As If By Magic...

Posted 01.05.14 - Style

Following on from the success of the limited-edition Beatles and Mid-Life Crisis designs, Turnbull & Asser has collaborated with David McKee, creator of the famous Mr Benn stories, to produce an exclusive collection of hand-printed handkerchiefs.

Ahead of the release, the artist explains how the character came to be and lets us in on a couple of little-known facts about the show those of us who grew up in the 70s loved so much.

'I originally wanted to write a story about a red knight. The costume idea was never in the original plan, it only came about when the publishers asked what he'd be wearing in the next installment. The Mr Benn tales were influenced by a series of things. I went to Plymouth Arts School, and whenever we'd go down to the Barbican, we'd pass a dusty old junk shop. On the one or two occasions we went in, the shopkeeper would suddenly appear, as if from nowhere. It had the same mysterious feel as that of the shop in the stories, but the costumier was much nicer!’

“Mr Benn is perfect for Turnbull & Asser because his adventures always start from the changing room, and, of course, he's a well-dressed man”

‘I think there are lots of reasons why people love Mr Benn so much. First of all, there's the stories - they're old fashioned but strong - and then the animation is simple, but the drawings are very detailed. Then there's the music and, of course, Ray Brooks' narration, which was perfect.’

‘I often exhibit at the Illustration Cupboard on Bury Street just next to the Turnbull & Asser store, which is how the collaboration came about. They were reminded of my work and got in touch asking if I'd consider sketching some designs. Mr Benn is perfect for Turnbull & Asser because his adventures always start from the changing room, and, of course, he's a well-dressed man already - although I'm not sure his bowler hat is as popular these days. The subject of the first episode seemed like the natural story to use, but it was also because of the colours - the dragon offered a lovely green. Plus, knights are meant to be quite gentlemanly, so they suit the world of fine menswear quite nicely.’

'There is something slightly magical about clothes and costumes - they can transform people. If you wear a hoodie, you'll be hunched over with your head down, but I know that if I wear a nice jacket, I stand a little straighter, because it merits it. Even if they're not as big as Mr Benn's, our own adventures often start with the clothes we wear.'

The limited-edition Turnbull & Asser Mr Benn collection comes in four different designs, each limited to just 50 handkerchiefs.

David McKee will be celebrating 25 years of his character Elmer the Patchwork Elephant with an exhibition at the Illustration Cupboard on Bury Street from 14th May to 7th June 2014.

T&A Editorial Team

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