Personalisation was one of the biggest trends of 2022, but monogramming takes this up a level. Social Pantry speaks to London-based specialist monogramming business Initially London about all this sentimental and sustainable style trend. Tell us a bit about Initially London…
Initially London is a specialist monogramming business. We are experts at creating really beautiful embroidered or laser-etched monograms inspired by vintage monograms, American monograms from the preppy 1980s, art deco monograms that you can see in many luxury brand logos, and so much more. A monogram creates a personal logo that turns a classic, simple accessory into a unique personal style statement. We love that you’re a local, independent, female-led business – tell us more!
We are a London-based manufacturer and retailer. Our team includes artisan embroiderers, graphic and textile designers, photographers and generally creative powerhouses. At the moment, we’re all female although that’s not deliberate, it just sort of happened that way. We’ve had a few great guys come and go over the years.
What led you to start a business in monogramming?
I started the business eight years ago this week! I was looking for a monogramming service in London and I just couldn’t find it. I’m from America where monogramming is like dry cleaning. Almost every town or city has a monogramming business that will either take in your own goods for monogramming or sell a monogrammed product line. Here in the UK I found a lot of companies that ‘personalise’ which is not the same thing at all. Just adding initials in any old font style as a sort of an afterthought is not monogramming.
What’s the key difference between personalisation and monogramming?
Monogramming is using graphic design and really interesting font styles and lots of color options for the thread colour to make the monogram the reason you buy something in the first place. It’s not an optional afterthought, it’s the whole point.
Tell us a bit about your product line…
I started with a very small product line of things that I really just wanted for myself, whether that was towels for the bathroom or beach towels or tote bags like the really classic bags that I remembered from my youth in America, or that people were always buying my children from America. And it’s grown from there in to a huge product line ranging from classic accessories, heirloom-quality linens and unique gift items for everyone from new babies to grannies. We love that our clients can come to us for almost any gifting occasion and find something perfect.
At Social Pantry, we believe in a philosophy of “luxury without excess”. What does this phrase mean to you?
Luxury without excess. I love that phrase, and that really does encapsulate who we are. Monogramming is obviously a luxury product. On the scale of personalisation techniques, there’s printing, hot foil stamping, vinyl decaling, painting, but embroidery is the creme de la creme because it requires craftsmanship and time.
To buy something with an embroidered monogram is to buy something luxurious. But luxury doesn’t have to cost a lot, and it doesn’t have a huge impact on the environment either. In fact, the reason you monogram something is because you want it to be an heirloom of sorts. Something that you’re proud to own, that you might want to hand down.
So “luxury without excess” is “luxury that lasts”?
At Initially London we work really hard to curate a product line made from all-natural textiles, such as linen or organic cotton, jute, sustainably-sourced leather and those kinds of products don’t cost the earth. We don’t use elaborate fixings and we don’t try to call fashion trends. Instead, we like timeless, classic, beautifully made goods which are luxurious in the way they are used.
We also specialise in accessories and linens that are meant to be used over and over again, replacing things that would otherwise be thrown away. For instance, beautiful linen napkins you can use hundreds of times, which replace paper throw-away napkins, or a hand-made monogrammed market basket that will replace countless plastic shopping bags. You get the idea.
Tell us more about the sustainability side of things…
We don’t launch a single new product without thinking about the sustainability credentials of the textile that it’s made from and the process by which it is made and shipped to us.
It’s tricky because obviously plastic linings or microfibre outers are a necessity when you’re talking about a wash bag or a sports bag because you need water resistance. So that was a tricky obstacle because those two products are some of the most popular items we sell. But we are now working with recycled polyester to make sure that we can continue to offer things like boot bags, duffel bags, backpacks and other bags that are weather resistant, but at the same time are not virgin polyester.
We work with biodegradable fabrics like linen, jute, leather, palm leaf, sisal and organic cotton. We package everything in biodegradable packaging with minimal or no branding so that all of our gift bags can be reused.
What are some of the best applications of monogramming?
Well in my opinion, there’s very little that couldn’t be improved with a monogram. Something we do a lot of, and that we’ve recently done for [Social Pantry’s founder] Alex, is using monogramming for place settings on a dinner party table. Whether it’s an embroidered name or initials on a linen napkin or a velvet or grosgrain ribbon, this extra special touch creates a little magic amongst dinner guests.
The best place for a monogram is on something personal that is yours and yours alone. Your favourite bag, your wash bag or cosmetics bag, your bedlinen, bath linens, pyjamas and dressing gown. But monogramming can also be practical. Luggage tags, travel bags, laptop cases, boot bags, water bottles and other pieces of standard kit stand out from the crowd when they have your monogram on it. Finally gift times like scented candles, yoga mats, jewellery cases, trays and baskets featuring a really beautiful monogram show that you bought the gift with a particular person in mind.
Can you apply monograms to pre-existing items?
Yes of course! We love to monogram clients’ own goods and we do quite a lot of it. We love when people bring us linens, pyjamas or towels that they bought on sale from their favourite retailer. Whether that’s The White Company, Designers Guild, Sophie Conran or just John Lewis.
We’re also often brought thrift shop or vintage finds that people want to make their own with a monogram. Baby gifts are also popular BYO monogramming items. Who doesn’t love to see a brand new baby’s initials in embroidery? Same with wedding and hen/stag party gifts. These events are made for monogramming. Embroidering the date and the initials is a thoughtful, romantic detail that makes any gift extra special.
We do a big trade business with corporate clients who want to impress their VIPs or influencers by gifting them product that has been monogrammed. They deliver us their merchandise and we add the monograms on a white-label basis, usually under NDAs so I can’t give you any examples!
How have you recently incorporated monogramming in your own life?
Over the Christmas holidays my husband and I threw an anniversary dinner for our closest friends and I tied monogrammed ribbons around the restaurant’s standard white napkins. It was so much fun watching each guest walk round the table looking for their initials and then smile as they sat down at the table, untied the ribbon and neatly rolled it up before tucking it in their handbag or pocket. Little things make big impacts.
What are your favourite monogrammed luxuries?
As you can imagine, I have very little that isn’t monogrammed! But if I had to choose just one “little luxury” it would be my monogrammed wellie boot bags. My husband and I are avid walkers, we take our dog to Richmond Park almost every day and our trusted wellies live in the boot of our car. We store them in his and her monogrammed boot bags to keep the mud out of the car, I couldn’t imagine being without them. We named the bag the Hampstead Heath Boot Bag because that’s another favourite London park for walking.
And a big luxury? Monogrammed linens. I’m obsessed! I can’t have enough of them. Dinner napkins, cocktail napkins, tea towels, hand towels for the bath. I scour antique shops and vintage markets all over the UK and Europe for vintage towels to monogram… modern linen just isn’t made the way it used to be.
What is a luxury you’ll be savouring in 2023, and an ‘excess’ you’re going to go without?
A New Year’s luxury I’m going to be savouring is a new thick goose down duvet that I just purchased, which of course will have a monogrammed cover! It’s a winter of turning the heat down and finding other ways to stay warm. An excess I’ll be forgoing is a full Sunday roast, at least for Veganuary!