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Craft / August 2017

Bennett Winch: Balancing Form and Function

British brand Bennett Winch is evidence that, in the world of luxury luggage, practicality doesn’t have to compromise aesthetics.

The Weekender by Bennett Winch was the brand's first design and remains the hero piece.

How much thought do you give to your pockets? Probably not enough, given the integral role they play in everyday life, as the unsung heroes of the well-organised. But for Bennett Winch Creative Director Rupert Shreeve, these compartments – small, large, zipped or otherwise – occupy a larger-than-average part of his time. “It sounds a bit over-the-top,” explains Shreeve, “but people build relationships with pockets. If a person can’t organise themselves the way they want to, they become frustrated and unengaged. We want to remove any frustration and allow people to have control at a micro level.”

Functionality is at the heart of the British luggage brand, which was founded three years ago by Robin Bennett and Robin Winch – two friends from unconnected industries but with an unwavering respect for quality. Like all good ideas, the pair came up with the concept for the business at a bar, drawing a sketch for what was to become The Weekender on a napkin. After consulting Rupert, an award-winning product designer, that initial idea grew into a fathomable business, and the Robins quit their respective jobs to pursue that endeavour.

The trio, who all contribute to the design and development of the bags, set out to create pieces that they each wanted in their lives, but couldn’t find on the market: highly functional designs that are still aesthetically pleasing. “Our brief is to always create completely uncompromised products that perform like no other,” says Winch. That meant taking well-established manufacturing processes and materials and manipulating them to create pieces someone would want to use, and rely on, every day.

Take, for example, the 24oz bonded canvas that’s used in most of Bennett Winch’s pieces: it’s incredibly durable and totally waterproof, but in the wrong hands could look over-engineered. That’s why it’s paired with vegetable-tanned Italian leather and brass hardware – to maintain a considered edge. “Everything is designed in our London studio and then developed on site at our factory in Carlisle,” says Shreeve. “We spend a lot of time at the factory exploring new ways of doing things and experimenting with different materials. We can be found working late into the night in Farringdon, ripping samples apart and sticking them back together with pins and gaffer tape until we have concepts rationalised to the millimetre.”

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Jessica Beresford

Jessica is The Rake's Managing Editor.