The Battle Of The Fly

Or search 'Thomas Clipper' wherever you listen to podcasts.



Breaking news: the zippers have arrived!


This might not seem exciting enough to warrant an update, but if you indulge us for a moment, here’s why it is...


Zips are more interesting than you give them credit for in three ways. First off, in how they came to prominence. Second off, in how they affect our production. And  finally, in what they say about our (and every) business.


To begin with how they came to prominence. In 1851 rather a lot was happening. The first World’s Fair, was held in Crystal Palace, the first America’s Cup yacht race was won by America and the zipper was invented by Elias Howe. He didn’t do much with his marvellous zipper: it took an enterprising Swede called Otto Frederick Gideon Sundback to perfect the design with his “Hookless Hooker” in 1912.


From there the zipper gained popularity slowly but surely on the sidelines of the fastening world until 1937, France, where fashion designers sat up and started taking notice of the new kid on the block. It was Button vs. Zipper on eve of the Second World War. Technology vs. tradition; the old world vs. the new; the optimism and versatility of the zipper faced off against the inflexible tyranny of the button. Some have described the Battle of the Fly. The winner was easy to guess.


So the humble zipper rose to its current position at the top of the podium. But despite this seemingly inexorable rise to fame and fortune, the world is still full of shoddy zippers. Zippers that break. Zippers that feel flimsy and cheap. Zippers that get stuck.


Through it all a Japanese company has shone like a beacon in the dark, calling in manufactures who want a quality zipper (and are willing to pay for it). This company is YKK. Have a look at the zippers on your better quality gear, and I’m willing to bet there’s a little ‘YKK’ symbol pressed into the metal on the underside of the zip pull.


This Japanese giant makes around half the world’s zippers, and practically all the world’s quality models. The LA Times did an article about how deep into zippers YKK really is, writing that it “smelts its own brass, concocts its own polyester, spins and twists its own thread, weaves and color-dyes cloth for its zipper tapes, forges and molds its scooped zipper teeth”.


Our zippers are, of course, YKK (though other zip makers are available). Which brings us onto point two: why is the zip so important to our production?


If you want a cheap zipper you can get one tomorrow. But with a YKK model you’ve got to make sure they’ve got it in stock. If not you can wait months for it to come back in. So of course, one of the first things we did when we got funded on Kickstarter was get our order in with YKK, and cross our fingers.


Even in the worst case scenario, we’d still be on time for November of course. But having the zippers arrive before the August holiday here in Italy is incredibly powerful in getting the bags produced in a relaxed manner and into your hands (hopefully) a little early. So that’s why we’re happy that our zippers have arrived!


We started by saying that zippers were important in three ways. First off, in their interesting history. Second off, in how they affect our ability to get you your Tuscan Wash Bag. So onto the third: they’re important in what they say about our (and every) business.


So what do they say about business? Going with a cheap zip is a classic trick that’s used in mass manufacture to bring down cost. The customer gets a product that functions well past the 30 day return period, which is all you need. Right? Well no. We don’t think so.


Going with a quality zipper is about respect. It respects the artisans who make the product (and who know you’re not skimping on the important things), it says that you respect your customer even beyond the return period, and that you respect your product and want it to last.


So, there you have it. The zips are in. And that’s rather important!