Meet the Maker: Mat Booth, Both Barrels

Meet the Maker: Mat Booth, Both Barrels

Welcome to Hope and Story's Meet the Maker Series, where we chat to some of the people behind our favourite independent British brands. 

 

Mat Booth

Mat Booth started Both Barrels with a mission to create formal luggage.  Mat felt that corporate issue gear was not fit for purpose and wanted to save people from feeling like teenage mutant ninja turtles on business trips. He prides himself on the confidence and simplicity of his designs.  

I chatted to Mat to learn more about the man behind the brand. We managed to drag him away from doing what he loves for half an hour to chat product sourcing, sustainability, future plans, surviving a pandemic and lots more....

 

People's work and homelife have been blurred so much in recent times, have you found what people are asking for to be more informal as opposed to something they could perhaps take into a business meeting?

‘Yes, so firstly, the idea of being able to work from anywhere is something I’ve been familiar with for six or seven years, so I’ve always understood that as a user. I found myself lucky enough to be a designer. This puts you on such a determined path. The second thing I would say I’ve noticed is that more people are living and working in a more casual, multifunctional and flexible kind of way.’

Can you tell us a little bit more about your background and how you landed on the idea for Both Barrels?

‘I studied product design at university and graduated in 2005 which seems like a very long time ago. From a product design perspective, I’ve always been interested in function, human interaction with products, and anything that is useful and has a purpose rather than being decorative. Another thing that’s driven me is a fascination with sports - I was a keen rugby player when I was younger. I also worked for a luggage company for roughly two and half years and this taught me a great deal as I was working on product integrity and testing. From there I worked at’ Umbro’, working on the football kits. This was around the time they were bought by ‘Nike’ which was a hugely innovative period. I then gained some experience with a company called ‘Warrior sports’ who are owned by ‘New Balance’. They were a smaller start-up company; this was great for me because I got an insight into what is involved in starting up a company. From these ten years of unexpected experience and knowledge I went into freelance design and during those next ten months I began looking at designs for Both Barrels.’

So you must really want feedback and interaction from your customers - do you find that massively shapes what you're producing?  

‘When I first started, my skin was certainly too thin to deal with the criticism. I think over time and with more experience you learn to almost let go. I think it’s important to understand that people are criticising the product and not you, but that can be difficult when you’re so embedded in it. A big lesson for me was to never get too high but also to never let the lows get too low. I also think that viewing the business from a third-party perspective as opposed to a first party perspective, which a lot of people do, has helped me tremendously. In seeing it as a ’we’ and not an ‘I’ means that if I need to shift the focus I can, I see this as a celebration of creating a brand.’

 

We love the Thirty-Six Holdall by Both Barrels. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your process from raw materials to finished product?

‘The first production was in 2016 - my previous experience taught me to try and find a factory that could offer a vertical operation where they have fabric on hand, and they almost become your sourcing agent. These factories are usually making for different people so you can peel back on orders, but you do pay a massive premium for that convenience. There was so much work to do, for example, setting up a website. I had never done this before, so friends supported me with this because there was a need for me to do this centrally. However, now, the better way to work is to do all the procurement myself and then work with individual mills and trim component suppliers - it just takes years to find them. I’m happy that people to go and support those small mills and trim suppliers because without them we don’t have a supply chain. The supply chain in the UK is quite precarious so we need to share and shout about them. For me the manufacturing process is my favourite part because it’s the physical embodiment of all the admin.’

Why is it important to you to manufacture in the UK?

‘This is a fundamental part of the brand - they aren’t just bags, they are made and sourced here in the UK - it’s a foundational pillar. Importing goods is hard and managing currency fluctuations within your business is hard. By making in the UK and generally trading in GBP, it protects you a little bit in terms of knowing where your prices are going to be. It’s also great to have the freedom to just go and see the manufacturer too.’

We have some of the best Waxed Cotton Mills and the skills we have in the UK are some of the best in the world, right?

‘Yes. I often think this goes unnoticed. Some of these mills have worked with the likes of ‘North Face’ which is huge. It’s important not be intimidated by that and instead kind of celebrate it. You must keep the fanboy mentality quite chilled. In the beginning, with Both Barrels it was kind of tweedy and I didn’t really like that because my background was more multicultural, certainly through school and university, I found there was a diverse range of influences.’

We love the Twelve Backpack - C8vert by Both Barrels.

We’ve touched on how Covid affected people's buying habits and how it affected businesses everywhere - what’s in store for you now for the next 12 months?

‘I think in the last 12 months a lot of businesses have found themselves being pushed into taking on unaffordable debt. A lot of my focus has been on remaining financially sustainable. I think for me the next 12 months is going to be a very consolidated year.’

Finally, what attracted you to Hope and Story?

‘I liked the idea of a well curated and well cared for place to be, rather than adding to someone’s inventory. I’m also super interested in collaborative projects. I think if you put yourself in places with other like-minded people then it puts us all in a better spot. Its all about innovation.’

 

Shop the collection by Both Barrels on Hope and Story here.