Kangaroo, Cow or Cultured Leather?

Let’s start by saying we’ve never sold any leather briefcases or travel bags made from kangaroo hide.

Our curiosity was roused by finding out that Asic, Adidas and Nike have all used this leather for football and rugby sports boots. And for an excellent reason: this hide is incredibly strong. It has a tensile strength about ten times greater than a normal cow leather. Plus the fact that it’s naturally thinner and lighter, and you’ll appreciate why sportsmen and women want footwear made from it.

But it’s not true that kangaroo shoes help you jump a lot higher!

THIS LEATHER IS VERY DIFFERENT.

The reason that kangaroo and cow hides are so unalike is simple.

It’s the contrast between a large four-footed domesticated animal that is fed and watered, and a wild two footed animal that survives on far less water and rough foraging.

The two leather types are completely separated by species and biology.

There’s considerable controversy about the business derived from kangaroos.

There are in fact over fifty different species, but it’s the larger ones that are sourced commercially. The meat is very popular as a very low fat product, and exported all over the world.

GOVERNMENT PROTECTION FOR MARSUPIELS.

The problem arises over whether they should be culled at all.

The Australian government has put in place legislation that oversees the commercial exploitation of kangaroos and wallabies, and regular censuses take place.

There’s also a very compelling argument that cattle and sheep have done considerable damage to the environment, due to the naturally arid climate of the country: but then you should refer to Allan Savoury’s famous video on the effect of regular grazing and desertification to hear the counter argument.

https://www.ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_climate_change

Oppostion to the use of kangaroo leather has lead to Adidas dropping it from their product ranges last year, and other brands have also come under pressure from animal rights protection organisations.

However it remains the top choice for manufacturers of items as diverse as motorcycle leathers, whips, bush hats and falconry accessories!

As natural resources are under more intense pressure each passing day, and technical advances produce new materials and treatments of existing ones, it is facinating where this may lead.

LEATHER AND SYNTHETIC MATERIAL DEVELOPMENT.

In recent years there’s always been a call for leather-look materials that can offer a cheap substitute for the real thing.

Looking back to the mid 1980s there was “elephant grain” – an inexpensive but effective synthetic material, that was made up into all kinds of fashion handbags and briefcases. It was too thin to be used for larger luggage items.

This was followed by a thicker gauge version called “koskin”, short for Korean Skin, which was softer and had quite an extremely realistic finish.

When our customers examined it first of all, we had to assure them it was genuine plastic, the best money could buy!

Koskin was made up into every shape and size of design, right through to travel bags and suitcases, and still is in use today.

SCIENTIFIC ADVANCE.

Scientists have also been making great strides with tissue cultures.

Remember Dolly the test-tube sheep born in 1996? A great research effort has explored what’s possible in the laboratory rather than on the farm or in the outback.

“Victimless Leather” is a movement that appeared in 2004, to promote the idea of leather produced this way.

The latest news is that “cultured” leather is becoming a distinct reality. Professor Gabor Forgacs is the leading proponent of this.

Interviewed on Radio 4 in 2013, he predicted that this could be available in commercial quantities within a year or two. And the interesting proposition is that this “leather” will be just like the real thing, and could be grown to any size to suit the manufactured article.

After a career watching the development of leather and leather substitutes, this is the most fascinating prospect of the lot.

“The Cultured Leather Briefcase Company” may arrive in the not so distant future?

In the meantime, we’re still here, and please visit us at https://www.theleatherbriefcase.co.uk/

 

 

London’s Leather Trade.

Leather production is the ultimate end of a process that starts with moving the cattle to market.

London was already a main population centre in Medieval times and the countryside around developed market gardens to ensure fresh supply to the city. Meat came from much further afield, and there are records from the fourteenth century to show that drovers were herding cattle and sheep from Wales right across the country to the capital.

CATTLE DROVERS.

The drovers avoided tolls and marshes. The wide paths shaped by the slow moving herds are still visible in places today; very often these “green lanes” would follow ridgeways where the ground was firm underfoot. Moving at ten to twenty miles a day, the full journey could take several weeks from the west country. In the case of the supply route from Scotland, there could be a stop in East Anglia for some time to fatten the animals for market, so it could mean months on the hoof.

The head drover was an important merchant in his day. Having responsibility for several hundred animals’ welfare, and collecting the sales money meant he held  a position of considerable trust.

MARKETS IN LONDON.

