Interview with Alasdair MacLaine, Founder & Chief Designer at Design Studio: Wingback

Alasdair MacLaine

Wingback is an independent design studio specialising in hand-finished leather and metal goods that includes personalised stationery, wallets and everyday accessories.

Since 2014, Wingback has grown from a solo venture launched in a Bristol garage to a successful small business embedded in the heart of London at Somerset House. Always striving to make things the right way, our products are designed to be a pleasure to use, to improve with age and become cherished items passed down through generations. To honour that promise, we offer 30 year repairs with every product and our full range can be personalised with custom inscriptions.

Wingback products are designed to be useful, enduring and iconic. Each one represents hundreds of hours of design, manufacture and testing in the field. We only source exceptional materials from reputable local suppliers in the UK and Europe, our leather is a by-product of the meat industry and all our packaging is 100% recyclable. From our machined stationery to Tuscan leather wallets, every product is designed to work as well for you today as it would for a grandchild who might inherit your collection in decades to come.
Our Story - Wingback

How did you come up with the idea for the company?

I trained as a designer and became chartered as an engineer at British tech company Dyson. I learned a lot about good design there and always wanted to bring my own products to life. I’ve always been fascinated by the way technology progresses design, and also how traditional crafting techniques can be used to create timeless items. Wingback originally evolved from losing my own wallet and then deciding I’d rather explore designing my own rather than buying a new one.

That planted the seed of establishing a design studio that balances technology with tradition, as well as challenging traditional lifestyle accessory companies by making everyday items the right way and selling on the basis of product quality rather than marketing spend on a strong brand name.

I launched my first crowdfunding project on Kickstarter in 2014, raising 10 times my project goal with the Wingback card holder. That gave me the motivation to leave my role at Dyson and bring my own ideas to life. I haven’t looked back since. Wingback has grown from a solo venture to a successful small business today with a small tight knit team helping to get new projects off the ground.

I want to grow Wingback into a 100-year-old company, a household name and celebration of quality materials and quality manufacturing. I want our designs to be inherited by your grandkids in as good a condition as the day they were made. And in this era of disposable culture and fast fashion, I want to challenge both small and large businesses to be more sustainable, responsible and transparent.

I know that starts with the actions we take as individuals and as a business and we are committed to lead by continually reducing waste, offsetting carbon emissions produced in manufacturing and delivering our products and always designing for perpetuity.


How has the company evolved during the pandemic?

Like most small businesses, the start of the pandemic presented huge challenges. We had to battle hard to ride out the first lockdown and its impact on consumer spending. Fortunately, over a previous couple of years I had brought all our manufacturing to the UK so we avoided many of the global supply chain shortages that ground other businesses to a halt. Due to the solid relationships we had built with our partner workshops in London and Birmingham we were able to keep delivering for our customers around the world.

These partnerships and the continued support from our community allowed us to put a portion of our profits and spare time to fund the development and manufacture of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff and residents in care homes local to our workshop. Along with volunteers from our partners Good Empire and from NHS Hero Support, we had the privilege of delivering laser-cut face shields to frontline key workers in the NHS, care homes and the wider community who were keeping us safe around the clock.

That time underlined the importance of clear communication between our suppliers, delivery partners and, most importantly, our community. It taught us to be flexible, agile and resilient to adapt to government regulations at short notice. It also presented a much-needed opportunity to go back to the drawing board and develop a new range of products across our stationery line with more people working from home than ever before.

What can we hope to see from Wingback in the future?

As travel gradually starts opening up again we have a new line of products we can’t wait to introduce to our community that I’m confident will propel our business to the next level. We’re due to move to a new, larger studio across the Thames later this year that will enable us to offer experiential retail on site. And to deliver on our original goal of taking a stand against disposable fast fashion, we’re also working hard to reduce our carbon emissions from manufacture to delivery.

We hope to achieve carbon-neutral status by the end of the year, and ideally become carbon negative from 2023.