Well, looking back, it's safe to say our designs have come a long way… and so have our wrinkles!
Hôrd started back in 2011 when I (Gemma) found myself repairing vintage leather flasks. I had a bag of leather remnants that I would engrave with all sorts of designs and patchwork them together into a leather wrap. They were rugged little beasts that really celebrated the texture and colour of the leather.
Some of the old flasks, from cowhide to sheepskin, using remnants taught me how to work with different leathers through much trial and error
At first, Hôrd began in my old bedroom at my parent’s house. I’d moved back up north from studying fashion in London, the recession had hit, and finding work in my discipline and outside of it was proving difficult. I recall being sat on the edge of my bed, hunched over to engrave hip flasks in my hand - certainly not conducive to comfort at all.
At this point, I had only a few listings set-up on Etsy, but demand was fierce and I was being kept busy. It was a steep learning curve as I started sending hip flasks for wedding parties across the globe.
Eventually, I made the decision to move Hôrd into a small studio in an old textile factory in Huddersfield, Bates Mill. The studio was divided into little units, which were occupied by other artists and creatives. On long, cold nights, Jason would often join me in that space and he eventually moved his computer down there to work on his sound design and music composition, it was from there that he quickly started learning how Hôrd worked - and subsequently got roped into a lot of tasks.
We moved in together, to our first home in Huddersfield and allocated the smallest room in the house to work from – as you can imagine, it wasn’t long until we outgrew this space and expanded into the attic and another box room. It's quite hard now to imagine how we both fit in that space, alongside our leathers and materials, and managed to find space to work and photograph our wares. I can't help but look back on it and remember a lot of stress… I worked all hours and at this point, Jason was still doing shifts at the local pub, he'd often come back at 1am to me still working away in that small room.
Some of our old studio spaces
Over the course of those early years, we were published in several magazines (You, Stylist, Trail, Ernest et al) and were stocked at pop-up events for Etsy in London. I’ll never forget one project, where I was sat making origami cranes in a window display at Liberty of London, a person came up to the window with a note asking if I was okay and if I’d chosen to be there, it still makes me laugh now – turns out I may have looked more tired and stressed than I thought!
In 2014, we went through a rebrand, it was something I had wanted to do for a while but never found the time to focus on. Originally, Hôrd was called "Gx2homegrown", Gx2 was my moniker for my illustration and live art working events and "homegrown" resonated with the items I would make by hand from home. It suited the shop at the time, as I naturally navigated crafting again and the items I made followed my creative whim.
As time went on, however, the products I made became more cohesive and I longed for a name that suited that growth. In the end, Hôrd suited it all down to the ground, with leather goods made from suitably hoarded leather remnants to making beautiful trinkets to be passed down through generations (like a dragon's hoard). I'd finally found something I was pleased with. I made it the phonetic spelling, and inspired by a little Tolkien, worked on a logo inspired by the lonely mountains and a rich gold and black colour palette.
When 2015 came around, Hord had recently started selling on Not on the High Street and I was overwhelmed by orders yet again, I don’t recall having a day off during this time and it felt like all I did was spend time fulfilling orders - not designing, or working on admin, just making. This was the year of a fundamental change for Hord, I sat Jason down and asked him if he would like to be part of the journey. He already knew so much about the business and how the admin side worked, he'd helped on so many evenings and fired off emails for me when I was swamped, so it seemed the perfect fit. I only wanted him to join if it was something he was passionate about, and luckily for me, he said YES!
We christened Jason becoming a co-owner of Hord by embarking on a fantastic project with the Natural History Museum, which was facilitated by Etsy. We went down to London to look at some of the museums behind the scenes archives, it was so exciting, but there are many secrets we can't discuss! We also got a first-hand look at the winning submissions for the Wildlife photographer of the year - from there we had to a pick a photo and design a piece that was inspired by and referenced it, this was then sold at the museum itself. It was so exciting, and we ended up constructing something that was much like our starter work, patchworking different leather remnants to look like a desert landscape.
The next year we had thoroughly outgrown our tiny room and we started looking for a house up the valley in one of our favourite places, Marsden. I can't deny that when house hunting, we were looking for a nice big bedroom solely for the business, and luckily, we found what we needed, with stunning views across the valley. It was the start of a lot of new here at Hord. We'd been solely making hip flasks, harnesses, cuffs and key fobs - and with a new home studio and space, we were able to expand our making repertoire (including hand dying leather).
Wallets and cardholders then appeared on the scene, and we started visiting fairs around the North showcasing what we make. Despite it being A WHOLE DECADE, it feels like no time at all, until you look at different products (some as old as Hord itself) and we can see the minute changes we've made over time. It's also really wonderful to see that we haven't veered too far from ourselves and our intentions back in 2011. This journey has really taken us everywhere, most of it unplanned and a lot of it stressful, but we never lost ourselves.
In 2020 when everyone was getting adjusted to working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic, we decided to find a workspace that would double up as a retail space in the heart of our village. We had definitely outgrown our home and a space had popped up in an old unused pub in Marsden.
We were ear-marked to move in, in April, but lockdown swiftly halted work on the space and we eventually got the keys in September. In that time, we had already acquired a huge semi-broken haberdashery cabinet ready for our April move-in date. It ended up living with us in our kitchen right up until September. It's huge, it's heavy and gave us many sleepless nights. Lockdown was strange for us. We limited our Post Office drop-offs and orders definitely slowed in those first few months. Weddings were cancelled and the general public were rightly concerned about what would happen to their wages and work during this time.
September came, and it was time to organise the space and get it stocked up. We worked tirelessly to get it ready for launch on Halloween of 2020. Many late nights were had, drilling, dusting, decorating and making stock - as well as keeping our online shop open throughout. We opened our doors that Halloween, to the announcement that another lockdown would happen, that affected retail again, in a few days time. Hah, the luck ey? This lockdown proved different to the first. With Christmas approaching, everyone turned to online shopping, so whilst our store was closed, our website exploded - we spent three months working 15-17 hour days, 7 days a week. It took us 6 months of our tenth year of trading to get over that.
From the day we started, the very core of our work and ethos was to limit wastage, and this still stays with us, even 10 years later! Everything we design starts with this fundamentally, from our key fobs to our patches and credit card holders - they're all designed from leather offcuts left behind from our other processes.
We're still here, just two of us, working on every single part of this business. We're photographing, designing, making and researching, we’re chatting with our customers and communicating about orders. Founder made, founder run and founder designed.
We love being the first, last and in-between contact for you all and will continue to love every single item we handcraft.
Here's to another 10 years of Hord and more of keeping adventure in your pocket!