I first met Jack Millington, co-founder of leather bags maker Billy Tannery, at a Sri Lankan restaurant sandwiched between Oxford Street and Marylebone in London. The restaurant, called Hoppers, specialises in Sri Lankan but also Tamil Nadu cuisine, in which goat meat plays a significant part. It was no accident that Jack had chosen Hoppers as the place to introduce his brand to me, because for Jack, goats are integral to his business. That's because Jack's leather goods – stunning totes, roll-top rucksacks, chef's aprons, briefcases, sneakers and key holders – are all crafted from goat hides, which, if you've never handled one, are incredibly soft and feature a naturally pronounced grain.
The point of meeting at the restaurant quickly becomes evident: the whole raison d'etre behind Billy Tannery came from the fact that Jack and Rory, his business partner and friend since childhood, were aware that while the industry for goat meat was booming in the UK, not a single goat hide was being tanned there. Some were being exported to overseas tanneries but a large majority were simply being destroyed. After discovering the terrible waste of goatskins going on in Britain, despite knowing nothing about leather production, they decided that they had to act and so they started Billy Tannery. The wider team now includes Northamptonshire leather industry veterans, a leading accessories designer, two small teams of makers and Jack's father Charles, who helps manage the tannery.