Leather luggage and handbag brand Ghurka is on a crusade to reconstruct its archives, urging collectors and longtime owners to come forward with rare and discontinued styles.
This is among the initiatives the 37-year-old company is taking to reposition itself. New ownership has appointed a new creative director, Steven La Guardia, and returned to its own retail, opening a store in New York.
Under La Guardia’s direction, the brand released additional lines and product ranges, expanded upon its current offerings and has implemented a two-tiered marketing strategy — aiming to appeal to the devoted, longtime customer as well as new and younger shoppers.
President and chief executive officer John Reuter can often be found scouring eBay and “constantly bidding against the same people” over and over, according to La Guardia and vice president of brand communications Pam Bristow, who said the ceo is determined to get his hands on obscure silhouettes (including the No. 4 Gearpack, No. 67 Stash, No. 153 Sentry and the No. 160 Backoffice).
Reuter formed Brightwork Brand Holdings with a group of private investors specifically to acquire the Ghurka brand, its trademark and related assets. Brightwork took over in September.
“The most important thing to help the brand grow and rebuild the quality is to evolve from the original collection,” La Guardia said on a tour of the new 59th Street boutique, which opened Nov. 25. He helped develop the store, from concept to completion.
The brand had once operated more than 10 freestanding stores in the U.S., but they shuttered over the past decade. It now counts e-commerce from its Web site as 60 percent of its business. La Guardia said the brand saw $2 million in retail sales last year and is looking to double that this year.
The Original collection includes 48 styles of reissued leather and leather and canvas or wool combo bags that retail from $795 to $2,300 (as well as the $6,500 Eagle gold bag). Each style is numbered, including the brand’s bestsellers: the Express No. 1, a carry-on bag with two front pockets, and the Cavalier 1 No. 96 (as well as the corresponding Cavalier 2 No. 97 and Cavalier 3 No. 98), the signature weekend bag.
Limited-edition styles are available in those same materials from $295 to $795 for all leather and combinations of leather and fabric or wool silhouettes. La Guardia also introduced an all-canvas range that includes the Weathered crossbody, tote and messenger that retail for $195, $295 and $295, respectively.
He added that 85 percent of the bags are American made — the Original collection is produced in Norwalk, Conn., just steps from the original factory established in 1975, and the limited edition styles are made in New York. The brand is adamant about bringing most of its production back to the U.S. from Europe and Asia by the end of 2013.
Describing the new 1,140-square-foot store as “utilitarian chic,” La Guardia said shelving units were inspired by vintage luggage racks that one might have found on a steamer — and the ebony stained oak cabinetry is reminiscent of a window display in a French boutique. As for the shiny black motorcycle sitting smack in the middle of the store — it has a sidecar upholstered in Ghurka’s signature chestnut leather.
The store is also peppered with a small selection of complimentary items — such as elephant hair bracelets from Millett Mercantile, Armstrong & Wilson pocket squares and Pendleton blankets.
Ghurka is carried at Mitchells Richards stores in Connecticut, Malouf’s in Texas, Gary’s in Newport Beach, Calif., and Isetan in Japan. The firm hopes to open more shops in New York this year, including in SoHo.
@margotrobbie steps out onto the red carpet wearing @miumiu. The actress is nominated for “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role” in “I, Tonya” at the #SagAwards. (📷: Stewart Cook) #wwdfashion
For @massimogiorgetti of @msgm, the Nineties are his favorite decade. “They had a huge impact on my personal growth. What I like of the Nineties is that they are not so precise in terms of style as other decades…there was actually a bit of everything,” he said. As seen on MSGM’s Spring 2018 show: tie-dye and a bit of grunge, two styles that are synonymous with the decade #wwdfashion #wwddecades (📷: @kukukuba)
Breaking News: @hedislimane joins @celine as its new artistic, creative and image director. One of fashion’s preeminent image-makers and trendsetters, Slimane is to join the LVMH brand on Feb. 1 and unveil his first fashion proposition for men and women next September during Paris Fashion Week. It marks a major homecoming for Slimane, who cemented his reputation – and influenced men’s tailoring for more than a decade – as the designer of Dior Homme between 2000 and 2007. He went on to reinvent and ignite the house of Yves Saint Laurent, which he rechristened Saint Laurent, between 2012 and 2016 – all the while maintaining a close relationship with the Arnault family, which controls LVMH and Dior. Read the full exclusive story on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
“Personally I believe the Eighties have been the richest and more vivacious period for international fashion,” Giorgio Armani said when asked what his favorite decade of fashion is. It was a moment of disruption and experimentation and only thinking back to the first years of that decade is always an emotion for me, for what they have meant to me and my work.” The influence is clear in @giorgioarmani spring 2018 collection, pictured here, which was full of bright colors and unexpected prints. Read more about which decades designers loved most on WWD.com #wwdfashion #wwddecades (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
For Lady Gaga’s only Italian show on her “Joanne World Tour,” the singer wore a range of @versace_official outfits. The standout piece: this custom-made bodysuit inspired by the brand’s spring 2018 collection. #wwdfashion (RG: @ladygaga)
@_camillaruth_ is expanding on the wellness-craze concept with @westbourne – a new NYC restaurant that’s both a healthy-minded café as well as a business that gives back to the community. Marcus works with the Robin Hood foundation to give back to The Door, a non-profit providing youth development services, and also hires employees through The Door. Read our full interview with Marcus on giving back through food on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)