Made in Britain: Charles Edwards

Charles Edwards in a lighting manufacturer.

charles edwardsPrior to the advent of low-energy lightbulbs, anyone travelling down the King’s road in London SW6 might have been forgiven for thinking that Charles Edwards was consuming more than his fair share of the National Grid’s output in the two shops ablaze with his creations. An antiques dealer since leaving university, he was inspired by his mother, who used to cater largely to Americans (‘at that time, they were better at paying than British clients’). ‘I absorbed a lot of knowledge from her without really realising it.’
However, it was a conversation with the American interior designer David Easton that triggered an idea to expand into manufacturing. ‘He asked if he could have six of a particular antique lantern that I had on display. I explained that more would be hard to track down, so he asked why didn’t i make them myself—and so it began.’

After spending a year exploring manufacturers—a task made more arduous by the fact that he insisted his replicas should be made of brass rather than pressed aluminium—he landed on a workshop in Wimbledon. ‘I felt then, and still feel now, that the label “Made in Britain” means something and I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that I’m generating employment locally.’

The collection, which is inspired by 19th- and 20th-century English, French and American designs—the latter distinguishable for being bolder—now tops 440 designs. one of the best sellers is Blake, a lantern he designed for Anoushka Hempel’s hotel in South Kensington; other designs can be seen at The Lanesborough and Kensington Palace.

Since he started the business in 1992, one overarching trend that’s emerged is size. ‘Whether it’s to do with wealth creation or designs of new houses, we’ve been selling bigger and bigger lanterns. The largest to date was a 7ft-tall model, which was sent to hang in the porch of a house in Kuwait.’

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