Tusting Factory Visit

17th May 2012



Japan is one of the biggest buying countries on luxury leather goods, despite the slow growth after the March Tsunami, it remains luxury’s second market.  At this current state of economic climate our eyes are on China, the luxury consumption by Mainland Chinese people will account for over 2o% of the global market by 2015, and will surpass Japan as the world’s luxury market this year, according to Bain & Company in its latest report on the 2011 Chinese high-end market.

I apologise if you’re tired of hearing ”it’s all about the Chinese these days, they can afford Rolls-Royce, Burberry and Louis Vuitton hand bags”, if you think it’s a bore you can skip to the next section but I promise this is relevant.

I remember I was on a return flight back to London in February after a couple months stint in Hong Kong, I sat next to a Mainland Chinese man wearing a Moncler puffer jacket, awfully rude, openly having a loud conversation to his shopping tour mates across the cabin in heavy Mandarin accent ”I can’t wait to buy the goods at Burberry, in a British standalone store, on a British soil’‘ – seriously?  Is that why there’s so many Chinese tourists shopping in London and to avoid high taxes in China if bought domestically?

I came across this report ”Tapping China’s Luxury Goods Market” by McKinsey & Company (April 2011), ”…an internationally well-known brand has become one of the most important factors in making a purchase’‘, it’s a pretty darn good read. The top 3 key factors in luxury purchase in 2010, take leather goods as an example: (1) Internationally well known brands (2) Superior craftsmanship (3) Good material.



A while ago I was invited to visit Tusting to see how leather bags are made in Bedfordshire.  Tusting is a family owned and run leather goods company set in the heart of the English countryside, originally a tannery and they’ve been manufacturing bags for over 130 years and is the second largest manufacturer in the UK.  Exploring the workshop surrounded by leather parts, pattern blocks, tools and machinery, this blurry reminiscent of my student days sewing a collection for the next month’s deadline was a sweet reminder how important craftsmanship, production and manufacturing really are today especially textiles industry in the UK.  Japan is one of their biggest (on leather goods) consumers and Tusting’s biggest fans, after browsing through their press cuttings that heavily features Tusting bags, I didn’t realise how much they love English heritage leather goods made in England.  This appreciation does make you ponder how we support ‘buy English, made in England’, and with China’s growing demand for British-made goods, it’s time to bring back UK manufacturing, question is how?

Check out my simple interview with Tusting below, thanks to Push PR for arranging this via email.



SS:  Describe Tusting in 3 words.

Tusting:  Beautiful British Bags.

SS:  What does Tusting mean to you?

Tusting:  It’s personal!  It is our family business which means you get a little bit of us in every bag, and it matters to us that you think they are very, very good.

SS:  Which pieces from the archive would you revive?

Tusting:  We used to do a gorgeous doctor-style bag called the Lavendon which would be great to bring back, and our sail bags were big, simple holdalls that still carry more than almost any other bag and yet slip quietly under the radar – very English!  We keep the ”knives” (the pattern pieces) for all the styles we ever make, so it’s not difficult to bring an old style back to life.



SS:  In the current economic climate, how important is it to keep the brand and the factory going?

Tusting:  Well, of course, it is always important – it is our livelihood and that of all our staff.  But in these straightened times, it is ever more critical because we probably all have fewer alternatives available to us.

SS:  Japan is the leading buying country on heritage leather goods in Asia, how do you meet the growing demand of the overseas consumers?

Tustings:  We have historically made leather goods for quite a number of other brands, but we now have so much demand for our own TUSTING products that we have been diverting that resource back towards our own production.  Of course, we are also steadily increasing our workforce too, though this is a slow process because of the length of time it takes to train new staff.



SS:  Which designers or personalities would Tusting like to collaborate with?

Tusting:  Well, we are already collaborating with Richard Nicoll who is a great fit for us and we also have joint ventures with a number of other major British brands, but we are always looking for suitable opportunities!

SS:  And lastly, it’s the Queen Jubilee, how would you design a bag for the Queen?

