Historically, the finest leather goods in Britain were always made in London, where the country’s best tailors, perfumers and trunk-makers all held shop.
Establishing his company in a smart address just off Regent Street, Gerry Ettinger ensured he could easily connect with the London and international elites as well as the best department stores of his time.
He quickly also established a manufacturing presence in St Johns Street, which is in London’s historical leather quarter, Clerkenwell, near the Smithfield meat markets. It is from here that he established his company’s reputation for the finest leather goods and luggage allowing him to supply the best department stores around the country and, indeed, around the world.
One of Gerry Ettinger's first and most prestigious clients was the exclusive Bond Street store, Asprey's. Here is a fine example of leather notecases in a 1930s Asprey's catalogue from the Ettinger archive:
Here is example of an advert printed in 1955 from the Ettinger archive:
Maintaining leather workshops in central London was unfortunately not tenable, as those areas were being gentrified and rents pushed workshops out of town. Ettinger had been working with one of Walsall’s oldest manufacturers for some time and when in 1999 the factory was up for sale, Ettinger decided it was time to increase its own manufacturing capacity and so bought the factory out with all its workforce.
Walsall, on the northern outskirts of Birmingham was home to thousands of factories and workshops in the leather trade and was very much at the heart of saddlery, harness and small leather goods making in England, albeit perhaps more at the utilitarian end of the industry in an age where Britain’s industries and life and general still relied heavily on horses and leather straps of all kinds. However, mechanisation and especially globalisation meant that most of these factories closed in the late 1990s.
Photograph taken of the Ettinger Factory (then known as James Homer Ltd) in 1929
James Homer Ltd was one of the oldest surviving leather goods factories, established in 1890 and having always occupied the same building. When Ettinger took over the factory, production standards were raised in order to meet international luxury standards and considerable investment has been done over the years into maintaining and upgrading the factory, as well as train staff.
Today, an apprenticeship scheme aims to attract younger workers in order to revive this once flourishing industry and ensure specialist skills continue to pass down the generations. Most of our workers have had relatives in the leather trade before them and many have started with us from the age of 16 and continue to work with us over 20 years later.
A Celebration of Craft filmed in the Ettinger Factory in 2015