Sirplus is the epitome of "rags to riches," but not in the way you may think. Like many of the promising new businesses we see these days, there was an epiphany moment that set everything into motion. Henry Hales realised that there was incredible quality surplus fabric being wasted every time a shirt was made and it could be repurposed into classic boxer shorts.
Similar to Makers Cabinet's beginning, Sirplus started at Portabello Market, taking home a first day's earnings of £0.00. However, once word got out Sirplus proliferated from stall 306A to having many shops around London, selling high-end responsibly sourced clothing. Made in the UK where possible, their quality is top-tier, their style is impeccable, and perfectly to our taste.
We had the opportunity to try on some of their clothes in our workshop and to have an in-depth conversation with Klaudia from Sirplus. Make it to the end for a 15% discount across their entire website.
SP: What was the initial spark, the 'aha moment', for Makers Cabinet?
Ben: The idea for Makers Cabinet was formed while we were studying product design together. We were logged in the prescribed cycle of student projects: identify a problem, conduct research, develop some ideas, sketch, create, test, present, and finally dispose into our portfolios not to see the light of day again. It was around this time we realised our course was built to funnel students into design consultancies, only as a small cog in an archaic system without much opportunity for creating something of our own ownership or out of our own minds.
Odin has a mind that doesn't stop moving, ever, and during our first year, he had fleshed out the idea for a pencil sharpener that wouldn't break his lead like every other sharpener on the market, encouraged changing blades when they go dull, and would be a work of art that is made to be cherished for generations. Late one night, we shook hands on working together to disrupt the design world and promote care and longevity.
SP: Your team has a worldwide span, combining creatives from Norway, California and London alike. What do you think this brings to your process?
Ben: It has certainly influenced us. Bringing together Norwegian and British design styles with Southern Californian and London entrepreneurial spirit is reflective of the way we have conducted our business. However, the most influential factors have probably been from our individual upbringings.
From above far above the arctic circle in Norway, Odin had a very unique childhood. Tinkering from his early childhood, Odin was welding by thirteen years old and already had sourced himself a lathe and some machining tools by making money on eBay.
As for the rest of us, our influences have been deeply rooted in our environments. The way our experiences converged in the great melting pot called London makes us feel lucky to have found each other and hopeful about the future as we continue to take on more interesting people from around the world.
SP: There's a sense of blending a traditional sensibility with the desire for a contemporary experience, which we also see our own customers appreciating. Why do you think that is?
Ben: The Makers Cabinet ethos is about setting new standards, fostering a culture of care, and providing joy in the everyday through simple rituals. This is a rebuke of the way design has moved - with a lack of foresight for product longevity.
We take inspiration from tools from the past, with mechanisms and material choices that are proven to stand the test of time and offer greater functionality and beauty to the use cases that inhabit.
SP: That's something we can really relate to. Taking something that has proved its worth, that has history and integrity and giving it a modern functionality.
Ben: Yes. There is something special in these traditional inspirations and design influences being married with a contemporary experience, as you say. As our lives are becoming increasingly digital, people are finding joy in small moments and rituals throughout their day. We believe that the work is not done in the realm of design, and we will continue to redevelop everyday objects.
SP: Your concept of a 'culture of care' is really interesting, is this 'built-in right to repair' the future of product design?
Ben: Creating lifetime objects is about creating a connection. Be it in the graceful ageing of metals and the process of maintaining, cleaning and repair, or about the longevity of tools and their value as they get passed through generations. Makers Cabinet believes in a future based around a circular economy, minimising waste, and fostering a continual use of resources.
As we continue to design new products, we are building a long-lasting design and the ability to repair every possible component which might break. We aim to teach people about repair and care along the way.
SP: Your newest design, the Ferrule pencil holder is currently crowdfunding, could you explain where the inspiration came from?
Ben: We've been working on an idea since 2018 for a pencil holder which could grip a variety of pencil sizes and be reliable, sturdy and comfortable for generations. As we were making bits and pieces on our machines for the studio and refining some of our ideas, we realised that we were using machining collets to grip lots of different sizes of machining bits and cutters. Collets haven't been used for other purposes to date, partly because of their complicated nature, but also because there was a lot of work that had to go in to make them work outside of these high-end machines.
Over the last six months, we have refined the design of our own pencil collet to engage with a simple twist function and to be manufacturable at scale.
SP: Where do you see Makers Cabinet in 10 years?
Ben: Makers Cabinet has plans to be a global brand. We want to keep providing a fresh outlook on design as we recreate tools, appliances, and homeware goods to be fit for a responsible and thoughtful future.
Within ten years, we hope to have our own factories building products as close to the end-user as possible, creating innovative production methods and responsible uses of materials.
SP: How would you describe your individual sense of style?
Ben: Personally, I dress to inspire my mood often with light, summery colours as I try to have as Californian a temperament as possible throughout the British weather cycle.
Odin: I'd say I like practical and hard-wearing clothing made from quality materials. I'm particularly a fan of good quality pant and thick linen. Having said that, I also quite like a nice colourful shirt.
Noah: Throughout my life, I have always been inspired by the city styles of the 1960s. I've always had a passion for well made and smart clothes, choosing to dress up rather than down. In school, I was always an outlier as I never found it a problem to wear a tie and do my top-button up.
SP: How do you think this influences your daily life, both at work and outside of your work life?
Ben: I'm definitely happier when I'm wearing well-made clothes that fit, and I don't have to worry too much about upkeep. I actually really love my SIRPLUS trousers from last season and my Cuban shirt too! Luckily we live in modern times where you can wear the same laid back kit on a Sunday and on a Monday, which I'm very grateful for. I can't imagine having to wear a suit to work every day.
Odin: I like to wear clothes where I don't have to worry about getting them oily or dirty whilst in a workshop. Luckily my work and my hobbies are one and the same so what I demand from my clothes doesn't change much!
Noah: My style reflects my values and interests. I couldn't have the passion for 1960s fashion without the interest in music, art and social change. Fashion and style help you present these values and can be a great way to build bridges and show what you believe.
SP: What's your go-to daily uniform?
Ben: Ideally, the weather is nice, and I'll wear chinos and a vibrant, light, flowy button-up that can lose a few buttons as the day goes on.
Odin: A pair of thick jeans and a button-down shirt paired with a pair of worn-out docs.
Noah: My go-to outfit is pretty simple. Usually a simple button-up shirt, jeans and my favourite lace-up brown leather boots.
SP: What do you look for in your wardrobe staples?
Ben: Relaxed attitude, easy compatibility with everything else I have in my wardrobe, so I don't have to think about it.
Odin: Natural materials and a nice touch of colour never go amiss.
Noah: Quality and comfort and a little sense of the unusual. Something which makes the item not look completely standard.
SP: If you could design anything in the world - no limitations - what would it be?
Ben: I'm a bit obsessed with the way we interface with technology and would like to create an augmented reality user interface.
Odin: I think it'd have to be a modern-day airship. I've always been obsessed with the idea of flight and can't imagine anything more compelling than sailing through the sky.
Noah: If I could design anything in the world it would be a brand new Houses of Parliament for more constructive debates and discussions.
As promised, we've got a discount code which will win you 15% off on the Sirplus site. Use the code MAKERS15 at www.sirplus.co.uk to redeem!
We hope you enjoy their clothing as much as we do.