Whether you believe fashion is an art form or not, Rampley & Co have combined the two, to create a stunning new pocket square collection inspired by the work of the 19th and early 20th Century Austrian painter, Gustav Klimt.
The artwork of Gustav Klimt sparked much controversy in the early 1900s, with many believing that his portraits were provocative pieces of artwork, and quite frankly, distasteful. It seems Klimt took a rather Freudian approach in his confrontation of sexuality and nudity within his work, which his fellow critics did not view in high regard. Many of the women in his pieces were depicted with a particularly evocative gaze, or in a rather erotic position. Despite signs of attitudes beginning to be more relaxed towards sexuality during this time, his art was nonetheless shocking to the early 20th Century eye.
One of Klimt's paintings, his 1907 'Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I' was not so long ago brought to the public's attention in the 2015 film, Woman in Gold, starring Helen Mirren. Set in the 1980s, the film told the story of Maria Altmann's battle with the Austrian government to reclaim Klimt's portrait of her Aunt, Adele. This was prompted by Maria's discovery that her Aunt did not in fact donate this portrait to the Austrian State Gallery, but it was in fact, seized by the Nazi's during the Second World War because her family were of Jewish descent. Rightfully, Maria won the court case and the painting is now displayed at the Neue Galerie in New York.
The pocket square design below imitates Klimt's original painting, the 'Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I.'
We speak to Elliot at Rampley & Co, who not only delves into the inspiration and ethos behind this elegant brand, but also the reasoning behind their inclusion of the Austrian painter's work into the designs of their beautiful silk pocket squares.
How did Rampley & Co come about and how has the brand evolved over the years?
We set up the company out of a desire to find something a little different in the market. I’ve always worn pocket squares and loved them as an accessory, but found it amazing that women’s scarves have had stunning patterns and designs ever since Hermés in the 1930s, and yet we felt nobody was really doing the same with the male equivalent. Most of the retailers I was trying had the same old paisley, polka dot and flat colour, which of course are all wardrobe essentials, but I was looking for something a little different. From the outset, we decided we wanted all of our pocket squares to tell a story and have that point of differentiation. We launched in partnership with three pieces of fine art taken from the Tate in London and have since partnered with the National Gallery, the Wallace Collection, the Museum of London, English Heritage, the V&A and the British Museum as well as several more. After our first year, we also decided to launch ties and socks and have since branched into braces and umbrellas as well as launching our first silk women’s scarves in November. Over the past 12 months, one of our biggest developments has also been in producing bespoke items for private clients, whether it be a bespoke pocket square with their favourite painting/design, or a bespoke tie made from a fabric of their choosing to their own specifications.
Tell us about the ethos behind the Rampley & Co brand?
We’d sum up our ethos with four key words; Materials, Provenance, Design and Quality. All of these aspects are absolutely essential to the way we choose and produce our products and are effectively the four main pillars of our brand. We spent the first years really ensuring we had the best possible product in terms of design and materials regardless of how this affected margin and this ‘quality first’ approach has really resonated with our customers. As previously mentioned, we also focused on making sure every one of our products always tells a story, again whether this be through design or manufacture but preferably both! We work with UK manufacturers to produce all of our current range. It was important for us to leverage the heritage and craftsmanship in British manufacturing, with some of the factories being based in the same location for close to 200 years.
What do you think makes Rampley & Co unique?
Our commitment to quality is certainly a point of difference. There are lots of brands at a lower price point but we know that our product is absolutely the best it can be. We’ve also stayed away from being driven by creating two main seasonal collections like most brands and really, we just create beautiful prints by what is inspiring us at that particular moment. We don’t tend to follow colour themes, we just create designs we love and I think our customers like this approach.
Our pocket squares are probably the best example for how we’ve focused on producing the best product available on the market today. I’d say there are a few factors that form the core of this; size, hemming, material and design.
SIZE: We create the majority of our squares and certainly all of our silk squares at 42x42cm. You get less per metre of cloth and so they cost more to manufacture but we felt this was the perfect size to prevent slippage of the square in your pocket while maintaining shape and not feeling too bulky.
HEMMING: The hand rolled edges are key for us. It’s absolutely the best way to finish a pocket square for a variety of reasons but the key ones are for both visual effect and structure. Rolling by hand is the only way to get a really nice clean plump finish on the edge and this gives a really nice depth to the edges as well as looking much more striking when the edges and corners are showing from the square. It’s of course a much more expensive process than machine rolling but by using a machine you’re often left with quite a flat edge and you don’t get the same luxurious feel. On top of this, the rolled edges add a lot more structure to your square and will help avoid slippage within the pocket as well as helping keep the corners of your pointed folds nice and crisp when poking out of the pocket. The process of hand rolling and sewing will also give each individual product its own unique character.
