Work In Fashion Presents: Elliot Rhodes
By Yasmin Jones-Henry
‘The right to self determination is a fundamental human right’. I have said this so many times on WorkInFashion.me that I am in danger of repeating myself yet again. But when it comes to “fashion” I can’t help but return to the conclusion that when you take fashion all the way back to its Latin roots, with the word ‘facere’ meaning: to do or to make – ‘Fashion’ is the ultimate public display of self-determination. In other words, real fashion is quite literally whatever you make it.
So, with this belief circulating my thoughts on a daily basis, you can imagine my interest as my mother (yes, she is still teaching me where to shop) led me into one of the most discreet, understated and exclusive stores I have ever set foot in. Ladies and gentlemen allow me to introduce you to Elliot Rhodes.
For the history of the brand – I will direct you to the link at the bottom of the article. But for now, I am going to describe the experience. I must confess, when my mother explained that this was a store that specialised in custom made belts, I smiled, shrugged my shoulders and dutifully followed her into their St. Christopher’s Place store. We were on our way to Selfridges so I could tolerate a momentary diversion as my intended destination was not far away.
As you may remember from ‘Functionality vs The Aesthetic’ I am not the world’s most enthusiastic shopper, nor do I derive any pleasure from it. So, as she pointed at a few belts, a few buckles on display and then asked the assistant Rene to show her a sample of their thinnest black patent belts (one of my mother’s style signatures) – my mouth fell open as she then requested a series of appropriately sized buckles. Shut. The. Front. Door. I was watching her build her own belt!
‘See?’ she said, smiling at my misplaced cynicism. ‘This could be a good piece for WorkInFashion’ she suggested helpfully, ‘and for your former colleagues at the Financial Times – especially your friend who travels a lot (she means you Courtney Fingar) – your friends might like to know about this brand. It is so clever – every belt is custom made and it’s exclusive AND it’s so much cheaper than a Gucci or Hermes statement piece. Look – with the different buckles you can take it from a formal look to a casual one’. Sold. N.B: In addition to being a world class designer my mother is also a master saleswoman. She had identified that the art of – or rather the beauty of the belt – is not a conversation but a demonstration. So – after the helpful assistant Rene gave me their head of PR Abbi Holland’s contact details, the rest – as they say – is history!
The Elliot Rhodes Experience
As I have said before, I am not a keen shopper. I loathe standing in queues. I have no patience for rude assistants and even less for the complete claustrophobia I normally feel whenever I am compelled to visit a department store. So when Abbi asked me to pay their store in Duke of York Square (Sloane Street) a visit, I did not know what to expect.
The store is located close to the Saatchi Gallery and beside Joseph. It’s peaceful and tucked away from the bustle of the Oxford Street and Bond Street stampede. With peace and quiet comes reflection and appreciation, the customer has time to take in their surroundings and absorb the ambience. I don’t usually waste time looking around or allowing myself to get emotional about clothes, but Elliot Rhodes is different. Imagine your favourite candy store: (in my case it would be Charbonnel et Walker) but with belts. There is an assortment of different colours, textures, materials and custom made buckles, all classified and displayed according to belt size and style preference. I never thought I would say this, but there is a ‘belt heaven’ and it is called Elliot Rhodes.
The store manager and Abbi, were on site to greet me and they showed me around – and then let me loose… I was free! Free to roam around and explore the various types of leather. Calf, croc, snakeskin, pony, ostrich… Now before you all jump into the comments box to interrogate my ethical fashion credentials, I was reassured by the staff that the leather (with particular reference to the more exotic creatures) were ethically sourced. This meant – that if, for example, there was a crocodile already on the menu somewhere, Elliot Rhodes would then use that skin – so nothing goes to waste. In short, no animals are harmed purely for the sake of idle vanity. So pipe down. Reassured by this, I continued to explore.
The buckles oh the buckles! So many buckles! Once you have selected the belt material and colour, it’s onto the next phase: The Bling Factor. The choice is quite literally endless. Some of the pieces are literal works of art in so much that they have been created by a real artist/sculptor who creates one off signature pieces. Surrounded by a plethora of styles the customer must take on the responsibility of selecting their own buckle. This is what makes the belt ‘bespoke’.
Most retailers and major high street brands sell you the belt they think you should have. Standard length, homogenous, assembly-line produced and often in unethical conditions. But here at Elliot Rhodes, the genius is in giving the customer the freedom to decide their own destiny. Ok, not their destiny, but everything from the colour, texture, thickness, size and style of the belt and buckle.
Being invited into the creative process in collaborating with the staff (in store) to create the perfect belt is an experience that I will not forget anytime soon. The next step is measuring up. The belts have the clever feature that allows you to swap the buckles, so that should you decide to come back and buy another – your fate is not sealed. You can adjust the buckle and switch up your style as you wish. Once the belt has been measured to size, the team (in store) make the necessary adjustments to create the finished article.
I tried not to get emotional about the finished piece. After all it’s just a belt isn’t it? Well, no. For me, until that moment I really didn’t bother with belts. They were usually borrowed from either of my parents wardrobes or bought in haste out of necessity from a high street brand – and then lost out of disregard and neglect. Mine were usually cheap and replaceable – so I treated them as such. But as I stood holding this work of craftmanship in my hand, I considered this to be quite a defining moment for me in my passage to adulthood. Aged 24, this was my first proper ‘grown up’ belt. Beautiful. Designer. Custom. Bespoke… and boy did it feel special! I had selected the navy, pony-skin and paired it with a modest gold buckle. (see images for reference).
The belt was special – not just because it was ethically made (the leather belts are made in their factory in Spain – so no sweatshops were funded in the production of these accessories). The belt is special because it represents me. Blue is my favourite colour. The pony skin is an unconventional option for an unconventional person and when the light hits the individual strands…it is a sight to behold. The buckle I selected was one of the most subtle ones in their collection because I am a minimalist by nature.
We are all creatures of comfort, and it is the freedom to create and subsequently pay for exactly what you want that makes the Elliot Rhodes experience so unique. The belt is perhaps the unsung hero of the fashionista’s armoury. For those of you who are fluent in the language of fashion, you will appreciate that the belt is the undisputed staple in any wardrobe. It serves a functional duty, primarily in securing things in their rightful place. But there is also the aesthetic in its ability to accentuate or punctuate a particular look or statement.
The belt is the ultimate statement piece. You can make it as loud or as discreet as you wish. Here with Elliot Rhodes, I present to you a brand that respects the customer’s right to choose. Yes my dear reader – I have at last found a brand that also preaches the ‘right of self determination’. At Elliot Rhodes, ‘Build Your Own Belt’ translates as: ‘Make Your Own Statement’. As a lover of free speech and the freedom of expression – how could I possibly say no to that?
You can find out more information about the brand by visiting: https://www.elliotrhodes.com
Until next time…
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