LONDON — Tanner Krolle, the 147-year-old British luxury leather goods house, is freshening its image with a string of new designs, three store openings and a racy ad campaign this fall. And unlike so many traditional European luxury and fashion...
LONDON — Tanner Krolle, the 147-year-old British luxury leather goods house, is freshening its image with a string of new designs, three store openings and a racy ad campaign this fall. And unlike so many traditional European luxury and fashion houses, it’s not overly concerned about embracing its history as a bespoke accessories maker for English princes, Indian maharajas and American presidents.
“We’re not playing the heritage card,” said Guy Salter, chief executive of Tanner Krolle, which was founded in 1856 by Franz Frederick Krolle. “We’re focusing on the fact that Tanner Krolle is a modern London-inspired brand with a sassy, urban attitude.” The driving force behind Tanner Krolle’s rejuvenation, Salter and a private equity investor firm, Rupert Hambro and Partners, purchased the company in May 2002 from Chanel.
Salter believes heritage is a relative concept.
“I cannot imagine that back in 1856, Krolle would have ever designed in the style of 50 years earlier. So why should we? We have to rediscover the spirit and inspiration of Tanner Krolle, but also respond to the London of today, like he responded to Victorian London,” said Salter during an interview at the sleek Burlington Gardens boutique.
Under the design direction of Quentin Mackay, Tanner Krolle’s current fall collection features banana-shaped shoulder bags with brogue-inspired details; bags with motorcycle-jacket stitching and padding, and bowling bags with punk-like zippers in primary colors.
Prices match those of rival Louis Vuitton. The Punch, with brogue details, starts at $622, while the Biker starts at $1,300 and the Vicious punk bag starts at $990. All figures have been converted at current exchange.
“We’re targeting the independent-minded luxury customer who loves Tod’s — but wants a little more attitude,” said Salter, adding that the company would continue to cater to its bespoke customers. Through the years, Tanner Krolle became known for making suitcases that fit perfectly into an Aston Martin’s trunk — or in the case of a maharaja, onto the back of an elephant. The company also makes sturdy travel bags in canvas and leather for its less flashy customers.
In addition, Tanner Krolle plans to make limited-edition bags each season featuring ostrich, crocodile or brocade.Salter also reworked Tanner Krolle’s retail strategy. Last November, six months after purchasing the company, he closed the Bond Street store and opened in a more economical location at 3 Burlington Gardens. “The key is not to spend too much on shop design for two main reasons — you don’t want the store design to overwhelm the merchandise, and you want to make money. We will make money here in year one,” said Salter.
The executive declined to give sales projections for the store or the business, but industry sources put annual volume for the company around $8.3 million, converted from the pound at current exchange.
Salter has a long history in retailing and luxury goods. He trained at Arcadia, formerly known as the Burton Group, ran Laurent-Perrier, and spent four years as Prince Charles’ private secretary for industry and commerce. He was managing director of Asprey and Garrard before they were taken over by Lawrence Stroll and Silas Chou.
Early next month, Tanner Krolle will open a 1,000-square-foot unit on Sloane Street, opposite Harvey Nichols. In mid-November, another store will open at the Royal Exchange, the luxury shopping center in east London. The brand also has a concession at Liberty. North America and Japan will be the next priorities, Salter said.
In the U.S., the company sells its men’s accessories at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, and Salter’s current priority is to push the women’s accessories. He hastens to add that Tanner Krolle always will be about accessories. “We’ll never do ready-to-wear. I think luxury customers are fed up with brands spreading themselves over so many categories.” He added that Tanner Krolle would in the future make belts and jewelry.
The ad campaign, which broke in the November issues of British Elle, Vogue, Vanity Fair and POP, is jarring — and would no doubt rock those maharajas right off their elephants. Shot by the London-based female photographer, Toyin, it features couples getting intimate in a bathroom while a woman takes their picture. The tag line reads: “Bags to Covet.” “I wanted to jolt the public a bit,” said Salter, “because Tanner Krolle has such a reputation for being buttoned up and discreet.”
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