Born in Prussia, Gerry Ettinger founded the family firm in London in 1934, having previously built an extensive list of contacts throughout Europe. Thanks to his natural ability for languages and his engaging character, he had worked in his native Germany, Italy and Switzerland, in various industries but most happy as a film producer – including on one film with Marlene Dietrich – and general business enabler. An enthusiastic train traveller and skier, at a time when these were glamorous and adventurous activities, he gained many social and business contacts which would prove very useful later on in his life.
The vagaries of history meant he had to move to London in 1933 and found employment as the UK representative for several German factories producing leather goods, jewellery and gifts. In 1934, Herion of Pforzheim – a German leather goods manufacturer – offered him the exclusive agency for the UK and he was set up with an office in Regent Street in London. He applied his talents to supplying the best department stores of the time with unique luxury gifts and leather goods and the business soon became “G Ettinger Ltd”. With Asprey’s, Harrods and Fortnum’s soon becoming regular customers, his reputation rapidly gained ground. From his family’s tailoring past, he inherited a manufacturing ability and so it was only natural for him to establish his own leather factory in London to cater to this demand.
After the Second World War, Gerry returned once again to London where he was commissioned by Aprey’s to find leather goods which were then in very short supply. G Ettinger Ltd grew again from here as Gerry made Ettinger leather goods in a London workshop and in Walsall in the Midlands. Using his connections and languages he continued to expand the business, buying luxury leather goods from continental Europe and also acted as a buying agent for British and North American department stores.
Gerry Ettinger (on the left) with Hubert Gregg (on the right)
Ever in demand by trade customers, Gerry Ettinger also gained a great reputation for his luggage and fine leather goods among his many private connections, including leading actor Hubert Gregg whom he counted as a close friend. Thanks to his extensive travels he was able to get many orders for bespoke sets of leather goods for the industry captains of the time and build his reputation abroad. He first travelled to Japan in the early 1970s, starting a long and successful tradition of business in the Far East, which has greatly contributed to the company’s success today.
A tireless worker and great enthusiast, he worked late into his 90s and passed over the reins of the company to his eldest son, Robert, in 1990.