Back in 1870, the invention of the sewing machine revolutionised the British shoe making industry. Consequently, Early British industrialists transformed idyllic country villages into shoe manufacturing hubs. In order to supply the increasingly high demand for quality leathers, local entrepreneur Charles Petit founded a leather factory which was then inherited by his son-in-law John Tusting – which is really when the Tusting story began. A story that we discover on a quick train journey into Buckinghamshire on a gloomy winter afternoon.
The Tusting leather factory has been in the family for five generations and has also survived two wars and the recession. More than that, it has become a second home to many of the Tusting family’s loyal employees, who in a way have become members of the family themselves. While the original Tusting tannery initially supplied premium English leathers to industrial shoe factories, the factory has now evolved into becoming a leather supplier to some of the biggest luxury brands in the world, including Aston Martin and Church’s.
A hundred years after their original inception and Tusting also produce their own range of beautifully made luxury leather goods, brandishing that covetable Made-in-Britain seal of approval. A quick tour of the factory shows no hi-tech machinery, but instead reveal but a well worn floor bustling with tried and tested artisans. We follow their production process that begins with leather cutting, edge finishing, stitching, finishing, and finally to the impeccable packaging of the finished products. Each step carefully governed by craftsmen who have spent years perfecting their individual roles in the well-worn machine that is the Tusting leather factory. Mary for example, who was carefully attaching some leather trimmings on the inner workings of classic leather holdall, has been working at the Tusting factory pretty much most of her adult life. She was casually bemoaning how difficult it is for today’s youth to find satisfaction in a factory job such as hers, as I observed the melody to her movements, a noble melody honed by decades of good and honest craftsmanship. The Tusting philosophy revolves around the concept of “working luxury,” producing bags that are made well, and will last a lifetime – the anti-thesis of throwaway fast fashion. Following this philosophy, their leathers are unadulterated full-grained vegetable tanned, only growing more beautiful with age and settling into the lives of its owners. From classic canvas hold-alls, quick release stud closure briefcases, to the minimalist bridle bags, Tusting makes bags that are both timeless yet decidedly modern.
With 2018 just around the corner, it seems that British manufacturing is experiencing a kind of resurgence. With consumers are becoming more and more aware of the real costs of their purchases, the Made-in-Britain label has never been more relevant. Family owned businesses like Tusting, are at the forefront of this new renaissance just like they are pioneers in the industrial revolution, creating timeless products for a new age.
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