At the very cutting edge of business

Alice Welch and Rupert Welch with a portrait of their father Robert who founded the company in 1955 in a disused silk mill in Chipping Campden
Alice Welch and Rupert Welch with a portrait of their father Robert who founded the company in 1955 in a disused silk mill in Chipping Campden

The inventiveness of the team who developed this knife block set has been recognised again

 

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For the second consecutive year, Robert Welch Designs has been named in the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise. This year, the Cotswolds-based company has received the award for Innovation, in recognition of the unique integrated sharpening and storage capabilities incorporated into its Signature Knife Block Set.

“This award especially recognises the hugely talented team here at Robert Welch – and to be part of an elite group of Queen’s Award winners for a second year running is a real honour and brings a sense of pride to everyone involved,” says Design Director Paul deBretton Gordon.

Last year the company received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade, after increasing its year-on-year overseas sales by 29% in the preceding five years. In 2015, it turned over £13.75m; since then sales have increased more than 5% to £14.5million in 2016. Robert Welch Designs is a family business and was founded in 1955 when, after graduating from the Royal College of Art, Robert set up his studio in a disused silk mill in Chipping Campden, with nothing more than a drawing board and a camp bed.

Now six decades later, the company is still based there and employs more than 70 people, with two studio shops, one on Chipping Campden High Street and one in Bath. It still operates to Robert’s original vision that everyone should be able to use beautifully designed pieces in everyday life. Robert passed away in 2000 and now his children, Rupert and Alice, have expanded the business to supply customers and retailers all over the world.

“Keeping design in Chipping Campden was a crucial part of the plan,” says Rupert. “Having the physical connection with the same building where the company started is immensely important to us.”

The Signature Knife Block Set has a sharpener and integrated magnets
The Signature Knife Block Set has a sharpener and integrated magnets

In 2005 they believed they had identified a gap in the market for premium quality kitchen knives, which delivered performance and longevity, be it in a home or professional kitchen. Committed to upholding his father’s design legacy, Rupert set himself one goal: to produce the best knives in the world.

Over the next three years, Rupert and Design Director Paul deBretton Gordon worked with professional chefs to develop a range that would provide superior sharpness along with optimum cutting action and comfort. 286 prototypes later, the Signature knife range was launched in 2007– a series of precision tools, designed, hand-honed and sharpened by master craftsmen.

“We knew that to be recognised as the best, we had to show that we were the best,” says Rupert. “We began by rigorously questioning function, manufacture, durability and ease of use, and asked ourselves how we could create a range of beautiful, functional and timeless products. From here we worked closely with the Cutlery and Allied Trades Research Association, where we have consistently been rated in the top 1% of all branded kitchen knives tested.”

In 2008, the design for the Queen’s award-winning Signature Knife Block was conceived; a unique storage block with sharpener and integrated magnets.

Rupert adds, “While it may have taken three years, it has been worth every second. Receiving Royal approval for the innovation behind our Signature Knife Block Set and exceeding one million sales of the Signature range worldwide, is validation that we achieved everything we set out to do.”