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IN CONVERSATION WITH ALISTAIR TUSTING OF TUSTING
TUSTING is a family-run British heritage company with roots deep in the English leather and shoe trade, and the fifth generation of the family is now at the helm. With over 130 years of experience tanning, grading and trading the world’s finest leathers, they reinvest this deep and expert knowledge of leather with the skills of talented craftsmen and women to make wonderful, heirloom-quality leather goods which combine truly original character with unmistakable quality. Edinburgh graduate of physiology and pharmacology, Gillian Tusting is at the helm for all things brand and customer-related, using her wealth of management consultancy experience to oversee customer experience and ensure that TUSTING never waver from the qualities and values that their customers love so much. University of Cambridge graduate, Alistair Tusting first spent time working in product design for a global power tool and hardware manufacturer, but longing for a little more glamour, he turned down a place on an MBA to join the TUSTING family business in 1990.
In a recent episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interviewed TUSTING Director Alistair Tusting and Head of Brand Gillian Tusting about the rich leather making heritage of their family business. Today, the brand's leather goods are made in England and shipped all around the world to customers in Japan, America, and China. Our host Peter Brooker asks them about the various technical processes involved in making a leather bag, why full grain leather is durable and gets better with age, sourcing leather from the best tanneries, and how the in-house repair service helps customers save their beloved bags when accidents happen.
Please tell us about Tusting
“It’s a family company and that is one of the key things here, we have real heritage behind what we’re doing. It’s the 5th generation of working with leather. My great-great-grandfather started making leather in a local village, and we have been carrying that on trading all around the world. When the UK leather shoemaking trade was declining 30-some years ago we realised we needed to diversify and use our skills and knowledge to make leather goods and luggage. All our bags require the same commitment of wanting to achieve the best we can. The production process is broken down to the stages. We have people who can do the whole task from start to finish, but it is better when you break it down because people are really good at doing individual operations e.g. we have people that have been doing sewing for many years. To do that task correctly and beautifully it takes a long time to master.”
What distinguishes a high-quality bag?
“If you’re looking at a piece of luggage or a handbag you will want the stitching to be consistent, neat and uniform throughout the whole piece. But that is just one of the elements you need. You need to combine that skill with the materials. You can buy bags from all around the world with good stitching, but they aren’t going to tell the same story or give the same joy as what natural leathers will. You can buy synthetic materials that look very similar to leather, but they are never going to have that longevity. They won’t generate the patina and character of being used and loved over the years that leather products do. Top class full grain leather over time gets better and becomes characterful.”
This is a shortened transcribed edit of episode 81 of the MenswearStyle Podcast with Alistair Tusting and Gillian Tusting of tusting.co.uk. You can listen to the full version below or listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast player.