Nestled in the postcard-perfect village of Lavendon, in the English county of Buckinghamshire and close to the borders of Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire, are the leather goods makers Tusting. You may not have heard of Tusting, a family run business that first opened a tannery in this delightful corner of Britain in 1875, but you may have owned a Tusting creation. For a long time, the company has been supplying hides and leather goods to some of the most recognisable names in shoemaking and fashion, such is their expertise, which has been passed down through five generations. There’s a high chance you’ll have stepped out with Tusting leather on your feet or Tusting leather in your hand, only by a different name.
Now, however, Tusting’s own creations — the ones that bear their name — are becoming known as some of the most outstanding bags and small leather goods on the market. Before, it was a case of, ‘If you know, you know’, but we can’t keep this company a secret any longer. With a huge fan base in Japan, where their customers are sticklers for artisanal quality of the highest level, the brand is now acknowledged for its quintessentially British designs, blessed with equal parts form and function. Amazingly, Tusting exports about 60 percent of its products, mostly to Japan and China or via its private label clients, which shows you just how under-appreciated this British heritage brand is on its own shores.
When I visited the factory recently, I was blown away by the wonderful hospitality of everyone I met, not least Alistair Tusting, the director, and his wife, Gillian, who are both inspiring and charming and were proud to tell me about Tusting’s intriguing history. Founded in 1875 by Alistair’s great-great-grandfather as a tannery in the nearby village of Harrold, Tusting became one of the chief suppliers of hides to the nearby shoe industry in Northampton (and still is to this day). The industry was catalysed by the timely invention of the modern sewing machine, which revolutionised the craft of leather making, allowing the shoemakers to work with an array of leathers and designs that would not have been possible before.