B Hemmings & Co was established in 1978, can you tell us a little about the history of the boutique and what it is today?
Founded in 1978 Betty Hemmings Leathergoods (as we were previous known) had carefully selected exclusive brands from Europe, for their quality, craftsmanship and permanence. Soon thereafter the business quickly expanded to include business accessories such as attaché cases, briefcases, premium handbags and quality luggage. While many things have changed over the years, our values haven’t. Our business today is still predicated on manufacturers with long and impressive histories of craftsmanship such as Ettinger, who use the finest materials and superior craftsmanship to produce “quiet” luxury goods. Our unparalleled before and after sales service that includes embossing, repairs and bespoke services provides customers with value proposition uncommon today. In 2018 we opened our new luxury boutique to celebrate our 40th anniversary which showcases many of the world’s finest “subtle” luxury brands all under one roof.
How did you develop your own interest and knowledge of artisanship and performance in leather and travel essentials that is definitely a prerequisite for the beautifully curated selection in your boutique?
Oddly enough, the diverse backgrounds of both my wife Alexandra and I sparked our curiosity but from different experiences. My wife was in fact a medical researcher and scientist and her inquisitive mind was natural drawn to how things are made. Soon after we acquired the business, we were visiting our manufacturers in Europe to see their facilities and learn how the products we offer were crafted. We’re still curious and truly love to visit factories and see highly-skilled artisans crafting exquisite leather goods in small quantities that are both beautiful and understated. I on the other hand travelled a great deal and my luggage kept failing me, which I was throwing out regularly. I finally had an epiphany and invested in quality luggage that could be repaired rather than disposed of, which saved me a lot of time, money and mostly aggravation. Learning how goods are made has improved our knowledge and made us a better retailer and differentiates us from our competitors.
When you curate your selection for Canada, do your customers have specific tastes and requirements?
Tastes are always difficult to predict as that’s typically a personal choice. As for requirements, we do take into consideration for instance designs and sizes that meet our customers needs. As an example, the Canadian currency is smaller than the Euro but larger than the US dollar, so wallets are selected for the Canadian market based on size. Carry-on luggage is selected to meet Canadian airlines standards, although our customer base consists of international customers as well, we are knowledge on various standards and stock a selection of goods to meet the most demanding customers requirements.
Do you offer both a personal and advisory service to the customers matching their requirements to the most appropriate product?
Our knowledge and experience has thankfully given us a strong reputation. All our staff have over 10 years of experience with us and provide a level of service, I believe is unmatched anywhere. We formally launched our Concierge Service in 2015 and make private appointments available to those who are “time starved”. We curate a range of products and offer bespoke showings that specifically caters to our client’s lifestyle, and “fit” them with goods as you would be fitted for a suit. We focus on key essentials and build from there or create bespoke items that are as unique as the customer.
Do your customers value the longevity of a beautifully designed and crafted products and do you assist and advise with their care and refurbishment?
I recently read an article by Bank of America called “Nobody Wants to Show Off in a Crisis: Why Fashion is About to Get Very Understated”. I believe that life after a COVID-19 may shift consumers buying habits and have sparked a renewed interest in subtler timeless goods, absent highly visible markings, logos and brand names. This should favor heritage brands such as Ettinger. At B Hemmings & Co. our ethos has always been centered around craftsmanship and quality (longevity) and beauty. Our customers are true connoisseurs of understated luxury and have a keen eye that can recognize exquisite details and artisanship.
Why do your customers like Ettinger products and which are their favourites?
Ettinger is built on the foundation of tradition and craftsmanship that our customers appreciate and relate to. The subtle and yet distinctive designs, uses of premium leathers and workmanship are distinctively handsome and beautiful, yet unpretentious.
All images courtesy of B Hemmings & Co
You can visit B Hemmings & Co in Toronto:
162 Cumberland Street (Renaissance Court)