10 QUESTIONS WITH ROBERT ETTINGER, CHAIRMAN & CEO OF ETTINGER
“Leather accessories is our world and making them the very best quality they can be is our sole focus as we continue to grow and sell to customers all over the world.”
1.) Good morning Robert, welcome to The London Musings! How does it feel to be a part of the Ettinger empire?
I am very proud of my father and what he achieved with the company and when I took over the reins in 1990, he continued to come into the office every day until well into his late eighties and was a reassuring support as I took the company forward. More recently and with a bigger team now working with me, the Ettinger brand has grown significantly and every day is a learning curve for the whole team but everything takes time and we are making sure that we stay true to the brand as my father would have wished.
2.) Ettinger was founded in 1934 and continues to supply the world with fine British leather goods. Why do you think Ettinger has stood the test of time?
Ettinger has been designing and making leather goods for 85 years now and although we are constantly thinking up and designing new products, we are very aware that you cannot re-invent the wheel. A purse or wallet still needs to hold credit cards and cash although we are very aware that the use of cash is growing less and less and are therefore designing more multi-use products each year.
We have also stayed very focused on what we do and unlike others, have not diversified into areas we are not specialists in. Leather accessories is our world and making them the very best quality they can be is our sole focus as we continue to grow and sell to customers all over the world.
3.) Ettinger received a Royal Warrant 1996. How has the brand grown since this happened?
Since we received the royal warrant to HRH The Prince of Wales in 1996, the brand has grown significantly. The warrant is a seal of approval, quality and trust and Ettinger now sells its products to customers all over the world. Since launching our on-line shop, for example, we have sold to customers in over 230 different countries and with our top end product - our bespoke attaché cases - costing nearly three and half thousand pounds, customers happily purchase without having seen or touched the item in person, with this reassurance.
4.) With the introduction of e-commerce and with significant business expansion, how is Ettinger ensuring that the original charm and high quality of the brand remains?
As the business has grown, particularly in the last ten years and thanks to the addition of online sales, we have been at great pains to ensure that the quality of our products and the service we offer our customers is as good as ever. From the training in our factories to the quality of our website, everything must be as good if not better than before. One of the beauties of websites is that we can now show videos to our customers of the products being made and the considerable skills that go in to making them.
5.) I loved your collaboration with the British artist Rory Dobner, to commemorate 85 years of Ettinger. What qualities do you look for when collaborating with other names?
Our collaboration with the British artist, Rory Dobner, to commemorate our 85th Anniversary has been a great success and we have had a lot of interest in the limited edition notebooks which is fantastic as 15% of proceeds are going to QEST, (the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust) which is the charitable arm of the Royal Warrant Holders Association and helps craftspeople and artists develop their skills and businesses.
When we consider a new collaboration, there are always two fundamental considerations - they must have the same brand ethos in terms of the quality of their products and the way they operate as a company.
6.) Lots of people might not realise how much time and work goes into creating beautiful leather goods. From the initial design concept to the delivery of items to the shop floor, can you tell us a little about the journey of an Ettinger product?
When we create new collections, it all starts at our London head office in Putney. The process starts with the design team, marketing team and sales team brain storming ideas. From this the designers mock up images of ideas, which are then sent to the factory for their comments. Quite often a suggested design is so complicated to manufacture, things have to be tweaked to make it work. Then a first sample is made, assessed and tested. It often takes up to a year from sitting around a table to a product actually being launched and sometimes even longer, so quite a journey from beginning to end.
7.) Ettinger leather goods can be personalised. How does this process work?
I am delighted to say that we now have two ways that an Ettinger item can be personalised for our customers. For a number of years now we have offered a very popular initialling option where a customer can choose to put up to 5 initials on any of our flat leather accessories - which is the greater percentage of our portfolio - in a choice of either gold, silver or blind embossed.
Additionally, we have just launched Ettinger Bespoke, our first full personalisation service on an initial choice of 8 Ettinger products - from wallets, to card cases and a key case holder - where customers can choose from a large number of leathers, leather colours, thread colours, lining options and colours for their initials for the item they want to purchase. So this is the first time our customers are now able to create their very own and unique 'Ettinger' product. To order one, they will need to make an appointment and visit our London showroom and we will also be offering this at retailer Trunk Shows around the world which my team will be visiting during the course of each year.
8.) Not to dampen the summer season, but autumn is not too far away! Are there any workwear accessories you can recommend for AW19?
I can certainly recommend some new workwear accessories for AW19. We have some new zipped pouches in various sizes in our fabulous 'Capra' goat skin collection, as well as a lovely new 'autumnal' tan colourway for Capra - to add to the existing black, white and marine blue colours already available. We also sell belts for men and have added a new blue colour option and we have some new notebooks and pencil case accessories in our hugely popular Sterling Collection.
9.) What are some of Ettinger's best sellers?
Our best sellers today include our classic Bridle Hide billfold wallet. Black on the outside and with our defining London Tan yellow on the inside, it has six credit card slots and pocket for notes. Also, our mini wallet card case which can hold cash, credit cards, visiting cards and receipts, yet it’s slim and small enough to fit into shirt pockets. Perfect also for a night out where you don't want to take you normal wallet or purse, just a few cards and notes in a smart case.
10.) When you're not busy working, where are some of the places you can you be found and what will you be up to?
When I’m not busy working some of the places I can be found are my garden in Kent during the English summer or during the winter and when the weather here is not so good, my wife and I love travelling in Oman - it has some amazing and wide open landscapes. I also go skiing every year as I was almost brought up on skies, I have spent my early years in Austria.
To shop Ettinger, please click here to find a store. Showroom and Head Office: G Ettinger Ltd, 215 Putney Bridge Road, London, SW15 2NY, UK. Private customers as well as trade clients are welcome to visit the showroom, but please book an appointment beforehand by calling +44 (0)20 8877 1616 from 9-5:30pm.