Britain’s tanneries and leather workshops have a rich heritage. We pick the best butter-smooth luxury leather brands of yesteryear, today and the future.
Alder was created by Berkshire businesswoman, Sarah McGill, in 2018 to bridge the gap between the practicality of a laptop bag and the luxury style of a designer leather handbag. Cleverly designed to be worn three ways, the sleek, beautifully quilted tote bags come in a choice of heritage shades, from smart navy to a neutral clay. All handmade in Somerset, there are smaller laptop sleeves and leather accessories available too.
Launched in 1988 by English eccentric, Trevor Pickett, Pickett’s line in heritage, luxury leather goods are sold both online and at its Mayfair and Chelsea boutiques. From hip flasks to handbags, the beautiful leathers are the star of the show; choose classics like British racing green, or playful bold hues. The range of traditional games, including backgammon, dominos and chess are future heirlooms in-the-making, perfect for weddings or special gifts.
Set up in a Kensington mews by Tom Dodd Noble and Adam Macmillan in the 1980s, the duo soon carved out a sought-after niche producing luxury leather photo frames and albums. Over the last three decades the London boutique leather brand has expanded into a range of leather accessories, journals, diaries and games. Now known for its zingy, bold colours and brilliant personalisation services, this is a great independent brand and a true expert in the field.
It takes five years to train up a new Ettinger craftsperson, so fastidious are its standards of quality and finish. All handmade in the Midlands, the brand has a rich history; founder, Gerry Ettinger, travelled from his native Germany in the 1930s, set up business on Regent Street and was soon providing luxury leather goods to the likes of Harrods, Asprey’s and Fortnums. A bon vivant himself with a love for travel, he quickly became known for his luxury leather travel accessories and luggage. Now in the hands of his son, Robert Ettinger, the company is honouring its legacy, whilst evolving into a modern, British brand for tomorrow.
Aspinals of London
With its creative HQ deep in the West Sussex countryside and stores dotted throughout the best London postcodes, Aspinals of London’s luxury leather handbags have been spotted on the arms of royalty (both Hollywood and princesses alike). This is a fashion-forward leather brand, which creates accessories and bags for men and women in jewel-colour leathers with luxury hardware. Think statement pieces, beautifully made.
Cambridge Satchel Company
If you’re looking for a little everyday luxury, the Cambridge Satchel Company, created at founder Julie Deane’s kitchen table in Cambridge back in 2008, is a great story of an artisan, British brand. Starting off creating traditional leather school satchels with a luxury, up-to-date aesthetic, the brand was featured in Italian Vogue in its first year and has continued to grow to global heights ever since. It continues to create its trademark satchels, alongside a growing range of handbags with a nostalgic, British feel – and you can even have your initials added for that authentic, back-to-school feel.
Started from a Hertfordshire hayloft in 1980s by 20-something, Graeme Ellisdon, Osprey London quickly found a loyal following for its hand-crafted leather belts. Still family owned, but now with a flagship Regents Street store and a lifestyle destination outlet, Osprey Home in St. Albans, the brand offers a full range of luxury leather goods, from butter soft metallic leather bags, to clothing, jewellery and accessories. This autumn it has launched Grayson Perry x Osprey London, a bespoke handbag in 10 colourways, showcasing at the Victoria Miro Gallery in Mayfair till the end of the year.
Identifiable by its signature blue packaging alone, Smythson of Bond Street has been a luxury stationer since 1887, when Frank Smythson set up shop at 133 New Bond Street, selling 'stationery and fancy articles of a high-class character'. Not much has changed. The fancy stationery is still very much Smythson’s gilt-edged calling card, with leather-bound diaries and notebooks the staple for any discerning planner. What’s less well known perhaps, is its range of games and gifts, including luxury print cashmere scarves, personalised leather accessories and homewares. Synonymous with Bond Street luxury and smart desks everywhere.
Starting as a tannery in 1875, Tusting is one of the few remaining brands to create its own products from start-to-finish, with many Tusting craftspeople coming from families who have worked for the heritage brand for generations. The attention to detail and centuries-old skill and experience shine through in the leather, which it also supplies to footwear brands including Church’s, Cheaney and Crockett & Jones. Using leather sourced as a by-product from cows raised for beef, it is entirely plastic-free and uses only natural, vegetable dyes. In its heritage, mindful manufacture, Tusting may just be the sustainable leather brand of the future.
Dubbed by Walpole as the ‘Brand of Tomorrow 2019’, Stow London creates luxury leather goods designed for travel. With a range of pouches, packing cubes, wallets and cases, the needs of the modern traveller have all been thoroughly considered here, with a ‘tech collection’ for all your chargers and leads, as well as clever, smart leather travel bags, perfect for weekend adventures.
By Lydia Mansi
Updated July 2021