Since starting FFG over seven years ago, I have had the great pleasure of visiting countless workshops and ateliers with some of the world’s most respected and cherished fashion brands. I’ve seen everything from the birth of a Birkin bag to the setting of some of Van Cleef & Arpel’s finest jewels. With each visit, I have found a new appreciation for the value of handcrafted goods. The fine art of hand craftsmanship is not a dying profession, but it is one that has definitely grown more scarce since machines have taken over so much of the manufacturing that exists today. So, when I’m presented with an opportunity to highlight a brand that is continuing on in the art of fine creation, I scream my support from every rooftop I can find. Last month I had the opportunity to visit Aston Martin’s “factory” in Gaydon, here in the UK. Although, truth be known, this was the least factory-like place I have ever visited. In fact, I don’t even feel comfortable calling this a factory. Visiting the birthplace of Aston Martin vehicles was more like visiting the atelier of an haute couture designer. So let’s just call this the Atelier Aston Martin introduction.
Even driving into the Aston Martin headquarters, one is keenly aware that this isn’t your average workplace. The refined beauty and incredible class that come with every Aston Martin is equally represented in the Aston Martin headquarters with neutral coloured buildings that respect their surroundings but also help to highlight the beautiful vehicles on display in and around them. There’s even a car suspended on water in the entrance. Yes, queue the “walking on water” jokes – we couldn’t help ourselves.
Upon entering the Aston Martin complex, it is no surprise that you are confronted with the fleet of cars that currently represent the brand out and about on the road. This charge was led by none other than the DB11 – which will hit the roads in September and is currently in production behind closed doors at the factory. But, Aston Martin are all too happy to showcase their more elite vehicles as well – showcasing everything from the Vulcan (a car that is “track only”) to their new concept for a cross over vehicle.
Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the Aston Martin brand, allow me a moment of imparting some essential history. Since 1913, Aston Martin has been in the business of cars – sensationally beautiful and extremely speedy vehicles that are as much about visual perfection as they are the ability to burn rubber. Over the years, the company has changed hands here and there, but has always been respected as a legendary British brand that absolutely must stand the test of time. Of course, it is perhaps most well known because of its partnership with a certain discerning gentleman – 007, of course. James Bond first drove an Aston Martin in 1964. It was the gorgeous Sean Connery that sat behind the wheel of the DB5 (still considered by many to be the most beautiful car in the world) for the Bond classic- “Goldfinger.” Since then, every Bond has favoured the brand and it’s not hard to see why.
While the Aston Martin vehicles have most certainly changed in shape and size over time, as was evident when walking the long hall of history before we entered the factory floor, there are certain things that will never change at Aston Martin – mainly the construction of the cars themselves. As Marek Reichman, Chief Creative Officer of Aston Martin, explained – the human senses of touch and sight are still unmatched when it comes to machines. And this is the reason why the world’s more beautiful, most treasured, and most expensive luxuries are still made by hand, including Aston Martins.
Now, follow me into the Aston Martin Atelier.
I can’t help but draw immediate parallels between some of the finest workshops in Paris and the floor of the Aston Martin factory. The men and women that work here are trained professionals that have been here for decades, producing fine vehicles for the world’s elite. Each Aston Martin is not only created by a human being, it’s constantly evaluated and tested by a human being. Every single stitch of leather on a seat or dashboard is all done by hand and in a fashion that would make one think they are sitting on the factory floor of Hermes, not a car manufacturer. There is a rhythm here that reflects the beauty of the car itself. The factory floor is not at all what I would have come to expect from a car manufacturer. It’s so clean one could sit for afternoon tea and eat right off the concrete floors. What was I expecting? I think somehow I thought this would look more like a mechanic’s shop and less like a floor of Mr. Clean’s dreams.
While we toured the Aston Martin Factory at Gaydon, we were given the complete look at how a car is created from design to delivery. Now I won’t give away the magic of it all – as truly some details I was geeking-out over are so technical I fear boring the pants off of you. But, I will say I have a new appreciation for how an Aston Martin is made. Each car, I like to think, comes with its own family, from the leather worker to the final inspector. And we had the opportunity to go in and meet the family behind the car that we would be driving for the weekend (more on that later). Talk about changing the way in which you drive a car – knowing absolutely every ounce of effort that went into making it.
I walked out of the Aston Martin factory excited for the future of the brand. The Aston Martin family that exists in and out of the factory is unparallelled. There is a passion for employment here, a feeling as if you are part of an innovative explosion of talent. And it is all dangerously infectious. I kid you not – I left wondering if I could come back and ask for a job on any level. I have never encountered a brand that was more dedicated to the beauty and soul of its product. To hear Marek Reichman speak of the process of design with Aston Martin can only be compared to someone talking about the birth of a child or perhaps, more appropriately suited, the construction of their first couture gown. There is passion found here at Aston Martin, with every employee and with every owner.
Now, while a tour of the factory is not yet open to the general public – you never know when this could possibly change. I’ll be the first to tell you if it does. For now, I’ll just leave you with this first look to whet your appetite. Hope you enjoyed it. Now – off to enjoy the sunshine in an Aston Martin Vanquish Volante.
Ps. If you’re in the market for an Aston Martin, check out my dream process of creating a car bespoke to you – Q by Aston Martin. Appropriately named, right? ]