For years I had had the idea that I wanted to start my own business, inspired by my love of classic design, traditional handcrafted objects and travelling. Visiting so many countries I had brought back many unique items over the years, but in 1999 I found a handcrafted vintage leather satchel at a market and the idea of Scaramanga was established. I wanted to restore the former glory of the long forgotten British leather satchel.
In 2005 I developed a business plan and started researching traditional vintage leather satchels. I studied the patterns, materials and techniques necessary to create a modern fashion accessory in the spirit of the traditional British leather satchel. I started off with twelve bags: six satchels and six messenger bags along with a few leather journals, small wooden boxes and vintage silver jewellery. It was not long before the stock sold out and I knew leather satchels and other iconic vintage leather bags were going to be popular. Growth was steady and I reinvested profit back into the company. Initially I ran the business from the spare room in my house, but we now employ seven people and have three units and a warehouse in Cupar, Fife.
Five years ago nobody was selling leather satchels but over the last few years they have become more and more popular. Scaramanga has stayed true to the iconic vintage design, bringing leather satchels back to life with minimal modern tweaks. Each leather satchel is individually hand-crafted in quality materials and with traditional techniques, fairly sourced from craft-based families and communities in rural India. The leather is hand cut, stitched and finished using traditional methods and tools and made to look like a leather satchel would do if it had traveled across continents along dusty roads, through crowded cities full of life’s essential possessions without waiting for years for the worn-in, retro look. The classic natural brown colour suits the vintage style and never goes out of fashion; we use a vegetable tanning process, which means no chromium dyes and a longer lasting leather. Next year we will be bringing out a few different colours. The bags have an androgynous appeal: each design is exactly the same for men and women, incredibly versatile.
We also started selling furniture and interiors about two years ago: as we moved into bigger premises it made sense to diversify into complementary lifestyle objects. We started to sell vintage and antique furniture, mainly the wooden boxes that I’d seen when I was in India, which sold fairly well so we increased stock and started selling larger pieces of antique furniture – all sorts of items – and it of grew from there. We’re increasingly sourcing vintage and retro furniture from around the UK, particularly Fife. There’s a wealth of vintage in the area and the trend for all things retro is fun and stylish, we’re pleased to be a part of it. It’s not expensive to get into and there’s something for all budgets – our small boxes start at a few pounds, up to larger decorative pieces for storing clothes that cost £400- £500. The pairing of satchels and furniture is disparate but it works: our attention to detail, championing of all things retro and high quality breathe new life into traditional stylish lifestyle pieces.
Leather satchels have been part of British popular culture for generations and in recent years have become a growing fashion trend too. Heritage looks were all over the catwalk for this Autumn/Winter, and a retro satchel is the perfect way to channel the trend; Scaramanga’s classic satchels add a chic, vintage twist to any outfit. The satchels look just as good by day paired with a boyfriend coat, jeans and an oversized jumper for classes and a trip to the library; or by night, adding a retro edge to a modern lace dress and decadent fur coat for drinks with friends. Boys could pair their Scaramanga satchel with a smart pea coat, oversized scarf, fitted jeans and a festive knit to complement a versatile, stylish but practical look.
Images – courtesy of Scaramanga, photography by Gillian Gamble.
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