About Insignia



 Insignia Ltd began in 1981 when, at the age of 19, straight out of college and wondering what do as a career, Claire Appleton accompanied her businessman father, Robert, on a working trip to Belgium.

At the time Robert Appleton was the Chairman of a church furnishing company called Vanpoulles Ltd. (www.vanpoulles.co.uk)

One of Vanpoulles’ main suppliers was (and still is all these years later) a Belgian company called Slabbinck BE (http://www.slabbinck.be) who design and manufacture sacred metal items, for instance chalices and ciborium, along with liturgical textiles such as vestments and chasubles, bishop’s mitres and the like. The craftsmen involved in this skilled and detailed work realised they could also put their skills to work creating bespoke banners and flags for clubs and companies too.

Following this line of thought Marc Slabbinck, one of the Directors, thought that there could be other organisations who would be interested in having all kinds of bespoke products made to their own design.

Marc’s enthusiasm for the project, when he discussed it with Claire and Robert Appleton on that business trip in 1981, was infectious and the 3 of them decided to start the same sort of venture in the UK and Belgium. 

Armed with enthusiasm, a phone and a manual typewriter, Claire set about researching the market.  Finding out what customers wanted and searching out more and more new and reliable suppliers of quality products to expand the range.  Eventually there were enough products to create a UK catalogue and once they were printed, Claire started on  the envelope stuffing and stamping by hand! 

Over the years the quantity of catalogues increased, and at one point grew to around 150,000 per year, so the envelope stuffing and stamping was no longer just Claire’s preserve!

The orders started to come in.  Slowly at first but as Insignia’s reputation grew, so did number of orders.  For many years Insignia gained its business by recommendation and via mail order catalogues.  Like a lot of companies, we became aware of the need to preserve trees and ensured that the paper our brochures were printed on came from managed forests.

These days, with the planet in mind and with the rise and rise of technology, we send out far fewer catalogues though they are still available on request for those who enjoy them.    .

The company has steadily grown over the past 30 years, and moved with the times as all companies must in order to thrive.  The company now has a website with over 90,000 promotional products available to its customers

Insignia are proud that the majority of our customers have been with us right from the start and a large number of new ones come via referrals from other happy customers as well as via the web.

Robert Appleton continued to run Vanpoulles until he retired in 1994 and, throughout his career, always kept a keen eye on Insignia.  Robert was always on hand with help advice and encouragement and in those early years Claire could not have run the business without his wisdom and his generosity in investing along with Marc Slabbinck in those early days.

In the late 80s Marc Slabbinck’ sold his shares in Insignia UK to Robert and Claire, so bringing the company under full UK ownership, though the two companies, Insignia BE (www.insignia.be)  and Insignia Ltd continue their friendship and working relationship to this day.

Robert sadly passed away in 1998, but his spirit and the honest and moral way he behaved in business are still a strong influence on the way Claire runs things today.  Service to the customer (and prompt payment to suppliers!) is paramount.

Marc Slabbinck continues to this day to keep a benevolent eye on Insignia BV  (www.insignia.be) now very successfully run by the next generation, his son Viktor Slabbinck.

We are proud to be a long standing company with long serving members of staff (see meet the team) and loyal customers who we always do our best by.  Here’s to ongoing success!