“I think with my hands,” admits Philip Crangi, apron-clad and bearing bracelets from his New York-based jewelry brand, Giles & Brother. “I find it easier to express myself that way.” Working over an anvil set atop a tree stump, he hammered custom monograms into his label’s handmade cuffs at Barneys New York’s annual Artisan Day.
Each year, the event connects customers to the craftspeople whose goods stand as a testament to the beauty of handcrafting. Usually held on a single day, the event took place over a weekend this year, starting at the Madison Avenue flagship on Saturday and moving downtown to the Chelsea store on Sunday. At both locations, artisans and representatives from a selection of brands were on hand to offer customized goods and services just for Barneys shoppers.
Susan Easton, founder of From the Road Cashmere, displayed her soft scarves on a glass vitrine. Each is made by artisans in Nepal, who use naturally dyed, hand-spun cashmere and foot-pedal looms. “There’s such a beauty in the handmade,” says Easton, her neck wrapped in one of her grey scarves. “It really goes back to the way luxury used to be.”
Leatherworkers from New York-based Vianel used sheets of gold foil to stamp customers’ initials onto their Italian-made card and phone cases. Likewise, denizens of Rhode Island’s Lotuff Leather manned a heated embossing press to stamp their supple leather bags with shining monograms.
Lodental, the cult-favorite Italian outerwear purveyor, displayed its wool coats available in custom color combinations, as well as a Barneys-exclusive model. Each lightweight, weather-proof piece is made by hand in the company’s workshop in Naples. And hailing from a different corner of the globe, Australia-based P. Johnson offered its signature unconstructed suiting in an array of custom fabrics. Label ambassador Tyler Sequeira, who removed his own jacket to demonstrate the brand’s deft ability to create a lightweight garment, revealed, “Because we own our own workshop, we really determine what we can do.”
Jeweler Dean Harris, who creates all of his refined, organic accessories with just one other artisan, offered bracelets strung with semi-precious stones in colors and patterns to customers’ wishes. Meanwhile, Paris’ Le Gramme provided their own sterling silver cuffs with messages engraved by calligrapher Nicolas Ouchenir.
“I like to see something start as a blank canvas and then see something come to fruition,” confessed hat-maker Nick Fouquet, who customized his beaver-felt hats with the help of a conformateur, a circular device for measuring the shape of a client’s head. And donning a white lab coat, a craftsman from Title of Work beaded a tie from the New York label with surgical precision.
Standing behind a table of his own handmade ties, Alexander Olch expressed the logistical imperative of making his wares using old-world methods. “The fabrics that we use…people say that we’re crazy,” he explains, as the delicate textiles would be unceremoniously shredded by a machine. “It has to be done by hand.”