There has been a long association between Farlows and Tusting and here, as part of an occasional series of blogs by the craftsmen and women we work with, Gillian Tusting looks at Tusting’s rich history and the exceptional Tusting leather bags.
The Tusting story begins way back in 1875 when the great-great-grandfather of current owners, brothers Alistair and William Tusting, founded a leather tannery to supply premium leathers to the new English shoe factories. Tanning leather remained the family’s business, despite the intervention of the odd family disagreement and a couple of world wars, until the early 1980s. Accumulated expert tanning skills had passed down through the generations and allowed survival of the coming recession, which closed the majority of British tanneries, by transferring to sourcing and trading leathers from all over the world. Soon the family diversified further and began crafting luxury leather goods themselves, from their vast collection of fine leathers.
So it was that the Tusting brand of leather goods began and it remains wholly-owned by the family to this day, with the fifth generation now in charge. The products are manufactured in the family’s British workshop which is situated in the village of Lavendon, near Northampton, and are sold all over the world. The Tusting philosophy is to make great leather bags with an ethos of ‘working luxury’, and to deliver them with total commitment to the onward care of them and their new owners.
There has been a long association between Farlows and Tusting, and we have enjoyed stocking Tusting luggage in-store for many years. We have also worked with the Farlows team to develop an exclusive range of products, only available from Farlows.
One of the most popular items for Farlows customers is the Grand Tourer. This is the largest of Tusting’s luggage offerings, and comes with wheels to help take the load, and you really can pack a LOT of stuff in one! Perfect for fishing expeditions, its length means that rods, reels, bags and boots can all be packed inside, and the wheels mean that at least some of the time, you don’t need to carry the whole weight. Made of exceptionally tough 24oz canvas, and trimmed with strong full-grain leather, the bag has a full-length frame hidden within and needs no telescopic paraphernalia to give a towing handle; the length of the bag is already just-right and a comfortable leather handle on the end is always there to grab.
This inherent, stylish functionality in the design of Tusting leather bags is no accident either – the family has a long heritage in country living; whilst leather has been their business for so many generations, farming has always been their life outside of the ‘works’.
In addition, a passion for fishing weaves its way into the family history too. Third of the leathery generations, Jack Tusting, was a fanatical fisherman and spent long holidays salmon fishing on Deeside, where he stayed at the Invercauld Arms in Braemar. From here he dispatched his catch home on the express train to Peterborough, to be collected by the housekeeper, Rosa, and swiftly frozen for future enjoyment!
He also had a penchant for trout fishing on the Dove in Derbyshire, holidaying at the Izaak Walton hotel in Dovedale. This is what brought his son, and current chairman of the company, 84-year-old John Tusting, to meet his wife Jane, whose family ran the hotel. John still gets out on the river occasionally and the some stretches of the Manifold (a large tributary of the Dove) are still in the ownership of Jane’s family. The Dove itself, where Jack Tusting is pictured here fishing in 1934, is now owned by the National Trust and is a hugely popular walking route, not least because of its famous (and somewhat tricky) stepping stones.
In a world where there are many, many companies offering luxury leather bags, it is important to understand what is different about Tusting leather bags. This is not ‘just’ a British brand – it is genuinely a British manufacturer which invests generations of knowledge into their products, and it shows in the durability of these quietly stylish and infinitely desirable bags.