Made in the UK

David Webster and Alan Rogers outside Devanét UK’s premises
David Webster and Alan Rogers outside Devanét UK’s premises

Nestled in the corner of a quiet trading estate in Congleton, Cheshire, is Devanét UK – a unique manufacturer of belts, buckles and other assorted products. P&P editor Melanie Attlesey paid the company a visit to go behind the scenes.

To those not familiar with Devanét UK and the way it works, the company could easily be perceived as one with a complex manufacturing facility producing belts and buckles in their hundreds. But the reality is much more of a personal and intimate affair with each item carefully produced by hand. Needless to say I was very pleasantly surprised upon my arrival.

Devanét UK comprises of two key members of staff; David Webster and Alan Rogers. David has been in the promotional goods business for 16 years and after realising a gap in the market he founded Devanét UK in 2011. Alan joined the company three years ago. David tends to focus on the more creative side of the business, working closely with clients to achieve their desired look and is responsible for the technical elements, which he says he thoroughly enjoys. Meanwhile, Alan brings the designs to life in the factory. When times get particularly busy and the company has large orders to fill they call upon part-time members of staff to help them through.

Simply anything

So what exactly does Devanét UK manufacture? The answer is simple. Pretty much anything with metal and leather. The level of work that goes into producing such high quality products is quite extraordinary.

David Webster demonstrates the design stage
David Webster demonstrates the design stage

Firstly Devanét UK works closely with the client to establish an initial visual design of the desired product. Once the client is happy with the design, David then sets about using specific CAD modelling software to create a 3D visual of the buckle. During this process David is also able to view the exact tool-paths and selection of tooling that the milling machine will take to create the design and also see how the finished buckle will look. David says: “Although I am a qualified designer, I had a couple of days training on the new modelling software and the rest of my knowledge is down to research and experience.”

The design is then transferred via USB stick over to the CNC milling machine. Milling is the process whereby the buckle is cut out of a solid brass plate and the design is then machined. The machine is accurate to 0.02mm and can be used to create intricate detailing on the buckle or any other metal product. “Brass provides a beautiful finish, compared to cheap steel. We can produce items of different thicknesses depending upon customer preference,” explains David. The buckle is then tumbled. Tumbling is the process where all rough edges and burrs are smoothed away, the buckle goes through a second phase of superfinishing to reach the preplating stage, then it is plated to customer requirements.

Alan Rogers busy at work fulfilling an order for British Land
Alan Rogers busy at work fulfilling an order for British Land

At present the lead-time for production is three to four weeks, depending upon the size and complexity of the order. However, to speed up the manufacture and control quality, David and Alan have made the decision to bring the tumbling and plating stage in house, with the tumbling operation expected to be fully operational from October 12. An American machine has been purchased to enable Devanét UK to be able do this. Devanét UK has also ordered plating equipment which is scheduled for completion by end of October, which will mean nickel, gold, silver, gunmetal and anodised aluminium finishes will be offered to customers.

During the final production stage the prong and any other parts of the buckle are then brazed into place. And then voila, customers have a finished bespoke belt buckle. The quality of the workmanship is second to none.

Where high volume buckles are required, Devanét UK produces a master design which is then cast at an Italian foundry, the raw buckle is then returned for final finishing.

Complete ensemble

Not only does Devanét UK manufacture belt buckles at its factory, but it also assembles the complete belt from scratch. Anything from leather belts to web belts or gifts can be created.

The leather used by Devanét UK is sourced from a tannery based in the UK. The leather hide can be Pantone matched to a customer’s exact requirements. The leather belts are all cut to length by a special cutting machine which can cut from 2mm to 400mm wide, before the buckles are stitched into place. There are several leather stitching machines used by David and Alan, one is a fully computerised, one can sew through leather as thick as three-quarters of an inch and uses needles described as harpoons. This creates a hand-finished look to the belts. Other stitching machines are setup to edge stitch around the belts.

The range of web belts that Devanét UK supplies are thicker than traditional polypropylene web belts and are designed to be used as functional work belts in military or industrial settings. These belts can be Pantone matched and full colour printed to exact specifications or the woven webbing itself can be specifically created, but only in high volume orders due to the work involved. Widths from 20mm to 100mm are available.

The belts commissioned by Adidas for the Olympics
The belts commissioned by Adidas for the Olympics

The range of clients that Devanét UK works with is quite surprising. In recent months perhaps the most prestigious client that the company has produced belts for is Adidas. Adidas commissioned Devanét UK to produce 1,250 belt buckles for Team GB to wear during the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. “We were surprised and delighted that Adidas called us. To have the chance to work with a company as highly regarded as Adidas is a great endorsement for us,” says David.

As well as the ability to create one-off bespoke pieces, Devanét UK also takes on big projects. One of the biggest orders that David and Alan have had to fulfil was for workwear supplier Castle Clothing. Within a six-week period the team manufactured 5,000 web belts for the company.

Other clients range from high-end fashion designers, to golf clubs, to well-known household brands. Perhaps one of Devanét UK’s most diverse clients is a company that sells leather dog collars. In a nutshell, there isn’t anything that David and Alan can’t do with a piece of metal. The only limitation is the customer’s imagination.

Latest innovation

Devanét UK’s latest innovation is a range of sublimation printable belt buckles. This product range was shown for the first time at Printwear & Promotion LIVE! earlier in the year.

The belt buckles are all custom made in Congleton and designed to take a ChromoLuxe insert, which provides a base for a high quality full colour print. The feedback that David and Alan received on this product range and others at the show was excellent and orders have been through the roof since.

As far as David is aware, the service that Devanét UK provides and the products that it makes are unique in the UK. He adds: “There are what I call skilled artisans, people trained in the art of saddlery, who are able to make leather belts by hand. And there are those that import belts by the thousand from China. But we are able to create bespoke small and large volume buckles and belts designed according to a customer’s wishes all here in the UK, that is what makes us different.”

Being British made is something that David believes is part of Devanét UK’s attraction. “This really makes a difference to the customer, especially those who work in fashion. Customers are interested in knowing the back story of their product and where it was sourced,” he adds.

It is clear that David and Alan love what they do. “What is important to us is that we are willing and able to interpret customers’ wishes. Some of the designs that customers come to us with would have been turned away from other companies due to their complexity. The fact that we are able to produce unique custom-made belts is what sets us apart.

“I get such a buzz from seeing customers’ reactions when we show them the final product. We try to help everybody. We’re not perfect but we try,” David concludes.

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