GUEST COLUMN: James Deakin discusses design inspirations

Henry Deakin and James Deakin, managing director and creative director, Deakin & Francis

James Deakin, creative director, Deakin & Francis

From eclectic and quirky, to classic and sophisticated and then just a little bit odd– here at Deakin & Francis we pride ourselves on offering a style of cufflinks for every passion. And, a question I am often asked is how do we continue to come up with new inspirational designs? How do we know what the next design is going to be? Can we be sure that they will sell?

Well, the simple answer is – I am bloody lucky that I love my job. I am tasked with coming up with designs that will amuse boys and girls and suit their personalities or mood, I have no restraints other than the piece has to be made to the best of our capability, with all the detail we can squeeze in and it has to last.. but other than that I go for it!

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My motivation is to make pieces that have not been made before – there is so much untouched direction. And, with the introduction to new technology and combining industries, you can do almost anything – and that’s incredibly exciting. But this can be where the problem lies – I can get a little too excited and carried away. For those who have come on a Deakin & Francis factory tour you will have seen my desk (tucked under two giant model aeroplanes in a dog fight position) or rather not seem my desk but a mountain of models, broken bits and toys and sketches!  We have new concepts that we are working on making into a reality, but this can literally take years and so determination is the key (and not to be put off by strange looks from the boys in the workshop).

For my latest Fundamentals collection – I knew I wanted to astonish and amaze and really push the boundaries. Most of my sketching process was done out of the factory, where I could let my mind breathe and really consider the functionality, metal tolerances and wear ability. Proportions and perspective often form the greatest challenges and how the jewellery sits, feels and moves are all essential parts of the process. Price points are a huge consideration too as everyone has different budgets and we now have an offering for all.

From the Sopwith propellers, with spinning blades to turbine engines you blow on to activate movement, and of course our sleepy owls, made from 66 highly engineered components – most of these designs feature minute bearings to ensure a smooth movement. Every part of the process is fascinating and the journey can involve many twists and turns but the end result is always worth it!

At the same time we need to strike a balance between classic and wondrous, so like our new summer haze collection, a couple of days spent at the V&A, saw us hand cut a die unlike anything i have seen before. Within a couple of weeks our vitreous enamel workshop were firing up the kilns and using a technique the ancient Egyptians invented in the 15th century, how cool is that ! A properly made British cufflinks using the same techniques we have used in our building for 231 years.

As our brand has grown, I am immensely proud of the fact that people now recognise our designs – of course inspiration is all around us, the important thing is to get out there,  walk around the block, keep a sketch pad by your bed, go camping in wales or Namibia, visit the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition and the national history museum, rebuild a classic car engine in your back yard, sniff a flower at David Austin roses, break out the water colours –  it does all starts with a sketch but watch out its likely to be at 3am.

As a 230-year-old, family run business, I am lucky enough to work alongside my brother Henry. We have a lovely team at Deakin and Francis and with their support i can ensure that from sketch to production, QC to delivery that they are always crafted to the very highest standards. This is not the generation that is going to tarnish the Deakin name, after all we are still producing some of grandpas stunning designs. I wish the next generation the best of luck but our game is very much just starting.

So, in short, how can we ensure our designs sell? You simply can’t –  but if we love it then our customers just might too. You’ve got to be in it to win it and our clients are now understanding that what we are offering is not just product. It is the whole package – it is very important that our offering is nicely packaged and backed by a marketing service which we have invested heavily in. We have just had our best Basel show and are all fired up to be heading off to Couture in Vegas, come and see us.

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