Origins is a new feature on Overdiluted, where I'll be talking to fashion and design entrepreneurs about the early days of their business or project. The idea of owning your own brand sounds pretty wonderful, but I'm sure that behind dreaming up great products and making them look wonderful on social media, it isn't as easy as many fashion startups make it look.
Origins is about learning a bit more about what went on behind the scenes in the early days, gaining some insight into what it takes to make bright ideas into brilliant products. It's all about appreciating how far the brands I follow with great interest have come in recent years.
The plan is to ask the same five questions to a range of brands from around the world. Over time, this will provide some interesting food for though across the sphere of menswear while (hopefully) throwing up some themes and trends across the various brands we encounter. I've got some great brands lined up, and I'm really pleased to be kicking it off with Banton Frameworks, who I've been following closely since I started this website back in 2014.
Banton Frameworks are an eyewear brand founded by Jamie Bartlett and Lucy Ross, who today manufacture prescription and sunglasses by hand in their workshop just North of Glasgow, right by Banton Loch. Jamie and Lucy pride themselves on in-house processes, British manufacturing and the beauty in simple yet beautiful design. Jamie was kind enough to spend some time chatting about the Origins of the brand...
Can you tell me who you are and a little bit about Banton Frameworks?
Currently, Banton Frameworks consists of me, Jamie Bartlett, and my partner Lucy Ross. Together we founded the company specialising in the in-house design and manufacture of eyewear. The brand is positioned as modern classic with a strong utilitarian influence.
Going right back to the start, how did you land on the idea of doing Banton?
Banton Frameworks was born from two notions, the forefront of our brand ethos. Interestingly, from the beginning, it was never specifically about eyewear. As two graduate industrial designers we were both faced with little to no UK based job availability due to the fact that very few products are made here anymore. This, mixed with unsatisfying visits to the local opticians, sparked the idea for starting our own eyewear brand. However, we didn’t want to just go straight to the source and develop frames with a foreign manufacturer. We wanted to be the manufacturer.
What made you move beyond a good idea and turn Banton Frameworks into a fully fledged 'thing'?
At the beginning, eyewear seemed like a relatively simple product for us to design and produce here in the UK. That was five years ago and incidentally; it’s taken us many, many hours to hone. The crucially consistent driving force was our passion for in-house production. At the beginning we were making frames we weren’t happy with. To solve this we have worked tirelessly to eradicate variables by further developing our process. This has resulted in designing and even building our very own machinery and tooling, often relying upon local automotive and aerospace machinists. Trial and error played a huge role in our advancements as no one was going to tell us how to do it.
What was the toughest thing in the early days of getting things off the ground?
The toughest thing for us was being comfortable with the lengthy development stages. It was more than 3 years before we started seeing the fruits of our labour. With such commitment to something, you rapidly learn how deep you are willing to dig to make things work. This was our steepest learning curve and it was three years Lucy and I certainly don’t regret.
What's the best thing about doing Banton Frameworks?
The best thing about Banton Frameworks is our consolidation. The more we push, the better we get at what we do. It’s exciting because we are getting to the point where we can’t do it all by ourselves; our intention from the start. We want to create not just a product but transferrable processes and skills for young people to learn. If anything, we want to inspire more young and creative people to do things for themselves. At the very least, we want to contribute to the growing choice of UK manufactured goods. It’s a re-revolution. Look out.