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Understated elegance: Leeanne and Guy Hundleby

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James Crawford-Smith speaks to Leeanne and Guy Hundleby, the husband-and-wife team behind luxury leather goods brand Strathberry, beloved by rock stars and royalty...

What’s in a name? To co-founders and husband-and-wife team behind the luxury leather goods brand Strathberry the name of their business was an opportunity to pay homage to the skill and craftsmanship which lay at the heart of their business. Proudly Scottish in both conception and outlook, Leeanne and Guy Hundleby combined the words strath, meaning wide river valley in Scots, and berry, in homage to the fruit used in traditional dying techniques, to create a powerful and authentic brand identity.

Strathberry was founded in 2013 inspired by Leeanne and Guy’s passion for luxury and craftsmanship. Their products are designed in Scotland and made by artisans in Spain, using the finest Spanish leathers which were discovered by the couple on their travels around Europe. The brand quickly gained a small but dedicated customer base which increased year on year. In 2018 however, the world spotlight was shone directly onto Strathberry when the Duchess of Sussex (then Meghan Markle) chose the Strathberry Midi Tote bag for her first royal visit with Prince Harry following her engagement. From there the brand has gained a worldwide following but at its heart the business is still very much a family concern as Leeanne and Guy explain ahead of their AW22 launch...

So, what inspired you to go into business together?

We’ve always had a joint passion for beautifully made leather goods and design. While we were travelling through the mountain regions of Spain with our children, we discovered stunning little villages with generations of skilled artisans that have incredible experience in working with leather. When we eventually returned to the UK, we found there was a gap in the market for a luxury Scottish accessories brand, offering premium quality products but at an accessible price point. That’s when we started thinking about Strathberry and connecting with these amazing workshops.

How did you then go about getting Strathberry started?

Our experience in Spain and connecting with generations of craftsmen was definitely a catalyst that led us to Strathberry. We were inspired to create a luxury brand from Scotland with an international outlook and close links to Spain. Since the early days, our focus has been on quality, functionality and beauty, combined with a minimalist and contemporary aesthetic. We love that we’re able to offer a product which is carefully designed and handmade with great attention to detail and instantly recognisable, thanks to our signature metal bar. Our first designs were inspired by the shape of a vintage music case – we’ve added a lot of different shapes to our range since then and evolved creatively as a brand over time, but we’ve always kept that clear focus on geometric simplicity and structured lines.

You describe your outlook as international but with a proudly Scottish heart, how integral is the brand's British identity?

Over the years, Scotland and its landscapes, cities and nature have been of great inspiration for our collections and designs and we really appreciate being surrounded by so much beauty. We’re very connected to Scotland and opening our first ever store in our hometown of Edinburgh in 2020 (in the middle of the pandemic!) was such a milestone for the brand and a great way to connect with our local customers. Seeing the brand grow and consolidate its international presence over the years from our HQ in Edinburgh, which is such a creative and thriving city, has been especially exciting.

How does this outlook set Strathberry apart from other British luxury leather goods brands?

Quality, creativity and attention to detail are paramount to us. We simply don’t cut corners and we only use the best quality leathers from responsible suppliers, while keeping our prices accessible. Our handbags are understated and timeless - a real investment for the conscious and modern woman who appreciates considered and sophisticated designs and wants to wear something for longer than just a season. As a brand, we’re also committed to improve our practices around sustainability and to make a difference for the environment so that customers are not only purchasing a beautiful luxury product, but also one that is made responsibly.

As husband and wife how does it feel to watch an idea you had together over the kitchen table become a successful business with fans across the globe?

It’s been such a fantastic journey for us and we’ve been so delighted to see the amazing level of support and appreciation the brand has received all over the world. When we first started, we ran the business from a small bedroom in the house for nearly two years. It was the largest (and coldest!) room in the house. It’s incredible to see how far we’ve come in just a few years. Fast forward to 2022 and we now ship online to approximately 100 countries worldwide and we are stocked globally through our wholesale relationships.

We work very well as a team and are very good at sharing responsibilities in both our work and family lives – which really helps as our lives can get very hectic with four children! Our shared passion for design and leather goods has become our full-time job and turned into a global brand to which we are so deeply connected to. We’re so passionate about what we do and it’s great to have each other to bounce off ideas and discuss new projects or designs. We’re a very supportive duo. We play to each others strengths and value each others contribution.

What are your favourite aspects of the business?

As a family-run company, we’re both very deeply involved in every aspect of the business but we’re especially passionate about the design process, which we follow step by step with the team still today. It’s something that we both really enjoy doing and have always had a passion for. Neither of us come from a traditional fashion or design background, and, when we started Strathberry, we used to create paper models of what will then become our first signature shapes. The Strathberry Tote is still one of our best-selling styles. It has become a classic!

We also love seeing Strathberry being carrying by amazing and powerful women from celebrities to influencers and customers. We love the idea of offering a product that women feel empowered by!

What was it like to have such an intense and unexpected spotlight shone onto the business when the Duchess of Sussex wore one of your bags to her first official engagement in 2018?

We were honoured she chose to carry our brand on her first Royal engagement with Prince Harry. It also felt especially wonderful that both The Duchess of Cambridge and The Duchess of Sussex (or Meghan Markle) chose Strathberry while visiting our hometown of Edinburgh. It was fantastic to see and we’ve been incredibly grateful for the support. Both women brought great visibility to the brand worldwide. We’re both very private people and it was, at first, a little overwhelming to experience the sudden level of interest around us, but we also felt excited to have the opportunity to tell our story.

What can we look forward to in the Strathberry AW22 collection?

The new AW22 collection is one of our favourite ones yet! The source of inspiration for each collection is always connected to what we’re interested in and passionate about at that moment - this influences new shapes and colourways in such an exciting way. We love following the development of a collection from start to finish and see it coming to life. This season, we’ll be launching a new structured crossbody shape which is retro chic and contemporary at the same time – a real stand-out piece! From the new collection, expect candy pastels, experimental designs, premium textures and whimsical embroidery.

What have been the milestones that you are most proud of so far with Strathberry?

Opening our first flagship store in London’s iconic Burlington Arcade in 2018 was such a milestone. It’s been so great to give customers the opportunity to experience the quality of our products first-hand. We now have two more stores in London (Covent Garden and King’s Road) in addition to our boutique in Edinburgh’s renowned luxury street Multrees Walk.

We have really ambitious plans for the future, and we’re excited about what’s in store for Strathberry. There’s a lot in the pipeline from new stores to exclusive product ranges, all developed with sustainability in mind. More to come on that soon!

W: strathberry.com



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