Tusting:  We’d do a very special edition of one of our holdalls, maybe made from one of our supersoft British suede leathers, and line it in some beautiful heavy silk, perhaps woven in colours inspired by the colours of her favourite place – the Scottish Highlands.  Of course, every piece and stitch would be assembled with our customary care and no doubt a large dash of nervous excitement!


I would like to say thanks to Louisa, Push PR and Tusting for organising this trip.

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  • Reply Ilana 17th May 2012 at 22:47

    This is a very insightful factory visit, thanks for sharing.

  • Reply the style crusader 17th May 2012 at 23:25

    Ah, mannn. I’m gutted I couldn’t be there for this! 🙁

    Kit, I’m confused. Why is the post so freaking awesome? So intelligently written and inquisitive. I love the critical aspect. It’s not just about a pretty bag it’s about something important and solid. More posts like this please! Mixed with DIY and pretty flowers! Mwaahahah.

    Miss you. xx

  • Reply jackie Hong 17th May 2012 at 23:41

    Interesting aspect side of the UK manufacturing, I wish to see more of this analytical post please.

  • Reply darcee 18th May 2012 at 00:02

    It’s wonderful to hear that China is supporting British made products because of their origins and qualities of the materials, which means more jobs being created for locals. This post is brilliant and carefully thought out.

  • Reply KPT 18th May 2012 at 02:42

    This is super awesome post Kit, love the last bit of the interview.

  • Reply Aimeeing 18th May 2012 at 06:26

    i also think this is a very insightful factory visit, thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Theresa Cox 18th May 2012 at 11:46

    Wow the first part is very informative and well researched on luxury leathergoods and interesting sources too. I love how you correspond your findings from the trip and the issue with uk manufacturing.

  • Reply fensismensi 18th May 2012 at 11:46

    I heard LV is limiting the number of goods a person can buy at a time in asian some markets. And people asking other people to go and buy things for them. Like teenagers with alcohol 🙂
    I love seeing the handbag making process. It makes you appreciate end product even more.

  • Reply vin 18th May 2012 at 11:47

    Love this post.

  • Reply Mat 18th May 2012 at 13:14

    quite jealous of this, i’d love to take a trip around a factory

  • Reply Fashion Ice Cream 18th May 2012 at 14:39

    Extroidinary post.

  • Reply Sarah Lise 18th May 2012 at 14:40


  • Reply Miss Fash 18th May 2012 at 17:23

    Wow they allow bloggers to visit their factory? Very interesting to see there’s no sweatshop environment, the staff look happy in their own place, and the bags look amazing.

  • Reply Greg 18th May 2012 at 17:27

    Love the interview where you questioned about the current economic climate and the demands from Asia, there’s no gimmick this is real behind the scenes. I especially love the part that surrounds the luxury leather goods market in China and Japan, a job well done.

  • Reply UK life style 19th May 2012 at 00:23

    I love the machines.

  • Reply Yan 19th May 2012 at 00:25

    This is what Asia would like to see, the workmanship and goods made in Britain, that is why it is so popular with Japanese consumers.

  • Reply Lilix 19th May 2012 at 03:26

    I miss my fashion days too in the sample room, so lucky you get to experience the real side of the industry. This is a great post.

  • Reply Laura Bruton 19th May 2012 at 03:27

    I’m so proud to be a Brit after reading this post.

  • Reply Michelle Lee 22nd May 2012 at 08:17

    wow would love to visit a factory making the leather goods/bags 🙂 love this interview!

  • Reply Jeff Allen 19th December 2012 at 18:26

    I have bought Tusting pieces for both clients and my wife. Quality & attention to detail never go out of fashion and along with Brady I find Tusting to be a company with timeless goods and a heritage thats “real” not a marketing hype like a certain Hong Kong owned British brand.

  • Reply Studio visit: Michelle Oh 7th June 2013 at 19:13

    […] talents.  My last year’s visits to Abraham Moon & Sons Mill, Dr Martens, Lavenham, and Tusting were immensely in-depth and insightful, despite the long train journeys and sore bottom I […]

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