history of english leathergoods

 There's a whole lot more to English leather goods than meets the eye, more than can be explained in the setting of a fashion store environment. English leather goods have a particular and inimitable look and feel. What makes them different from any other is their unique finish or 'hand' - the way they're made. It comes from a combination of pragmatism and effectiveness of design. There is elegance in its purposefulness.

It's a process that begins at the tanners, loriners and curriers who work the hide to produce the unique stiffened waxed bridle leather; leading on to the designers - the saddlers and rein makers, the military quartermasters producing the purely functional items like Sam Browne belts, the luggage makers and the individual worker at the bench: beating and moulding or threading and stitching heavy cord through leather. They all contribute to the characteristic solidity and robustness that define the highly prized English leather goods style.

When compared with the more popular and dominant 'international' style of French, Italian and Spanish counterparts, the English style leather goods finish is unfairly dismissed as crude. French luxe, in seeking the impossibly perfect, creates an artifice in its delicate over-finessing. In its pursuit of perfection it wastes much. The English finish isn't just handcrafted for its own sake. It has an identity of its own driven largely by purpose: simple shapes, muscular raw edges and simplicity of design declare seriousness and intent. For example, it doesn't hide its underside stitching, which is left to be seen. The exactitude and high standards are more nuanced than eerily flawless leather and super fine stitch or obsessively turned edges.

You can't talk about English leather goods without thinking of the English economist Adam Smith's principles of mass production. Assembly line craftsmanship has greatly influenced them, with each stage and task becoming a machine-based speciality. You can see how this influenced production and overall feel. A system that was designed to produce quantity and quality consistently.

Unlike the French luxe, now the adopted international style, the English quality and feel is elusive and unique. It is not easily replicated or faked because it has a deeper culture of functionalism and is less preoccupied with aesthetic flourishes. It has accuracy of stitch, commensurate with function but also with nuanced imperfections. Altogether more robust, more honest. It is this combination that gives English leather goods their distinctive English quality and differentiates them.

The French houses' pursuit of the flawless is in itself its flaw. When you consider leather goods made by traditional English manufacturers - such as W&H Gidden's Gladstone cases, Andrew Soos, Jabez Cliffs saddlery, Swaine Adeney leather folios and even Asprey's attaché cases - compared with French designs and marques of the period, you understand the point we're describing. This is not to say that French, Italian or any others aren't beautiful, they are. But, there is the matching of materiality with design and function that sets English 'fancy' leather goods, as they were colloquially known, apart from the rest. The irony isn't wasted as they're the exact opposite of what the name suggests, plain and unembellished! Therein lies the beauty.

During our journey into leather goods we were fortunate to have been able to learn the skills and tricks of the trade first hand while working with the great factories both European and English. All of whom have since closed. They provided us with the inspiration and principles on which we built Pokit. Hence, we look to capture and retain these qualities and the spirit where viable, incorporating them in our bags and wallets, not for nostalgia or blind reproduction but out of progress. Creating this hybrid is perhaps our homage to all those disappeared powerhouses of English leather goods manufacturing but it's also because English style, look and feel still have a lot to say, more so today in the 21st century.

English quality leather goods to us represent high quality goods that are for daily use and enjoyment, which is why they were world famous and highly sought-after. The Queen, and her ministers of the British Government still carry the customary historic red boxes. No better testament to the quality and sturdiness of English leather goods than the Chancellor of the Exchequer's despatch case, the budget box.