The recent Best of Britannia exhibition in London showcased small, craft-based British companies making everything from kitchen knives to bicycles. It included some Permanent Style favourites such as Hiut jeans, Dashing Tweeds and the various west-country makers grouped under the Merchant Fox label. But what they all had in common was that they sold almost exclusively online, yet their product could only really be appreciated first-hand. These are the pluses and minuses of the internet I suppose: cheaper retail and communication, but disconnection from the product itself.
One company this was particularly true of was Cherchbi. I was aware of the brand because it is stocked by Lissom & Muster, the Manchester shop and Permanent Style advertiser. It looked like a nice design concept, using heavy wools with leather trims for a range of bags, but nothing more exciting than that.
My opinion changed once I had one of the bags in my hand. This is not bespoke-level craft you understand – there is no hand stitching and little delicacy of shape – but no matter how much information you are given about how something is made, part of the appreciation of it is lacking until you can see and feel it for yourself.
Things you appreciate once you are holding a Cherchbi bag: the satisfying brass hardware; the chunky horn toggles; the fact the leather trim is slightly thicker than you’d expect; the leather straps that are veg-tanned and ergonomically curved; probably most important of all, the Herdwyck tweed, which is thick, densely woven and rubber-bonded onto the cotton lining, making it waterproof.
You can read the whole background to Cherchbi on its excellent website, but essentially Adam started the company five years ago to make use of Herdwyck wool, which was often discarded or burnt. The sheep are bred for their specialist meat.
The leather materials are all British and pit-tanned at Joseph Clayton in Derbyshire, and the British theme extends to the brass hardware and Abbeyhorn toggles. Again, there is more than sufficient information on the site about the provenance of the materials and the making of the bags.
I love leather so much that I rarely consider wool bags. But Cherchbi made me change my mind – my favourite being the rucksack at top. Wear it with a Nigel Cabourn jacket, Kapital jeans and Common Projects chukkas.