A venerated heritage brand with Teutonic roots and serious Anglo-Saxon credibility is in the news this week. No, not the Royal Family, but Tanner Krolle, the leather-goods and accessories brand founded in 1856 in the City of London by German saddler Fredrich Krolle. Its designs have graced the forearms and travel agendas of the alpha and omega of British tastemaking, from HRH Princess Margaret (who commissioned multiple pieces from the house in the late 20th century, including various gifts for the Queen) to Cary Grant (a fan of the brand’s Sportsman leather weekender – a model latterly favoured by David Beckham) to Diana, Princess of Wales herself.
Last year, Tanner Krolle was acquired by London-based One Luxury Group, whose principals saw a luxury-goods story with top-class bona fides but a faded perspective, and little in the way of contemporary dynamism. Enter Tabitha Simmons, whose shoe designs – she founded her eponymous brand in 2009 – have garnered her a broad international fan base, merging couture craftsmanship (her exquisite leather eyelet motifs became something of a calling card) with the nous and fizz of a decidedly 21st-century perspective. British-born Simmons is the new creative director of Tanner Krolle, and very chuffed about it indeed. “The identity is so long-established – the high-quality craftsmanship and timelessness,” she says.
“Discreet” is a word Simmons uses more than once to describe the brand’s cachet with its devotees. “I love the fact that David Attenborough was gifted a set of Tanner Krolle luggage for his 21st birthday, and apparently still uses some of it. I really love the idea of products being made for life in that way.” Simmons’ approach will be considered, with classic paradigms rather than wide seasonal-trend vagaries as its focus; almost every one of her new models riffs on an existent Tanner Krolle product: the 24 Bucket bag and the Wicket 15th attaché, a lean, quietly sexy clutch, are both directly inspired by the vast archive, as is the Annabel 18 vanity case, a tribute to the late Princess of Wales. Sustainability across the production process is also top of mind for Simmons – a goal that will be achieved in part via limited product runs of every new design. “[They] will be introduced in limited quantities and via limited distribution, in the Belgravia store and online,” she says. It’s an imperative that is now built into the brand “from the beginning of the design process”, and one of the most impactful ways, she feels, “to carry the codes of the brand into the modern era.”
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