The main destination in London was Smithfield, described as the greatest market in the land by Daniel Defoe in 1680. Another market was the Caledonian in Islington, and leading to it was the longest street in London; it’s on the A-Z, and we still know it now as Green Lanes! This shows the ancient route that was the cattle trail, running down from Enfield into the heart of the city.

All this would change with the advent of the railways in the 1840′s for transporting livestock.  However the modern interest in the countryside and conservation means that many of these “green lanes” are again being used, but for recreation now.

With the arrival of so much livestock to be slaughtered, naturally a leather trade developed to exploit the hides available.

EARLY HISTORY.

The first settlement of London has been traced to the north side of the Thames, along the banks of its tributary, the River Walbrook. This was really a large stream, rising from natural springs in what is now Finsbury, and flowing south through Islington, under the Bank of England, and entering the Thames by Cannon Street.

In Roman times, it would have been a source of drinking water in the upper part, but in the lower reaches it became a sewer.

Part of the rubbish taken away would have been waste from the tanning pits that lined the bank. The industry survived in the Walbrook area until the mid eighteenth century, when it was overtaken by the leather business that had developed on the South Bank, in Bermondsey.

Doubtless the stench from the process had a great deal to do with this transfer! It’s a fact that leather is one of the most popular materials known to man, although it’s production has always been something that people prefer to be done elsewhere.

The Great Stink of 1858 was so appalling that Parliament called for London’s first sewerage system to be built. In the process the Walbrook River, which had been built over already, was properly contained in a brick-lined tunnel that survives to this day.

Up until the 1970s there were dozens of small leathergoods manufacturers in East London, predominantly in the Hackney and Dalston area.However at this time cheaper imported items started coming in from Taiwan and Korea. Many of the factories either converted to wholesale these imports, or went out of business. Since 2000 many of these wholesalers have also closed, as the large buying groups have sourced directly from the Far East.

So although London has a flourishing retail leathergoods industry, the long history of tanning and manufacturing leather bags and luggage has now come to a natural conclusion.

 

Patron Saint of Leatherworkers

As I was passing St. Keyna’s Road in Hove last week, it crossed my mind just how many saints I’ve heard of, and how few actually I know anything about.

St.George is a very popular saint not only of England, but more than a dozen other countries.

St.Patrick, St.Andrew and St.David are national saints of Ireland, Scotland and Wales respectively, but unless you’re Catholic, it’s probably difficult to name many more and know what they are connected with.

St.Christopher would be one that most could recognise, as patron saint of travellers.

Certainly I was unaware that St.Crispian was the patron saint of leather workers, or St.Bartholomew was the saint of cobblers, tanners, bookbinders and shoemakers.

And St. Keyna was a holy woman, reputedly one of the twenty four children of King Brychan of Brecknock, and died a virgin in 505 AD. She is patron saint of St.Martin-by-Looe in Cornwall.

So the next question is why is a road in Hove named after her?

 

Comfort Pads for Briefcases and Travel Bags.

An American customer bought an Italian leather briefcase from us some time ago, and got in touch to ask for a wider strap, as the one supplied was a bit narrow, and was causing discomfort.

The answer to this problem is not a new strap, but a comfort pad.

This is a simple piece of leather or material, padded and usually with a non-slip surface on the wearing side. It has slits so the carrying strap may be threaded  through, and when worn the pad distributes the briefcase’s or travel bag’s weight so it no longer digs into your shoulder.

There’s plenty to choose from on-line if you visit eBay or Amazon, and a good cobbler or leathergoods shop should also stock these.

Prices range from about £5 upwards, but a worthwhile investment.

It is a fact that when we were designing and importing leather bags in bulk, we could insist that the factory included a good strap plus comfort pad as standard. However, relying on importers as we do now, we can only keep nagging them to get this feature included.

Happily we work with one factory that does include this excellent feature, and you can see it on one of our best selling cases when you follow this link.

http://www.theleatherbriefcase.co.uk/shop/business-case-extra-large-tuscan-design-old-angler-64-g/

Political Cases

Over the years, The Leather Briefcase Company has had orders from politician’s offices in Westminster, Edinburgh and Cardiff. Our most expensive case is £299, but all the ones chosen were much less.

No interest that we know of from The European Parliament in Brussels yet, but then our prices are probably well under their budget, and we hear that they don’t have to produce receipts for any claim they might make for under £250,

Please note they get £44,000 [ Forty-four thousand pounds ] per annum for annual office expenses up-front.