MATERIAL: The quality of material that you use is incredibly important and you can often tell when a pocket square is produced from a cheaper fibre. Our silk for example, is the highest grade we could procure and we have devoted a lot of our energies to finding the perfect weight and weave for our pocket squares and scarves, which is a very fine mulberry silk twill with 100% silk filament, and this ensures that it wasn’t too bulky in the pocket but would hold its shape when folded. Plus, we needed to ensure that when printing the paintings, we could get a perfectly clear image transferred onto the silk while ensuring that the bleed of the ink means you get almost a carbon copy on the reverse. Very few squares available on the market today give you that level of bleed through the silk and so you’ll often see quite a bleached version on one side, our weight of silk and printing process ensures that however folded in the pocket you get an exceptional representation of the full design and colour palette.
DESIGN: As mentioned before, design is incredibly important to us and so we’ve tried to ensure all of our pocket squares tell a story while providing something truly unique for your pocket. Being able to show those around you a print of a Rubens or Turner feels like a real mark of quality when compared to a lot of the standard polka dot and repeat patterns on the market today. We do though find inspiration from a variety of sources and spend time pouring over old design books as well as architecture, fine art, archaeology and historical archives around the world. We of course appreciate there’s a lot of interest and demand for repeat patterns as well as the art and stylized images we use but if we’re going to produce a repeat geometric then we want to use an Ottoman ceramic tile design from 16th century Damascus that has a rich story and heritage rather than something computer generated or that has no meaning.
What inspires your products? Do you focus on trends?
As mentioned above, we certainly stay away from being driven by creating two main seasonal collections like most brands and this also means avoiding focusing on trends. We see our products as timeless pieces that can last a lifetime and feel this adds a lot of value to a customer when they’re going through the purchasing decision. In terms of inspiration, it’s everything around us but certainly design aspects taken from art, architecture and archaeology. London is rich in heritage and design and has some of the finest museums and art institutions in the world to visit and collaborate with so if anything we’re spoilt for choice!
How do you decipher the particular pieces of art, architecture or a moment in history that forms the designs of your products?
This will really depend on the core design inspiration behind the product, be it an old master painting, an architectural triumph or even the reproduction of an 18th century handkerchief. For our first project with The National Gallery for example, we worked closely with their team to choose three paintings from their substantial collection of some of the finest artworks in the world. The paintings had to first and foremost appeal to us visually while having an interesting story we could convey to our customers. They then, had to suit the medium on which they were to be presented and so we slowly identified those we wanted based on colour blends and the ability to work within a square crop. We then designed unique borders for each square, each inspired by the painting it was chosen to go with and utilising individual details seen in the work such as the detailing on an arch or the colouring of a piece of clothing. Once designs were finalised, we worked with their expert colourist to ensure that the sampling process gave us the closest possible match to the original painting before producing our finished product. This is a difficult task when printing complicated images with multiple colour blends onto silk, but fully worth it when presented at the end with a stunning hand rolled silk pocket square, featuring an absolutely stunning piece of art.
How do you retain a sense of British heritage in your designs?
When we launched the brand, we were very keen to keep as much of the manufacturing as possible based in England and inevitably our design and creative process is very much inspired by what is around us, as well as other English brands and the fantastic institutions we’re working with. We’ve worked on projects with partners on Savile Row and the brands that operate there are definitely an inspiration for what we’re trying to achieve, and where we want to take Rampley & Co. We’re also working with factories that have often been manufacturing handmade goods in England for over 200 years and this forms an inherent part of our brand identity.
What does British craftsmanship mean to you?
Exceptional quality through attention to detail.
What are your best sellers?
We’re best known for our pocket squares and so our best sellers fall into this category. In particular, the Death of Major Peirson and Saint George and the Dragon. Both these pieces have dramatic scenes and stunning colours combinations, as well as stories that inspire our customers.
We are so pleased to have the pocket squares from your Klimt Collection on our site. What provoked your inclusion of this Austrian painter’s work onto your pocket squares?
As we expand our range and start to create different focuses on artists, such as our Rubens and now Klimt Collections, we wanted to focus on works that inspired us while working perfectly with the medium. For Klimt, the colours are exceptional and when held against the light, the weight of silk we use allows the light to almost ignite the golds in the design and allowing them to be seen almost as the original paintings were. We’re huge fans of Klimt and thought this collection would be a wonderful way to commemorate 100 years since his death.
What’s next for Rampley & Co?
We’re expanding into other product categories soon and have several major partnerships on the way but I can’t say too much more than that at this stage, so watch this space!
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