The Gala Dinner and Charity Auction

How the 250th Anniversary celebrations unfolded

At the end of 2016 the machinery and cogs of a vast celebratory undertaking began to turn.

Set in the lowest gear, things began slow and steady. Plans were made for the unveiling of a unique collaboration, the sponsorship of an exhibition were finalised and tentative bookings were made for a conference in Australia.

In February 2017 the anniversary celebrations gained mass, gathered speed and took flight. The V&A was the grand location of the unveiling of the anniversary centrepiece, 13 hand embroidered bags made with the best designers and craftsmen in the world. Each handbag was a unique, singular work of art made in collaboration with the design house; a rare expression of artistry and skill so prized by Hand & Lock.

2017 began and ended with a celebration of craftsmanship. In December, Hand & Lock invited guests to a gala dinner and auction at the exquisite Drapers’ Hall. Guests, sipped wine and were charmed by the elegant music of harpist Valeria Kurbatova, from the Royal College of Music. Embroiders and skilled crafts men and women talked passionately about their work and fascinating live demonstrations took place.

L-R: Ben Macleod, Chairman of Hand & Lock Alastair Macleod and Cynthia Brace
Classical pianist Maria Marchant

The focus of the evening, displayed in the grand Court Room was, of course, the Embellished Handbags. In two rows, the 13 bags invited meticulous study ahead of the dramatic auction. Cameras flashed, as proud designers marvelled at their re-imagined handbags awash with the finest Hand & Lock embroidery. At 8pm the doors opened to the Livery Hall and guests took their seats at the 13 tables named in honour of each bag.

Classical pianist Maria Marchant played beautifully as the party settled down. With the delicate chime of a glass, compere for the evening, Ben Macleod drew our attention to the stage where he proceeded to issue thanks to the guests and bag collaborators. He finished by introducing the audience to Givergy; the company that were tasked with managing the silent bidding.

With the auction processes explained the guests enjoyed their starters of dome of smoked salmon, dorset crab and avocado or warm tart of spinach and gruyere with wild mushroom salads. Two more delicious courses followed, perfectly paired with fine French wines. All the while, three large television screens announced the digital bids being made by guests using the tablets placed on the tables.

The 13 bags invited meticulous study ahead of the dramatic auction

'The 1781 Woodland' - Hand & Lock collaboration with Asprey
'The Kiss' - Hand & Lock collaboration with Lulu Guinness

Bidding was particularly intense for the Hand & Lock / Lulu Guinness collaboration: ‘The Kiss’, with six guests and two online bidders competing to win. As our party finished desserts Ben Macleod took to the stage again and proudly introduced his father, Hand & Lock chairman Alastair Macleod who gave a short speech.

Genuinely touched by the proceedings he gave a potted history of Hand & Lock’s 250 years highlighting the famous sequin dress embroidered for Marilyn Monroe for the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. He concluded with a passionate plea to those in attendance to dig deep and bid high to support the worthy cause.

One of the charities benefiting from the money raised in the auction is the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST). The charity was founded in 1990 as an art and craft educational trust created to sustain traditional British craftsmanship.

Sotheby’s auctioneer Giorgia Parodi and her guest
L-R: Lily Goulding, Ella Yeoman, Dominique Khan and Juliet Ferry.

QEST Chairman, Nick Crean was invited on stage to speak about how the charity uses funds to support emerging crafts men and women. With the decline of the handmade, the encouragement of specialist hand crafts is now more essential than ever. With the guests primed, the live auction began. Sotheby’s auctioneer Giorgia Parodi took to the stage alongside a display of Vivienne Westwood’s ‘Tiger’, Cambridge Satchel Company’s ‘The Poppy’ and Asprey’s ‘1781 Woodland’.

After a brief introduction the bidding commenced with a whirlwind of whispered phone bids, tentatively raised hands and firm knocks of the gavel. ‘The Poppy’ raised £2000, the ‘Tiger’ £1300 and the ‘1781 Woodland’ £5200. These figures, the bids made on the silent auction lots and the donations pledged on the night totalled £17,760. This final figure (less auction fees) will be divided between QEST and the Hand & Lock Prize for embroidery to support, encourage and reward artisans future crafts men and women.

To find out more about the recipient charities click on the links.

QEST | Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery

'The Guardian' table.
A Guest bidding through the Givergy silent auction