The Art of British Manufacturing | The Humble Button
One of those small details, that makes or breaks a garment, yet I’m sure not a lot of people have wondered how a button is made and what materials are they made from- let alone considering the button provenance. Let’s face facts with all the haberdashery shops disappearing across our High Street – its even harder to buy a packet of buttons, so why would we consider how a button is made?
I have been known as a Button Hoarder at University (I like to think of it as Collector), much to my flatmates horror who was terrified of buttons. I wondered all year why she never came to sit in my room for a chat, but the barrier was the huge glass container of buttons that sat outside my bedroom door. I would find interesting and unusual buttons on vintage markets, charity shops and later on my travels to factories in Europe and the Far East. They were saved for best or to sew onto garments to give a unique detail, but I don’t think I really considered the materials or what these buttons were made from.
Two years ago, I received a call from Courtney & Co inviting me to coffee to discuss their journey of button making. Little did I know that our conversation would blow me away and I would be telling friends, family members, clients and even a few strangers about “the British button story” because believe it or not, a button isn’t just a button.
Courtney & Co are the last button makers in the UK and work with sustainable materials to mill their buttons in a variety of sizes and patterns. They turn, dye and finish their buttons using traditional techniques yet always guided by provenance, bio-degradability, sustainability and environmental impact.
For my collections, including the Alva Cardigan, I use two different materials; the Corozo nut and Codelite sourced from milk casein.
Weighing 6kg this is the raw natural material that your Corozo buttons are made from.
Corozo is a natural, sustainable & biodegradable product sourced from Ecuador’s indigenous tagua palm tree. The Tagua palm is a valuable crop and incredibly eco friendly. A “mocochas” will hold up to 120 nuts that will make around 500 buttons. The nuts are not harvested by picking off the trees, but waiting until they have fallen naturally.
Whilst wearing and supporting the Corozo button you indirectly help maintain and protects these ancient rainforests in Central America.
Pretty amazing right!
Above left the Corozo blanks before turning and dyeing the button. Then the final button, custom dyed in a tonal grey for the Alva lambswool cardigan in mustard.
Working with Courtney & Co has allowed me to explore my love of colour to the finest detail, the button. For my custom spun Alva cardigans I wanted to punctuate their unique colourful marls with a complimentary button.
The dying process of the codelite buttons, with a custom colour in a deep autumnal burgundy to compliment the Alva lambswool cardigan in Orange. Codelite is a natural, sustainable and biodegradable material.
What is codelite I hear you ask.. it is made from conventional dairy milk, derived from 96% milk casein which is hardened in layers of 1mm a week. Creating a solid material that the button will then be cut out of and turned. They have a wonderful pearl look that takes colour so beautifully.
Above a pearl bright blue that accents the twist of blue lambswool in the Alva Cardigan in Pink.
I am thrilled to be finally collaborating with @courtneycobuttonmakers who saved the last button factory in the UK & have been reviving the craft of button making. I hope my story shares the importance of each manufacturing process in garment manufacturing, to the last button.
I love that every garment has a story, from fibre, manufacturer and even the button, all these processes has an environmental impact, let it be a sustainable one that also saves a part of the rainforest.
GS Sock Subscription
Subscribe and each month you'll receive a surprise pair of socks showcasing Genevieve's signature blend of premium yarns and contemporary patterns in seasonal, statement colours