Most who know Brooks would have been already aware of our track record in collaborating with interesting people and interesting companies on interesting projects. Not to mention our enthusiasm for trawling the older Brooks catalogues for forgotten treasures.
The Brooks Swallow, for example, has undergone slight form changes since its first incarnation 75 years ago. But the Swallow’s perennial clean-lined minimalism doesn’t lend itself to over-elaboration. If anything, less might be more.
So we decided in 2005 to trim back the top’s surface area, and hand stitch the leather around the edges, as specified by the original 1936 Swallow patent. It was so well received that in 2007 we produced a second Limited Edition, this time in black.
By 2007, Black was the new Brown.
The B17 is of course another longtime stalwart of the Brooks portfolio. The Champion Sprinter, a variation on the B17 theme, was first manufactured in 1925 and went into production (in restricted numbers) again a few years ago. The Sprinter is a little narrower at the back than other B17′s and was originally saddle of choice for track riders up until the 1960′s.
A very special B17. The 1925 Champion Sprinter re-make with Titanium.
Designer Ben Wilson has worked with Brooks before on a number of projects. Perhaps the most deceptively simple was our Limited Edition Stüssy saddle in 2008.
Ben’s idea was that we make a Swallow. Of course, Brooks had already been doing this several times a day at the factory in Smethwick for many years. But never in white, which was what marked this Limited Edition out as special.
As labour-intensive as it is beautiful, the production of our Lesser Spotted White Swallow was capped at one hundred pieces, to the satisfaction of Brooks collectors and Brooks colourators alike. We did, however, produce one more Limited Edition white saddle. This time a Team Pro in 2009, to mark the Cycle Messenger World Championships held in Tokyo that year.
Both the 2009 European and North American Courier Championships also had Brooks saddles made, with the relevant event’s logo pressed into a restricted run of leather tops. In addition, Brooks made saddles also to benefit the first International Hardcourt Polo tournaments, in London, Philadelphia, and Seattle. A portion of the proceeds were used to support event organizers.
Bicycle Film Festivals are nowadays springing up everywhere but as recently as 2008 they were still a little thinner on the ground. Brooks worked that year with the New York BFF on a commemorative and supportive piece. We created a line of Swallows in green. One hundred were made, and for each piece sold Brooks donated one hundred dollars to the festival’s coffers. You do the math, as the Americans say.
Another Limited Edition we did recently was a Tour de France commemorative piece. For this, we worked together with Brooklyn based wallpaper designer and cycling enthusiast Dan Funderburgh.
Perhaps one of the most iconic routes taken by riders on the Tour is along the Alpe d’Huez, so Dan suggested that we deboss a topographical map of this mountainous chunk of cycling lore into a small number of Team Pros.
They are now rarer than hen’s teeth, having nearly all found a home bolted to somebody’s seatpost.
Brooks also sat down with skate shoe brand Vans. The end product of our work was a limited run of Team Pros adorned with a “Skulls and Flowers” motif. They went on sale, and quickly vanished from our Dealers of Excellence and selected Vans stockists. We did keep a couple back at the factory, though, and occasionally we make one available at our online shop.
Debossing patterns into leather isn’t a new practice at Brooks, however. In the early 1900′s any lady wishing to have their saddle made more pretty with a floral design could order the process carried out by us at no extra charge.
Recently we undertook to bring back this fine tradition by releasing a Limited Edition B18 Lady in Raspberry, which we deliver with leather bar grips.
Keep your eyes on the blog for news on future upcoming editions.