In the 1930s, foreign travel was the preserve of the wealthy, who crisscrossed the Empire and the far-flung continents of the world by ocean liner, train and even seaplane, carrying with them their handsome, well-made leather suitcases. Ettinger was founded in 1934 by Gerry, father of the present CEO, Robert, to tap into this lucrative market.
Located in Clerkenwell, then the centre of London’s leather-working trade, the company designed and made luggage and travel accessories to the highest specification, using the finest materials. In the early years, goat leather was much used in the manufacture of travel accessories but gradually it largely disappeared. This year, Ettinger is revisiting its roots by introducing a collection of goat-leather accessories. A supple, soft-grained leather which will age gracefully, in four beautiful colours, it has certainly caught the eye in its first few months. One of the four colours of the goatskin collection is white, a new departure for Ettinger.
‘Ettinger’s style is discreet and reserved yet our bold use of colour makes our products stand out from the crowd and we embrace the contrast’
Like his father, Gerry, and grandfather, Ludwig, Robert Ettinger has a cosmopolitan outlook on life and business, speaking several languages fluently as he travels the world. This outlook has influenced the success and appeal of Ettinger, which today attracts customers from all over the world. Indeed, some 80 per cent of Ettinger’s sales are in export markets. It has also given Robert an insight into what it means to be British. ‘People abroad have much more respect for the British than we do for ourselves,’ he has said, ‘and they like the tradition.’
Ettinger has a wealth of patterns from its early years, which continue to provide inspiration for today’s classic and more contemporary designs. Robert’s father designed the original Ettinger St James Lid-over attaché case, as he found the traditional size too heavy to carry around day-to-day, and the company still produces the smaller, lighter St James which remains popular with its customers. ‘I also still use my father’s original attaché case wherever I go,’ Robert says. ‘I get asked questions about it. On business trips overseas, they particularly love it and think it shows me to be a true British gentleman!’ Surely this is an open-and-shut case of the benefits of a British commercial attaché in promoting export business.
This year, Ettinger is revisiting its roots by introducing a collection of goat-leather accessories.
‘The British,’ Robert continues, ‘are also seen as a nation of two halves: reserved, restrained and discreet on the one hand, yet gregarious and outward going on the other. Ettinger’s style mirrors this: it is discreet and reserved yet our bold use of colour throughout our collections makes our products stand out from the crowd and we embrace this contrast. It is also distinctly British – and quite different when viewed alongside competing Italian, French, and Spanish accessories – and of a quality, honed over many years, that is second to none. The Prince of Wales’s Royal Warrant, bestowed in 1996, reinforces this message: ‘It’s a badge of quality, a mark of trust.’ After 85 years, Ettinger continues to forge ahead, combining tradition and innovation.
ETTINGER 215 PUTNEY BRIDGE ROAD, LONDON SW15 2NY +44 (0)20 8877 1616