Quality controller Meg Sims and her fox terrier, Phoebe, are the beating heart and beady eyes of Ettinger’s manufacturing process.
Every day begins the same way at our Walsall factory – Meg’s wonky-eared terrier parades around with a carrot in her mouth before curling up in Robert Ettinger’s old leather chair.
‘She also likes a morning digestive with a cup of tea, either a little in her dish or I dunk it for her,’ says Meg. It’s a dog’s life up in Walsall, it seems.
Canine capers aside, Meg has a very important role to play. ‘The buck stops with us,’ she says. ‘If something goes out and there’s a problem, it’s our fault. We want to produce the best product that’s out there on the market.’
Ettinger’s top quality controller has been creating leather goods for the company since she was 16 – brought in to help with the Christmas rush back in the 1980s. Meg initially worked as a tea maker and delivery driver, before graduating to the leather worker, manager and quality controller extraordinaire she is today. And many years (and tens of thousands of pieces) later, she still surveys the factory floor, making sure all is just so.
And for Meg, this means putting in the hours, as each wallet takes eight to 10 hours of skilled work. ‘When they say it’s handmade, it’s handmade. A lot of time and skill goes into each piece.’ affirms the resident expert.
Precision and accuracy are Meg’s mantras. She describes her highly specialised team with pride: ‘They’ve all got different skills. Some excel in creating the more three-dimensional pieces, whilst others are masters of the precise art of creating wallets and other items on the flat.’ she says. ‘It takes three to five years to get your eye in – it’s a skill. It’s a really undervalued skill.’
But although she has passed on the tricks of the trade to those around her, Meg still has the keenest eye on the factory floor.
‘One of the gold blockers has been with the company for nearly 20 years and he still asks if I am happy with his work,’ she chuckles, before detailing the rigorous checking processes each piece passes through before it can be shipped off.
And for interest, Meg’s favourite piece is the chic and useful Mini Billfold in the earthy Bracken and Eggshell Saint Crispin – a practical choice for the top dog in Ettinger’s quality control team.