• Aero Concept
    The Despatch

    Aero Concept
    Aero Concept at Bentleys: Aero Concept was founded in Tokyo in 2003 and grew out of the philosophy, skill and passion of its creator, Keiichi Sugano. These beautiful and practical objects are testament to Sugano’s art and creativity – from taking his original idea to using his hands and vision to bring together materials and tools to make it a reality.

    Aero Concept has its roots in a small precision engineering company called Keiswi that now specialises in making components for the aircraft companies Boeing and Airbus as well as parts for Shinkashen; the Japanese high speed bullet trains. Such clients require the highest quality materials worked to an exacting level of precision. Keiswi is a small family business with a long established reputation. Keiichi’s grandfather founded the company. He was a highly skilled craftsman who was appointed chief builder for the replacement of the copper roof on Osaka Castle in 1931.
    While modern manufacturing aims to create products as quickly and cheaply as possible, Aero Concept stands out for its fanatical devotion to the production of each individual item, working by hand to create components with a precision that is impossible to achieve on a production line. This is the heritage behind the Aero Concept products, created with the vision and passion of a master craftsman.

    Aero Concept was born from practicality. From making his own case to making bespoke items for individual clients, Sugano built up Aero Concept’s reputation purely by word of mouth. “In the beginning, it was just a case of me building something that I wanted for myself. I really had no plan, it just happened naturally. I don’t have the talent to make a plan like that” Sugano says. His first order was from an architect, who had come for a meeting at the engineering workshop and spotted a case that Sugano was carrying. Using all the skills he’d refined in his day-to-day work with Keiswi, Sugano had made a specialised ‘blueprint holding case’ to hold his own designs. It was a case with a specific purpose that had a very strong presence. Aero Concept’s philosophy was sealed. “He asked me to make one for him too, so I did. Then someone who had seen his case contacted me, and I made one for him as well and then gradually more and more people started coming to me with the same request. Whenever I had some free time, I’d be working on these projects a little bit at a time. My research into design and technique was also attained throughout this period. Even though I was using materials that we had in the workshop, there was still a cost involved. I used the same materials that go into making airplane and bullet train parts, so it is really expensive and I couldn’t make a lot at one time. I enjoyed myself, getting this far one week, making up to that point next week. One month I wouldn’t have the money for extra materials, so I’d have to leave it until we received the next order for aircraft parts. It progressed for some time like that.”

    Aero Concept is the perfect mix of tradition and technology. The quality of the materials and the incorporation of the same technical expertise use to make airplane and bullet train components, produces a beauty the only comes from a product that has had a high level of skill and attention lavished upon it during its creation. The aircraft industry’s favoured aluminium alloy ‘Duralumin’ is the main material used to make Aero Concept. Light weight, strength, and the ability to be worked with accuracy and precision are proven qualities that are as important in the production of luggage as they are in the construction of aircraft. The leather hide used for Aero Concept products is tanned using only natural vegetable tannins. This produces a particular type of leather that wears and ages beautifully. The natural quality of the leather is illustrated perfectly by the small creases, wrinkles and marks that are present. These, together with slight variations in colour from one hide to another, render each piece one of a kind.

    The workshop is full of strange and interesting looking machinery and the air is filled with the intoxicating smell of engineering oil. Computer controlled machines sit side by side with metal bending machines and beautifully maintained lathes from the 1930’s.
    For creative work, in the hands of a highly skilled craftsman producing precision metalwork, the latest fully automated machines do not compare with the relics from a bygone era. It takes a great deal of skill and experience to operate the machines that are used to produce the component parts for Aero Concept. Aero Concept combines the industrial aesthetics of precision-crafted airplane fittings with a craftsman’s love for creating just the right object for the task at hand and is the work of a man who is thoroughly devoted to detail. He creates with an enthusiasm and dedication that means his approach is not just, “I am going to try to make this”, it is, “I’m going to make this!”

    We are honoured to represent Aero Concept in Europe and a range of his creations are available in the shop and online.

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  • William Medcalf
    The Despatch

    William Medcalf
    Bentleys London at William Medcalf Vintage Bentley: We have found a kindred spirit in William Medcalf, one of the country’s leading vintage Bentley restorers. William has recently moved to purpose built workshops in Liss, West Sussex. William is passionate, exceptionally knowledgeable and full of enthusiasm for his craft and the array of Bentleys that he cares for is spectacular.

    We are delighted to have helped him kit out his customer reception area with a selection of stock from Bentleys, including luggage from the 1920’s and 30’s perfect for his cars. We even found a 1929 edition of the Michelin Guide in a bespoke made leather case which we’re sure will grace the glove compartment of one of Williams’ cars.

    William is full of stories of Bentley discoveries, of adventurers on the Paris-Peking rally and of the great days of the supercharged Bentleys.

    It’s a great collaboration for two companies that believe that the Best is good enough.

    William Medcalf, Vintage Bentleys

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  • Echoes of real luxury
    The Despatch

    Echoes of real luxury
    Simon Crompton, editor of Permanent Style and online editor of The Rake magazine: Truly glamorous travel lasted a few short years. Not until the mid-1930s had the world’s wealthy recovered sufficiently from the great depression to spend serious money on foreign travel; and then all too soon, the merrymaking was halted by the onset of the Second World War.

    In those short years, travelling on the Queen Mary or her great French rival the Normandie was the epitome of luxury. Rather like Concorde much later, the glamour was in part derived from the excitement of new-found speed, with the two ships competing for the best average speed to New York – and the coveted Blue Riband. Those two ships dominated the prize between 1935 and 1938.

    The difference was that the journey was still four days’ long. So passengers required many varieties of clothing in order to be able to dress appropriately for the various events on board, often changing two or three times a day. And that meant great luggage. A trunk such as this Louis Vuitton example would have been ideal to carry a man’s daywear and evening wear, casual and formal.

    It is an unusual piece, though. The standard Vuitton wardrobe had hangers on one side and drawers on the other. This version was likely commissioned to complement a larger set of luggage, allowing more room to hang suits, shirts and jackets. All the hangers were narrow and wooden, as contained here, in order to squash in as much as possible. Linen would have required a good deal of pressing on board.

    The trunk itself has a poplar frame, as with all Vuitton trunks of the period, with high-quality brass fittings and canvas facings trimmed in lozine. The Vuitton lozine is compressed fibre board, which is lighter than leather and ages in its own unique way. The stencilled LV monogram would have been painted by hand, as would the distinctive wavy stripe up the outside.

    That stripe is another unusual feature, for most identifying Vuitton strips were straight and in just one or two colours. In a way it reflects the trunk’s seabound voyages, and is certainly emblematic of the Art Deco style that found its apotheosis in the interiors of ships like the Queen Mary. It is odd to think that a trunk needed colours like this to enable a porter to identify it amidst all the Vuitton luggage coming off in New York. When would you ever see such excess today?

    Travel was never as luxurious again. By the time money was available after the War, aeroplanes were becoming the preferred means of transatlantic travel, and luggage was consequently scaled down and made with lighter materials. It didn’t help that leather was classed as a luxury and taxed at extraordinary levels.

    This trunk, then, is an echo of those glamorous few years.

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