That’s right, £44K! And that’s in addition to 96000 euros in salary…about another £81000.

Sadly, our highly paid politicians have been known to like a bad day’s news, so they can slip out unwelcome information of their own: but recently there are instances of the European politicians actually being the bad news themselves.

The instances of two MEPS, an Italian and a Czech, signing in at 6:30 pm to claim 300 euros for a days work is a prime example.  Please go to YouTube if you are interested to see what goes on.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/10141790/Fury-caught-on-film-as-MEPs-sign-in-and-slope-off.html

Be prepared for violence and bad language!

Naturally enough reporters and cameras are now to be banned from the signing in area.

That’s absolutely consistent logic from the Brussels Brigade who protect their feeding trough so carefully that the EU books have not been passed by their accountants for the past eighteen years.

It’s also claimed that many French MEPs not only sign on in the evening, they only stay for the night [also on full expenses, no receipt required] then sign in AGAIN the next morning before going straight home again without a stroke of work, if they knew the meaning of the word.

Even if you don’t support Nigel Farage [also watch him on YouTube for splendid entertainment] when he argues UKIP’s policy for the Brussels bureaucracy to be abolished, it is an interesting question.

Would we miss the European Parliament? in terms of saving the public purse ? in terms of enlightening entertainment?

Or is it just this plain and simple? we’re peeved we’ve not had an order from them, so we won’t be sad to see them go!

Best not to ask our view on the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer. You’d think he’d want to replace that old case he waves about every so often!

Travel Tips

Many of our customers at The Leather Briefcase Company will know about our travel bags webshop, which has a thriving trade in cabin bags, or “on-board” luggage.

The critical factor for passengers’ hand luggage used to be size alone, but now weight has been introduced as an additional consideration by some airlines. Individual companies make their own rules. You really do need to check carefully yourself before travelling.

The basic problem can be outlined. To take a bag onto the plane, a size of 56 x 45 x 25 cms was given as a standard in Europe, which most international airlines accept, and they may even turn a blind eye to a slightly oversize item…as you are paying to travel on a scheduled airline.

But the budget airlines like RyanAir have a smaller size [ please check today’s dimensions on their site] because this is part of their revenue stream. Also it’s worth repeating you may find that a weight restriction has been introduced. You’ll find more information about this at http://www.theleathertravelbag.co.uk/carry_on_fullpage.asp?session_ID=&range_ID=2

SAVE MONEY ON AIRLINE LUGGAGE CHARGES

A recent “Which” article shows how a golfer on a return trip might save nearly £400 by sending his clubs bag by courier to a destination in Spain, thus avoiding RyanAir’s hold charges.

Companies you might wish to contact are, Sendmybag, Luggage Delivery Company and Direct Baggage.

And if you’d like to see a complete range of leather travel bags, luggage and cabin-size styles, please pay a visit to

www.theleathertravelbag.co.uk

Leather Briefcase New Video

Like many other sports fans I took a look at the weekend’s Grand Prix a few days back, but going round in circles very fast is something I’ve perfected in my own office years ago.

So I switched over to something equally relaxing.

Then there was a mention somewhere of the advertising revenue that supported the Grand Prix…in the range of £40 million ! I know a lot of people watch these events, but surely everything does flash by?

Anyway I’m really interested in why a vast sum gets invested for just one weekend, so I sat down to watch the late night replay, with my doodle pad handy, to record what names I could.

BIG SPENDERS.

Here’s the companies that splashed the cash to get their brands all over the circuit and cars.

Pirelli [ tyres ] LG [ no idea what they are or do ] Allianz [ not sure ] Rolex [ even I know that one! ] Lotus [ cars ] Infiniti [ nope ] Vodaphone [ yes ] Clear [ no ] UBS [ bank ] Petronas [ not sure ] Emirates [ makes me think of Arsenal ]  and if I missed others they weren’t trying hard enough.

This one was noticeably missing – Firestone – so Pirelli must have outbid them?  There were no ads either for Renault, Ferrari or Mercedes, so I guess they relied on their cars to do the talking.

Also noticed in one of the technical areas all the guys watching the screens had “Blackberry” head-sets, so there was a lot of fine-tuning all round.

Compare that considerable outlay for no measurable result to our first effort on Youtube!

