In 2013, David and Andrea Courtney spotted an article in a British publication that called upon someone to step up and save Britain's last remaining horn button manufacturer James Grove & Sons. For most people they probably skipped past the small article but for David, a man with zero knowledge in button making, it struck a chord.
He and his wife Andrea stepped up to the plate, took on board all of James Grove & Sons' machinery and inventory and reconditioned it to form Courtney and Co in 2016. It was a monumental undertaking by them but by doing so they have played a part in saving an age old art that was disappearing in Great Britain.
Centuries ago Britain used to have a strong tradition of button making that could be traced back to the 16th Century, and at its peak there were dozens and dozens of button makers. However, by the 1960s, the number had whittled down to just fifty and it was not looking good for the industry. Cheaper imported buttons had become commonplace and the slow death of the button industry was symbolic of what was happening all over Britain, as so much manufacturing disappeared in front of our eyes.
You couldn't blame the people who sucked in their teeth when they saw what Andrea and David were undertaking, many thought it was doomed from the start. Two people with no knowledge in button manufacturing were entering a dying industry. But after three years of learning and researching themselves, and seeking out people with the necessary skills to make buttons, they opened their doors and their business has been growing ever since.
For our Heavy Twill Overshirts we knew we wanted a special button and all roads led to Courtney and Co. We wanted a British made button that checked a lot of necessary boxes and when we met with Andrea and David they had just the button. It was beautiful, sustainable, tough and British manufactured. Their corozo nut button is a sight to behold, each button has its own unique marbling that we enhanced with a custom brown dye, but it is where it comes from that is truly remarkable.
The buttons are made with corozo nut that comes from Tagua palm trees from the rainforests in Ecuador (watch this video for more info). The tree takes sixteen years to produce its first nut, but then spends the next century delivering the goods, so rather than being chopped down, these trees are held in very high regard and unlike many other rainforests, they are cared and nurtured for.
There is no human interference needed, the corozo nuts naturally fall to the ground when ripe, no cutting is involved, and each tree can on average produce 15 spiny balls known as mocochas that each contain 20 compartments with 6 nuts in each. That is a whole lot of annual nuts, one tree alone can produce thousands of buttons. It is a sustainable button and to offset its travel back to England, Courtney and Co have a tree planting programme over here.
Visiting Andre and David, we couldn't believe it all, that a button maker and their buttons could each have such rich histories. It is a joy to use their corozo nut buttons in our Heavy Twill Overshirts and we cannot champion enough the work Courtney and Co are doing.