Ghurka is going back into the women’s business.
This story first appeared in the May 29, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Three years after the 39-year-old leather goods brand was acquired by Brightwork Brand Holdings Corp., a private equity firm, it’s on track to exceed $10 million in sales this year and move into the black by 2015.
“We’ve doubled sales every year,” said John Reuter, chief executive officer, who acquired the brand for an undisclosed sum from Accessory Network Group in January 2011. “We’re not profitable yet, but we are on target with our business plan and should reach profitability next year.”
One way to reach that goal is to branch out beyond men’s merchandise and add product categories, and for Ghurka, the latest additions are furniture and a women’s collection. The women’s line will launch in September and will encompass six styles, some of which were derived from the archives, as well as new designs. The last time the company had offered women’s merchandise was in 2002, according to Pam Bristow, executive vice president of marketing and brand strategy.
Among the styles that will be offered are a vintage Rover handbag, a smaller version of the company’s Tilbury travel bag, a Wayfarer tote, a standard tote and a handbag created by connecting two of the company’s leather pouches. Unlike the men’s collection, which is lined with Ghurka’s signature check, the women’s bags have a khaki lining. The women’s line will also offer a different color palette including light pink and burgundy to augment the chestnut and black.
Ghurka is also introducing a bespoke glove line for women this fall. The gloves will be handmade in Florence, and the winter weight collection will be lined in cashmere. There are also lightweight drivers. Small leather goods such as wallets and notebook covers will also be offered, and the brand has also created a leather “jewelry roll,” designed for the traveling woman who wants a safe way to transport her rings and necklaces.
Bristow said the women’s line is “less about fashion and more about creating iconic core pieces that will remain the same over time. It’s really for the guy’s girl — it’s not precious. If he’s shooting, she’s shooting next to him. They’re engaged in life together.”
The handbags will retail for $795 to $1,395; small leather goods will be $395 to $495, and the gloves will sell for $250 to $300. The collection will be sold at Ghurka stores and online for the first season and may eventually be wholesaled as well.
This spring, Ghurka has also moved into the furniture business and has produced the Campaign Collection. The seven-piece collection created by master craftsman Richard Wrightman is based on British heritage pieces. It includes a campaign desk for $6,250, an officer’s chair for $2,995 and a campaign stool for $1,440. There are also leather pillows and trays.
Reuter said within the first three weeks, the company had sales of $50,000 in furniture.
Ghurka was founded in 1975 by Marley Hodgson, who had created Trafalgar, and the name derives from the handcrafted leather goods created for the Ghurka soldiers of Nepal, who are renowned for their bravery.
“We’re very pleased with how things are going,” Reuter said. “When we started, we thought it would be just a bag company, but we realized we can be a true lifestyle brand.”