WILL STAND THE TEST OF TIME. DO YOU THINK THIS IS POSSIBLE WITH ACTIVITY SPECIFIC GARMENTS?
In a very short space of time there has been an incredible evolution in terms of technical product. But with technical products they only need to survive for a certain period of time, as it’s vital they evolve and improve. With sportswear it is about producing stuff that is better, lighter, thinner or whatever the need is. You need to have that change, because if you don’t it’s pointless. It’s about balance – modernity and familiarity – and setting a new benchmark. KTC does it all the time, never settling for second best.