The Making Of: A Luxurious, Bentley-inspired, Vegan Leather Lamp 16th March 2020 | IN EXPERT INSIGHT | BY SBID

To commemorate 100 years of Bentley motor cars, SBID Accredited Industry Partner, Alexander Joseph in collaboration with DMark Concepts produced a one of a kind cordless lamp, named Mulliner. The design of this exclusive premium lamp not only pays homage to the luxurious specification of Bentley’s prestigious interiors and their brand-new convertible model, but does so sustainably.

Made completely by hand in their UK workshops, the Nickel lamp body has been cushioned, replicating the decadent seating synonymous with the Mulliner specification. In collaboration with Bentley, the lampshade has been crafted in Vegan leather, then hand stitched in the iconic quilted diamond shape. The piece took 5 months to complete and represents approximately 600 hours of meticulous labour! The lamp also benefits from cutting edge, patent-pending battery technology and software, which delivers 3-4 weeks of use on a single charge. After the briefest of visits to the Geneva Motor Show, Mulliner will be offered for sale privately via a small number of Interior Designers with an appropriate client profile.

Bentley Continental GT Mulliner Convertible interior
Bentley Continental GT Mulliner Convertible interior
Bentley Continental GT Mulliner Convertible vegan leather details
Bentley Continental GT Mulliner Convertible details

Sharing his insight to the key factors driving industry change and how makers should respond, we interviewed Mark Robinson, Managing Director of Alexander Joseph to find out more about what went in to produce this Bentley-inspired, vegan lamp!

What social trends are driving change and how do your designs respond to them?

Consumer desire for ethically made and sustainable products forces makers to think hard about their products, often this means using new techniques or materials where traditional methods are now considered morally redundant. This in turn can affect the way a designer must think about a piece to ensure whatever the item happens to be can be made cost effectively.

Manufacturers ignore customer demands for ethical and sustainable products at their peril. It’s no longer good enough to “carry on as normal”, customers have started to vote with their feet, or wallets! Brands should see this as an opportunity to inspire new design and perhaps techniques, rather than a begrudging obligation.

A great example of a brand adapting to what the market wants is one of our most iconic British brands, Bentley. The company recently introduced a range of vegan leathers for their vehicles.

Mulliner Lamp by Alexander Joseph Manufacturing Process (2)
Mulliner Lamp by Alexander Joseph Manufacturing Process (1)

Can you talk us through the manufacturing process. How did you take the initial design concept to achieve the final end product?

Alexander Joseph partnered with DMark Concepts to make this piece. The two businesses have worked together on other projects and discussed how to produce something unique. DMark who are also based in Dorset are best known for handmaking body parts for vintage cars you simply can’t buy.

The concept for the Mulliner lamp came following a meeting between the two companies for an unrelated piece destined for a luxury yacht. During a conversation about Bentley, Mark Robinson mentioned their drive to become more environmentally aware, this in turn led to a conversation about new Bentley models including the upcoming Mulliner. Within 10 minutes the group at the meeting had sketched out the initial concept.

In rudimentary terms, the piece can be broken down into three parts. The body, the shade and the technology. We decided to make the body from copper, primarily because it is an easier material to roll than most. It also lends itself to being highly polished as well as being the perfect plating surface.

A single sheet of copper was hand rolled, then using a laser light, the sheet was painstakingly worked over a wheel to create the pillowing synonymous with Bentley Mulliner models. This section of the lamp took almost 300 hours to create.

The technology for this piece also had to be reworked onto a new platform as the internal space wouldn’t allow for our existing electronics layout. This in turn meant we had to redesign the charging system for the lamp!

Bentley Continental GT Mulliner Convertible
Bentley Continental GT Mulliner Convertible
Luxury Mulliner Cordless Lamp by Alexander Joseph

How was the choice of materials important? Why did you choose to use Vegan leather?

Our initial idea was to make our first carbon neutral product, just to see if it could be done. Using Vegan leather for the lampshade was an obvious and easy choice. We approached Bentley about the project, and they were able to give us all the information we needed to see the piece to conclusion.

The black vegan leather we eventually selected was then sent to a car upholstery specialist who formerly worked for another car brand, Aston Martin. He was able to hand stitch the material, replicating the Mulliner specification in Bentley cars.

Your products are manufactured by hand in the UK. How do you see ‘Made in Britain’ trend evolving after Brexit?

We don’t fear what Brexit means to ‘Made in Britain’. In fact, we see it as another opportunity. As a country we may struggle to compete with other regions for lower priced high-volume products, but nobody does quality engineered and hand-made products better than Britain. We see no reason why this wouldn’t continue. If anything, it could be argued that an overt independence only enhances the cache of Made in Britain.

How do you go about sourcing your materials locally? Why do you do this?

We ensure every component used in our lamps come from UK suppliers. When we launched our business one of our proud claims was that our lamps were 100% British – and this is still the case today. We audit all our suppliers to ensure everything they supply to us has been sourced and made in the UK. Wherever possible we buy from local suppliers with around 80% of our raw material coming from firms within a 20-mile radius of our workshops.

Sourcing specialist components and materials from UK suppliers is challenging, the research is time consuming, as is the administration of controlling the supply chain, but we think it is worth it.

All our pieces have a serial number. We record every component that goes into a customer lamp, so in the future if the piece is damaged, we can replace a part without the cost of replacing the whole lamp. As a result, we also know what date we received every component and which batch it came from. We even record ancillary information such as the depth of plating, or the colour density of glass.

Questions answered by Mark Robinson, Managing Director of Alexander Joseph

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