The Leather Briefcase has just spent notalot on a really good video which has already had over 150 viewers in the first day, with six “likes”. Great exposure of all the range, Ruitertassen briefcases, Old Angler Italian leathergoods, the leather folios and computer bags, nothing left out.

And I’m in the office, just spinning round very fast, in ever decreasing circles. But I’ll stop to watch this!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoaoSpkNSvo

 

It’s A Crime If It’s Over £10,000.

Running a mail order company on the internet means that all our sales are paid for by credit card.

Over 99% of all our transactions are honest and straightforward, which means it’s quite easy to have a false sense of security. This is never a good idea.

We have just received an order from a Midlands address we know is on a black-list. I won’t be precise, but let’s just say we belong to an organisation that we use to check and validate every deal we make. The only time we might get caught is if the card is being used fraudulently for the first time, and has not been flagged up as stolen.

The transaction we got today went straight through and was approved, but on seeing the address it rang a bell, so we rang our security organisation.

They confirmed that the address was a known nest of villains. Currently there were numerous stolen cards being used to order goods to be delivered there.

That is a crime, but here’s the rub.

We used to report these incidents with proof to the Police. Twice I’ve spent a whole morning making a statement to police officers. It has been explained to me that as far as the Met [ London area ] are concerned, if the fraud does not add up to over £10,000 they do not have the resources to investigate “petty crime”. My argument is that with 71 bent cards that I was told my trickster was using, he could achieve that total in a day!

Luckily the police outside London set their sights differently, and will be knocking on that door quite soon.

 

Ten Minutes In Whicker’s World

 

Place: Kai Tak airport, Hong Kong, summer 1990.

Time: 10:30 at night.

We’re queuing to check in for the late planes home to the UK.

There are three flights that leave one after the other, just before midnight. Cathay Pacific to Gatwick, Cathay Pacific to Heathrow, and British Airways to Heathrow. I’m due on the Cathay to Heathrow, after a two week leathergoods buying trip in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China.

I’m in a good mood as all’s sorted and the second G+T is registering.

The Tannoy announces the British Airways flight is delayed for whatever reason. I’m just at the head of the queue as a very smart be-blazered Alan Whicker steps in front of me with a suave smile… “Excuse me, if I just pop ahead here”.

At the desk he speaks to the very young check-in attendant. “I need to change my ticket to this flight”.

“Well sir, might I suggest you go to the Cathay Ticket desk”.

“That’s miles away, do you know who I am? Call your head of station immediately!”

Needless to say, an older member of the Cathay ground crew did recognise the legendary traveller, and some minutes later his every wish was being attended too.

With another smile he wished me safe journey, and went on his first class way.

I wonder what Whicker’s Heaven is like…

 

Cherish Your Ruitertassen Briefcase

This Belgian brand has been marketed since 1927, and is one of the great traditional leather briefcase and satchel makers.

Ruitertassen tan extra large leather briefcase frontal view 2158

The very sturdy designs are constructed using only the best locally sourced hides, that must be 2.5 mm gauge or above. That’s really quite a thick stiff leather, but still supple enough to shape into the styles that have become the much loved favorites of generations of students and business users throughout Europe.

Top quality fittings and only the best thread are used, and this all contributes to make a range that is famous for it’s hard wearing and long lasting reputation.

PREVIOUSLY CHERISHED SALES.

Not surprisingly there’s a flourishing market in second hand Ruitertassen models. Just search the web and you’ll see lots on sale as “pre-loved”! And the company make and supply all the component shoulder straps, tabs, buckles and accessories should something finally wear out.

The collection has been built round a simple concept of one, two or three internal compartments, and one or two front pockets, in various sizes. Having made all the various sizes and combinations, this develops into a very wide range that includes satchels suitable for kindergarten right through to briefcases that can pack a PC, lever-arch file and a whole load more business cargo.

There’s also another set of styles that can be bought with back-pack straps as an additional option. These can be carried in hand, on the shoulder, or on the back. Now walking and cycling are often the preferred way to commute to work, this is a much valued feature.The recent fashion fad for leather satchels has been a considerable boost for Ruitertassen. Although the price bracket from £125 -£300 places them in the premium bracket, any buyer who wants a long term investment will appreciate this brand is the first choice.

Ruitertassen are now available through a number of better leathergoods retailers in the UK, or many styles are available for overnight delivery from The Leather Briefcase Company. The whole range can be viewed on www.ruitertassen.be and special orders can be requested and delivered, usually within a week.

Our selection can be seen on our website here.