Once upon a time, the aristocracy and luggage went together like a horse and carriage. Today, people might think quality luggage has to flaunt a flashy logo and a brand; in fact for those in the know, the finest luggage really is masterfully understated.
Authenticity is the watchword. Old money and royalty demand their bags, cases and briefcases to give more than a nod to exquisite workmanship and smoulder with heritage. This really is an accessory class where less is more, no place for showy logos, brash colour or shiny newness, all of which suggest newer wealth.
Europeans have always taken their luggage seriously. In a Parisian workshop in the Rue Saint-Honore, Maison Goyard www.goyard.com has been crafting luggage since 1828. The French nobility would commission a fleet of trunks and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes was a long standing Goyard patron.
Italians reject Prada in favour of Valextra. Legendary soprano, Maria Callas was a devotee of the renowned astounding pure white calfskin, super luxurious and soft. The makers must wash their hands routinely at least every five minutes and packers wear white handling gloves.
For the most grand of all, one cannot look no further than Tanner Krolle. Founded in 1856 by a second generation master sadler, Frederick Krolle, working near St Paul’s Cathedral. Krolle was something of a Victorian entrepreneur, spotting a captive luxury market to produce handmade luggage for first-class passengers with the rise of steamship and railway travel.
During the mid-19th Century, Krolle’s invention of the “portmanteau”, a solid hand-stitched dresser case made of heavy bridle leather became a sign of status and success.
Tanner Krolle went on to design some of the pioneering luggage designs for cars in the 1900’s. Today you will find discreet boutiques at 11 Shepherd’s Market in Mayfair and Knightsbridge. When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge drove off from Buckingham Palace in the Prince of Wales’s Aston Martin DB6 Volante MkII convertible, they may well have had Kroll’s ‘jigsaw’ cases in the boot. Prince William’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales never ventured overseas without her collection of Tanner Kroll luggage and both her sons’ school trunks were crafted by the company.
Luggage – bespoke and retail
Around 43 per cent of the company’s business remains bespoke, although the retail side is increasing. Customers include Queen Sonia of Norway, the Windsors, the Brunei royals and leading Middle Eastern members of the banking and oil dynasties, Russia and other parts of Europe. David Beckham is a devotee. Commissions can include multi piece luggage sets, travel cases for artwork, all using the finest leather in the world, including calf skin, alligator, ostrich, sometimes inlaid with precious stones, but absolutely nothing resembling modern day ‘bling’. Prices start around £1,500 for a classic calfskin bag and from £16,000 for a bespoke piece, taking eight weeks or longer to complete.
John O’Sullivan, Chief Executive at Tanner Krolle comments: “Tanner Krolle customers have a particular taste; let’s call it ‘high taste’. They exist in an isolated world which has nothing to do with fashion. They might bring in a bag belonging to their mother or grandfather, which we can then update, personalise…”