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INTERVIEW: Fibonacci Guitars on its bespoke business model, Brexit's impact on component costs, and upcoming products

Laura  Barnes
INTERVIEW: Fibonacci Guitars on its bespoke business model, Brexit's impact on component costs, and upcoming products

Not every MI manufacturer starts up their business with the dream of mass-producing their instruments. The bespoke market is booming, with many brands focussing on creating unique, handcrafted pieces for musicians looking for something a little different.

One such brand is Fibonacci Guitars, a company specialising in jazz archtop guitars.

MI Pro editor Laura Barnes caught up with Fibonacci Guitars’ Graham Esson to find out more about its reasons behind keeping things on a small scale, its unique London store, and what we can expect to see from the relatively new guitar brand in the near future…

Tell us a bit about the brand.
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In early 2015, Fibonacci Guitars evolved as a result of a difference in direction taken between Peerless Guitars in Korea, and its marketing and product development team based in the UK.

For many years now, the team behind Fibonacci has been instrumental in collaborating with various, artists, designers and luthiers in developing, and delivering to market, many of the recent releases previously manufactured, under license, by Peerless.

Drawing on over 10 years experience, Fibonacci has now assembled it’s own team of artisans, both abroad and in the UK, specialising in producing high-quality, mainly hand carved, jazz archtop guitars.

 

We have a very different business model to that of many other major brands.

Graham Esson, Fibonacci Guitars


Having identified that the savvy guitar buyer in the market was opting for a more exclusive, bespoke product, this fits perfectly with the Fibonacci business model. Currently our product range consists of lower bout body sizes of 13”, 14”, 15” and 16” in a variety of depths.

We have also tried to adopt a contemporary ‘Jazz Is Cool’ vibe to our products. These designs are aimed at the aspiring player who may be more familiar with playing a smaller, solid bodied guitar, who now finds him or herself venturing into the world of jazz archtops or, for the traditional jazz player who may find handling a larger archtop a cumbersome task.

We’ve heard you prefer to work directly with retailers rather than distributors. Why is that?

Given that we are small, bespoke, niche and high quality, and plan to keep it that way, we have a very different business model to that of many other major brands. We have no desire to play the ‘numbers’ game by churning out lots of guitars. We do not use any distributers and we are not looking to appoint numerous dealers in each territory. In a territory where we have no dealers, we operate through an agent or sell direct.

We are here to create nice, quality products at a reasonable price and to enjoy the experience along the way. Bringing distributers and lots of dealers into the equation will only push the prices up, squeeze everyone’s margins, and will make the whole process more difficult to manage.

Are you on the look out for any more retailer partners?

Producing specialist products to a niche area of the market gives us limited access to most dealers. We will always speak to the right dealer should they show an interest but we have no real plans to expand our dealer network in the UK.

You have an interesting set up in your London store. Can you tell us a bit out the Fibonacci studio and its purpose?

We are very lucky to have some great people involved in Fibonacci, and fortunate enough to be surrounded by a wealth of Cottage Industry all within an hours drive, from exotic wood suppliers to nitro sprayers.

 

The slide in sterling immediately after the referendum certainly had a major impact on our costs.

Graham Esson, Fibonacci Guitars


We are heavily influenced by our surrounding environment, which is dominated by our independent recording studio. Our studio is critically important in the development of new products as it ensures that new designs are exposed to a wide variety of players, and are tested in a ‘real’ and demanding environment for refinement, before going into production. In fact, it is the case that there are numerous recent album releases with recordings of Fibonacci prototype guitars ‘sprinkled’ all over them as part of this ongoing research and development process.

We’ve heard a lot of news recently about how the public and businesses have been somewhat cautious about spending over the past year due to the uncertainties around Brexit. Has that affected Fibonacci at all?

Given we need to import almost all of our materials and components to create a finished product, the slide in sterling immediately after the referendum certainly had a major impact on our costs. Fortunately, we had not launched so we were able to adjust our prices and margins to accommodate this increased cost.

Our biggest fear is the potential damage to ‘Brand Britain’, especially within the EU. We are already aware of some sales resistance coming from a EU member country to a colleague’s guitar brand in the USA after some derogatory comments were made by Trump. It would seem beneficial to businesses, regardless of where on the political spectrum one stands, if politicians and tabloid press could refrain from speculation and unnecessary rhetoric during this period of uncertainty. But since that is very unlikely, we will need to be even more creative in our marketing activities.

You’ve just unveiled the new Californian model. How long in the making was that model and what kind of player is it aimed at?

The Californian was conceived to be part of our range from a very early stage and has taken the best part of two years to get it released to the market. While a large part of our range is designed with an obvious contemporary vibe, the Californian may have a more conservative appeal with its understated headstock shape and traditional body, and F Hole designs. It has a 15” lower bout and at 62mm body depth, will appeal to a player looking for a traditional looking, compact archtop. Being a carved top only guitar, it has a lower price tag at £2,799.00 including Hiscox case.

What projects or company plans do you have coming up?

We will be releasing our new Diablo model in late July and we are thrilled to continue working with Martin Taylor to produce his new Joya model, which is due for release in September 2017.

We are also working on a new model called the Ambassador, which consists of hand carved spruce top and hand carved Madagascar rosewood back and sides. We are aiming for a November 2017 release for the Ambassador, subject to CITES certifications.

We are also working on our catalogue, which will be finished in August.

Given that not everyone has access to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, we recently created a ‘News Blog’ page on our website to keep people up to date on various Fibonacci activities.

For more information visit https://www.fibonacciguitars.com/blog

Tags: guitars , Interviews , graham esson , Fibonacci guitars , bespoke

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