ADAM ATKINSON - CONSULTANT DESIGNER
Even the smallest of things need great attention, so when we started Brydon Brothers we wanted to design and create a belt with the help of a maestro. We eventually came across Adam Atkinson, a consultant designer with years of experience in the fashion industry working with some very respectful brands and even starting some of his own including his latest; Utility Archive which you’ll hear more about below.
Adam is a talented guy - what’s more he’s a gent and unpretentious to go with it. He bears a refreshing air of outdoor Britishness which is clearly evident in the products he creates and the Cumbrian hills he’s spent so much time exploring.
We recently popped by his studio to take some shots of the man in his happy place and we delved a little deeper into his journey so far:
(Photography by Tom Morgan - www.tomdmorgan.com)
What are some of your earliest design memories?
I grew up in Cumbria in the ’70’s and ’80’s, a backwater in terms of fashion and design, or so I thought back then. I propelled myself toward a creative education and career via school, Carlisle art college, Newcastle Poly then London Town. Rewind a little and my formative years seemed to be spent almost entirely outdoors. Our family were the ones wearing cagoules and carrying packed lunches in our backpacks. We went camping, hiking, birdwatching, canoeing, climbing and skiing. Not skiing abroad, we skied in Cumbria and Scotland. 'If you can ski in Scotland you can ski anywhere’, was the bad weather mantra. So, my earliest design memories are generally outdoor-related. Robust, practical clothing, equipment, tools, engineering and architecture, all designed to help us enjoy or exist in the outdoors. There are loads of examples, too many to list, here are a few in no particular order:
-Land Rover Defender - self explanatory.
-Vango Force Ten tent - solid A frame design with a green ground sheet, white plastic zips, faded orange flysheet. A better outdoor colour palette you will not find.
-Trangia stove - Swedish outdoor design excellence. Lightweight, stove, pans and kettle nests into one unit and works in any conditions.
-Almost any Karrimor backpack - I particularly like the Aiguille, Joe Brown, Dougal Haston and Whillans Alpiniste models. In the ’60’s and ‘70s Karrimor were one of the most innovative outdoor brands in the world.
-Karrimor KSB boots - everyone wore leather boots, then in the early ’80’s Karrimor produced a cut and sewn textile and suede boot that was super light and 100% waterproof. It also looked great.
-Ron Hill Tracksters - the legwear of choice for all our PE teachers. Stirrups, outer seam contrast piping and a waist band key pocket.
-Walsh and Nike trainers - My dad was really into fell running. He usually wore Walsh running shoes, ‘Pennine Adders’ and ‘PB’s’. One day in ’76 or ’77 he came home with a pair of Nike Waffle Racers, I remember the red box, and him reading the ‘we call it a swoosh’ line from the tongue label. Game changer.
We loved the products you helped create for us and for your own brands like Cherchbi. Whats been your proudest project to date?
Yes, I enjoyed working on the Brydon belts a lot. It’s always good to work on product with a new brand. I’m very proud of Cherchbi and Herdwyck No.10, the tweed cloth I created for that brand. Four years of effort to create something very beautiful. But Utility Archive is already matching that in terms of a sense of pride. Taking inspiration from many of the products I mentioned in the first question and pulling this together into a really unique collection of modern, totally sustainable bags has been an amazing journey so far. We just launched and the reaction has been incredible.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
My folks did a massive house renovation in the early ’80’s. I was helping my dad move rubble bags but struggling to lift them. “Grab the corners as hard as you can, look at it, pause and JUST LIFT IT”. It worked. Updated to Just Do It by a well known sports brand. I’ve applied this advice to all types of tasks over the years. In essence it means stop procrastinating and get on with it.
What are the most challenging and exciting aspects of your job?
Sometimes the challenge is the getting the first idea. Somehow generating that spark of inspiration, the seed of a new idea. Then, making that imagined product real. Pulling together all these disparate elements - body materials, trims, their weight, handfeel, colour, texture, size, scale, proportion, construction, detailing, features and function. There are more. Going through rounds and rounds of sketches, drawings, imagining and reimagining until it starts to form into a coherent design.
How would you describe your design language?
Simple robust quality. Given the choice I work with premium materials and pare back the product design. This allows the materials to come to the fore, be that the texture, weight or handfeel. This approach was at the heart of Cherchbi and also Utility Archive. I work like this with some clients too, but it requires trust on their part as the very simple designs may not look much on paper. It’s only when you get to samples in correct materials that the whole thing comes together.
Is there a designer or architect you most admire?
Good question, there are loads of course. I’ve great admiration for Dieter Rams achievements at Braun and Vitsoe. Tinker Hatfield designed all the good Nike shoes. Flavio Girolami and Prathan Proopat of Common Projects, their Achilles Low dropped jaws and created a new category. Nigel Cabourn's Everest collection was a phenomenal idea brilliantly executed. Everything Margaret Howell does is near perfect.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
My wife Kirsty. We campervanned around Skye after we married. One afternoon we bought langoustines straight off the boat, drove up to a cliff top overlooking the Outer Hebrides and butterflied them on the barbecue watching the sunset. It’d be nice to repeat that.
If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
An architect, or cartographer. Possibly a farmer.
*Explore Adam’s new brand here; Utility Archive.