Story Collection #4 with Dalvey - ACCESSORISING THE MODERN GENTLEMAN

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Dalvey caught my eye immediately as I was struck by the heritage which Dalvey is preserving in the men's accessories. In today's Story Collection we are looking at the story behind a fascinating brand that started with manufacturing musical instruments.

Can you tell us a bit more about the story behind DALVEY - who are the founders and what was the initial mission and motto?

Our origins make for an interesting story!  Founded in 1897 as “Duncan McRae”, the company was originally a musical instrument manufactory specialising in the production of Highland bagpipes.  Being a musician yourself, you’ll no doubt be aware of how artful the craft of instrument manufacture has to be.  Ensuring superior acoustic properties requires a very high degree of rigour and discrimination within the design and production processes.  This meticulous attention to detail has sat at the heart of the company since its origins and throughout its evolution.

Our owner and MD – and my father – Sir Patrick Grant, was himself a solo musician and a challenger in the competitive circuit of the Highland bagpipes. In order to fulfil his vision of crafting exceptional musical instruments, he acquired what was at the time (the ‘70s) a small bagpipe manufactory.  For over a decade he developed and perfected the craft skills and precision-engineering capabilities that would lay the foundations for the evolution that has taken us towards the design-led men’s accessories brand that we are today.

The transition began with the development of the iconic Dalvey flask – originally designed to fit in a sporran – the small pouch traditionally worn with a kilt.  The flask inspired the Voyager Clock, our original business card case, and many more unique, design-led gentlemen’s accessories, all sharing a unifying aesthetic: masculine, engineered, and combining elements of classic British style with contemporary, innovative design.

Over the years the range has expanded, but at our core we’re the same company: dedicated to crafting versatile modern classics – pieces that make a statement of exceptional design and quality – and to accessorising the modern gentleman

Which achievements is DALVEY most proud of?

We’re proud of all of our design and development projects, but I’d say we’re most proud of being the pre-eminent “thinking man’s” gift and accessories brand.  We often say that you’ll struggle to visit the Dalvey site and not find something that’s just right for any particular man – assuming he’s fairly discerning.

We’re also proud of our commitment to innovative design, and of the fact that we’ve been able to export to countries all over the world while retaining our heritage and situation: our offices and factory are still based in the Highlands of Scotland.

Your brand has a sincere craftsmanship - how do envision protecting this in the future?

There’s a culture of attention to detail, and of pride in what we produce, throughout the company.  This inherent concern for quality and authenticity helps to ensure that we preserve the things that are working, and improve the things that aren’t.  Having a strong central vision, and communicating that vision to the whole team, means that everyone is contributing to the same goals, and this serves to maintain the standards of our work.

We work in partnership with craftsmen from around the world – we’re always looking to augment our own capabilities with the kind of manufacturing skills unique to disparate traditions.  Nevertheless, we know exactly what constitutes a Dalvey piece: what works for us, and what doesn’t.  The coherence of the brand’s aesthetic is such that my Senior Designer and I often have fun imagining what, say, a Dalvey fridge would look like – or a Dalvey phone.  The ease with which we’re able to do so illustrates how strong the brand’s idiosyncratic personality has become in our minds. 

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How would you describe the style in which your products fit - the ‘Dalvey Man’, and what do you think is the connection with The Cultured Gentleman’s style?

We often think in terms of the “Dalvey Man” when designing.  He’s a figure who’s independent, discerning, inquiring, and broadminded.  On a practical level, this means we’re trying to perfect designs that have an enduring appeal, and that serve the user – both in terms of conventional functionality, and in terms of something like an understated stylistic exuberance.  

A good example can be observed in our card-holder-money-clip range: each piece is slimmer than a conventional wallet while retaining functionality, and combines precision-engineering with exceptional leatherwork.  The end result?  Something highly practical that won’t look bulky in your pockets, and that will provide the joy of satisfying design every time you use it.

That’s actually another tenet of our design process: the desire to transform the quotidian into something of value – even something fun.  Our Artisan Razors, for example, were designed to lift the daily shave into a pleasing way to start the day.  

There are many respects in which the values and aspirations of Dalvey and The Cultured Gentleman overlap.  Perhaps most striking is the shared sense of style as a product of culture – as something that should endure and evolve as a reflection of the interests and commitments of individuals and society as a whole, as opposed to being short-termist, modish, or faddish.  A gentleman isn’t a gentleman because he’s wearing a nice suit; he’s a gentleman as a consequence of his thoughts, words, and actions.  His choice of suit should reflect something of deeper value – some sense of what’s right, appropriate and beautiful that’s emerged through the lifelong process of sustaining an independent mind-set while being actively engaged in the world

We also share an international perspective.  Even in the days of manufacturing bagpipes we were oriented toward export, and since then we’ve always taken care to ensure the universality of the appeal of the range.