Three British leather bag brands we love

— by Alyson Walsh

Bag, The Cardington cross-body at Tusting. Photography, Claire Pepper.


Longtime followers of That’s Not My Age may have noticed that bags are rarely mentioned (other than as a footnote when I’m talking about an outfit). The truth is I’m just not that interested in fancy, designer handbags. Paying silly money for look-at-me leather accessories to dangle from an elbow has never appealed to me. When I was writing  Style Forever my book editor asked if I was going to include a section on bags; I said no, I’d rather say something about grey hair.

Unlike Anna Wintour, I do actually carry a bag… but it has to be practical and faff-free. Something chic-not-shouty that’ s large enough to contain the essentials without resulting in a trip to the osteopath’s. And definitely not one of those ridiculous micro handbags that fit front door keys and phone and very little else. Money. Drain. Say hello to each other. Favourite, everyday styles include: the cross-body, saddle bag  or tote in leather, suede or thick canvas – a lovely accessory that perks up what I’m wearing without stealing the show.  And I do like to support small businesses and champion UK manufacturing whenever I can, so today I’m introducing (or re-introducing) three premium British bag designers who are all creating investment pieces with integrity. 


Mimi Berry

Mimi Berry studied Fashion Design at Central St Martins and upon completing her degree went on to launch her eponymous accessories and handbag label from a stall in Spitalfields Market.  Using Italian vegetable-tanned leather, in a beautiful array of colours, Mimi Berry’s bags are simple and elegant with stunning attention to detail. The team are evangelical about the leather they use, and all the bags get better with age. Alongside the signature leather cross-body bags (I like the Francis and own a much-complimented Olive-coloured Eric), Mimi has also launched a range of chic canvas totes and backpacks. In an upcoming Telegraph column, I used the Vesta tote bag from the latest, fantastic gold leather range – currently on sale HERE. Mimi’s production manager owns one and describes it as ‘ like carrying around Christmas’.


Doe Leather

After discovering boxes of old, embossed A4-sized leather swatches abandoned in the corridors of the family’s soon-to-be-closed Northampton tannery, Deborah Thomas decided to salvage the business. Founded by her great-great-grandfather in 1908, the factory had ceased production in 2002.  ‘I didn’t want to waste the materials and it seemed such a sad end to a company that had been influential for over 100 years,’ she says. Continuing the legacy, with the help of her dad, ‘ I managed to persuade him out of retirement and he’s an all-round font of knowledge’, Deborah decided to launch a bag and leather goods brand and named it Doe Leather.

The label remains committed to British manufacturing and considerate consumption, all goods are handmade to order in the West Midlands factory. The aesthetic is clean and minimal, the designs utilitarian. Think neat tote bags with crisp edges, and chic cross-body bags with discreet fastenings, plus a range of small leather goods such as, belts, leather-bound notepads and key rings.


Chic not shouty



Every single one of Tusting’s luxury leather bags comes from the family-owned factory in Buckinghamshire, which has been operating since the tannery opened in 1875. The fifth generation are now in charge of the business  – managing director Alistair Tusting was recently interviewed along with some of the factory workers on the BBC News when manufacturing started up again after lockdown – and many of the staff come from families who’ve worked for the company for generations. Designed to be fuss-free and functional, the Tusting range includes hard-working handbags, classic briefcases, laptop bags and gorgeous weekend holdalls. Leather is obviously an area of expertise and the luxury company has supplied hides to some of the finest names in British footwear, including: Church’s, Joseph Cheaney and Crockett & Jones, but it’s the under-the-radar bags that deserve a bit more attention…

Tusting has very kindly offered to giveaway a Cardington cross-body bag worth £255 to one lucky That’s Not My Age reader. I know, we’re spoiling you….

The Cardington cross-body bag, as modelled above in the new lemon colourway, is beautifully made in Pebblestone leather. It’s the perfect companion when you’re on the move, roomy enough to keep the essentials at hand and avoid any panic-induced rummaging at the supermarket. Available in six different shades, Tusting also offers a bespoke personalisation service – so leave a comment telling us why you’d like one, what your favourite colour is and if you’d like your initials embossed onto the leather.


And check out my interview with Tusting HERE.

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