The first product Ajoto designed is the last pen you’ll ever need

The first product Ajoto designed is the last pen you’ll ever need

Chris Holden From Ajoto


AJOTO was founded in 2011 with a clear vision; to create the ultimate collection of timeless tools for your journey which combine the precision of advanced manufacture with the soul of craft, and celebrate the people, places and processes involved.


Ajoto pen set and packaging

The first tool in their collection is The Pen. Designed from the ground up to be as simple as possible and made to last. They have worked closely with a select group of world class specialists across the UK and Europe to produce each bespoke component.
We meet Chris Holden, the owner of Ajoto in his studio on the third floor of a traditional Manchester mill, the space has original wooden flooring, exposed brickwork, steel and timber beams. It’s a stunning space where light floods in and the views of Manchester and surrounding areas roll on into the distance. It’s here that Chris and the team, hand-assemble and check every pen before they begin their journey. 


Why pens?

We wanted to justice to the most important creative tool we own and use every day. It may seem a little poetic, but our first tool being a Pen, meant we could use it to develop and design everything from that point onwards.
With regards to the design and final piece, our aim was to make the last Pen you’d ever need and produce it in a way that went against the obsolescent ideology of modern consumerism. Above our aim was to create a timeless classic, that people would cherish and want to use every day, and be a celebration of the people, places and processes involved.


How did the business start?

We began AJOTO as a design studio not as a Pen company. The idea was to try and create a perfect collection of tools for your journey that explored and celebrated materials and human stories of craftsmanship and production. The company has been self-funded since day one and in 2013 we successfully launched “The Pen” on Kickstarter, which is when the company really got going. 


Chris Holden sitting in his Manchester Offices, Ajoto office front glass door

What challenges have you faced?

Too many to mention. You name it we’ve endured it. It’s been an interesting journey so far and no matter what anyone tells you, running any kind of business is a challenge, especially one that involves taking a new idea through the design, development, production process and then direct retail worldwide.

However, I’d say one of the most important lessons that I’ve learnt so far is the importance giving yourself time to get perspective. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in ‘work’ and forget that there is an amazing and interesting world that exists outside of your company.


Why is provenance important?

Provenance isn’t worth anything, if you don’t share the story. We have a motto that says every product is ‘made by, not just made in’, as we believe the human story is just as important as the geography where it is made. We aren’t really interested in the marketing aspects of a ‘made in’ stamp, we get the biggest kicks from spending time in factories and with craftspeople, learning how to make better products but also pushing them to innovate so we can do things no one else does.


Ajoto silver pen and packaging


How have you built the brand?

The journey has been very organic, as a company we’ve taken part in the odd trade show and event along the way but mainly we’ve grown through word of mouth and referral. When I began AJOTO I gave myself 10 years to get good at running my own business, we are now 8 years in so time will tell if my approach pays off.


What is the best thing about your job?

Autonomy, independence and meeting customers.


Chris Holden talking to customers at an event


Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere. Going for a wander, talking with strangers or listening to podcasts. I never switch off, I just need to make sure I take my own advice and keep a notebook and the pen close-by.


What is next for Ajoto?

We are always working on new ideas but as for what is next you’ll have to wait. We are itching to launch something new but we still need a little more time. One thing that we can say is that we are constantly learning and improving every aspect of what we do so every new edition will be an improvement on the last.


Chris Holden in the Ajoto offices, close up of Chris wearing his Awling Black Modernist style bely.


Which Awling belt did you choose and what do you think?

The MODERNIST - pitch black and grey. For me it’s always about choosing items tha’ are timeless as I don’t like to own lots of things. As a result I don’t spend a lot of time being sartorially experimental so the Modernist belt sits perfectly with my everyday black jeans.


And finally… What does style mean to you?

It’s about personal identity and confidence. Fashion is about fitting in. Style isn’t.


Ajoto pens in there packaging


Thanks for reading

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