Luxury is an overused word today. On every high street, there are products that presumptuously claim to be luxury goods – chocolates, sweaters, scarves, even something as mundane as a sandwich from Marks & Spencer. But what is real luxury? Well, it is hard to define, except you know it when you see it, smell it and touch it.
We all have our own ideas of luxury and what it is, but to me a luxury item is well-made using the best materials and crafted with incredible care in a traditional way; everything about it is exceptional, including its design, manufacture and presentation on the shop floor. Combine “luxury” with “Britishness” – another hard-to-nail quality, and what do you get? Some of the finest products in the world.
It is with these two concepts in mind that I would like to introduce you to one of my favourite luxury British brands, the acclaimed stationers – Noble MacMillan. Let me tell you their story first, then we’ll get to the juicy bit.
Tucked away in the heart of South Kensington you’ll find one of the most unique stores in London hidden down the cobbled side street of Elvaston Mews. This former 19th century stable block was converted into a garage by Tom Dodd Noble and Adam Macmillan in the mid 1970’s to service racing cars. Ten years after opening Tom went to buy a leather photo frame and was astonished by the eye watering price tag and after discussing this with business partner Adam they decided a profitable business could be made selling great quality leather frames at affordable prices inside their little premises. So, in this navy blue garage, in 1980 Noble MacMillan was born.
In among the old car-jacks from time gone by, the delightful shop is crammed full of leather bound goodies from the classic photo frames to key rings, notebooks, wallets, jewelry rolls and iPad cases. Despite the huge variety of products Noble MacMillan has a distinctly British attitude and twenty years on they remain dedicated to their Founders core values: luxury, quality and timeless style. Having sourced only the finest materials from across the globe the products are all handmade within the UK, which today, makes Noble MacMillan one of the exceptions within the British luxury good market as many of their contemporaries choose to outsource the production of their goods to other corners of the globe often sacrificing quality. It is clear that these British craftsmen have impeccable attention to detail and as a result Noble MacMillan creates beautiful handmade accessories that smack of sophistication.
What I adore about this gem of a shop (along with its very reasonable price tags – yes really, I was shocked too!) is the use of colour. Every surface is covered with a rainbow of products in an array of vibrant shades. Unlike their counterparts Noble MacMillan are not afraid of colour and experiment with a vivid palette making their products instantly recognisable. During a business meeting when someone props up their iPad on a striking calfskin leather case in poppy red you immediately know they too are in on our secret and have been to Noble MacMillan. I love how the collections are inspired by the city cool of London and the craftsmanship of the countryside making the brand unique in combining the best of Britain into its range.
Another distinguishing trait of the brand is that they can personalise every product they sell for their customers and are happy to do so whilst you wait. Many other stationers will send you away or ask you to collect your buys in a few days’ time but no, not here, in Noble MacMillan you are encouraged to continue mooching around the store or to even watch as the gold or silver lettering is applied with precision to your items whilst staff chat away and make you feel like you are part of the furniture. It’s such a personable ambiance in the store, it is a real pleasure to visit and there’s nothing like heading out the door, bags bulging, with your beautifully packaged purchases to head home and open one of what no doubt will be your first of many buys.
If you are unable to pop into 9 Elvaston Mews then check out the website here to place your orders.