My wife and I founded Equus as it is currently set up 10 years ago. I have been involved with leather work since I was 18 and set up my first leather business at 20. At the time I rode horses professionally, so my interests were in saddlery, and I was luck enough to train with a Master Saddler at the time.
When my riding career finished I went to University, worked in industry for some time and then founded Equus. We were asked to set up a stall at a friends garden party in aid of the Red Cross, so I thought I’d make a few belts. They sold far better than I anticipated and from that time I put my saddlery skills to use, building business around belt and leathergoods informed by my equine and saddlery background. I’ve always been lucky enough to have Victorian leathergoods from my family around, suitcases, jewellery boxes and similar, and the quality and attention to detail in items for this period is amazing, and something we always try to emulate.
I know your wife is involved in the business What is her role?
Dawn has been involved in the business since the first day. She’s an excellent organiser, much better than I am, so as the business has grown she’s been key to making sure customer service, order management, logistics, the financial aspects of the business and many other things work as they should do, which really are the key elements to the business working well.
Who was the first person that influenced you most?
In my aesthetic I think most of the craftsmen that influenced me, in particular when I was first starting out, died long before I was born and remain nameless. My family have lots of old leatherwork, saddlery and travel items around, and I developed an eye for the stitch techniques and quality I wanted to achieve through them. I was also lucky to train with an ex Giddens (later a part of Swaine Adeney Brigg) Master Saddler.
What memories do you have of your first order?
I remember being surprised people where full of enthusiasm for what we were selling. I made the first batch of belts more for fun than with the expectation of selling many or in fact any. I hadn’t picked up my tools for some time after a break, and I thought it would be fun. I didn’t realise at all that that moment was a fork in the road of our lives.
What is your favorite item from all items?
The answer to this is nearly always the most recent design I’ve completed or that I’m working on. What I really enjoy is bringing a design to life and working through the technical issues around making that design as good as it can be. Once we’ve worked all the bugs out I tend to feel it’s time for me to move on to the next new product. Overall I like to make our wallets most I think though. They are complex and taxing technically, but each process is quite short so my mind and body stay fresh.
All our non exotic leather is sourced in France or England. We’ll always try to source here in England first, and all of our Bridle leather comes from here, from JE Sedgwick and J&FJ Baker. Obviously supporting our home industries is important, but most important is that they are the best tanneries in the world for the types of leather they make.
Sourcing the best leather of a given type is key to making great products, so a lot of work goes in to building relationships with the best tanneries in the world, wherever they are. I’m very keen on aniline leather that has great patination and ageing characteristics, so for example we work with Tannerie Degermann a lot, who produce the best calf of this type in the world, as well as firms like Bodin-Joyeax for instance.
I think the very best leather has always been difficult to find. In some aspects it has got worse, in particular for thicker leathers where the restrictions on the age a cow must be to enter the food chain has had an effect on the availability of good leather, but other areas like calf leather is unaffected. Quality is a function of attention to detail, if the right tannery is selected and the right relationship is developed with that tannery amazing leather is available, though the price can be very high now as the competition for good leather is so strong and Hermes and Vuitton own and control so many of the tanneries.
To be continued…