TUSTING: Beautiful Bags, Five Generations in the Making
A favourite handbag, a trusty work briefcase: everyday essentials that stay by our side whatever life throws at us. But we often don’t give much thought to where these valued items come from. It’s not surprising nowadays to find that you can’t remember where you picked up your latest accessory.
TUSTING is different. Our customers value the heritage of our name and the craftsmanship of our products. And we feel the same: our family is dedicated to creating exquisite leather bags that will delight you for years to come.
This is our story.
To really understand where TUSTING came from, we begin our story in the 1870s. The development of the sewing machine had begun to transform the shoe-making industry forever. No longer having to sew tough leather pieces together manually, shoemakers were free to explore ambitious – and blessedly comfortable! – new designs.
The demand for shoes sky-rocketed and, with it, the need for high-quality leather. Enter Charles Pettit: a young labourer with an entrepreneurial spirit. He saw the opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. He founded a tannery and, without even realising it, a British leather dynasty that was set to flourish. Charles’s only child – a daughter, Elizabeth – grew up surrounded by the artistry of her father’s tannery. And as a young woman, she met and married a local merchant. His name? John Tusting.
Elizabeth and John Tusting had a son, Jack. Like his mother, Jack spent his childhood at the heart of the family leather business, waiting for the day he could work alongside his father and grandfather. But, when Jack was 17, the world was thrust into war and Jack bravely enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps. Thousands of miles from his home in the heart of England, Jack was on active service in Mesopotamia when his grandfather passed away – and when his grandfather’s second wife decided to sell off the family tannery.
Jack returned from the war to find the family business gone. But, if there’s anything that can be said about the courageous young Jack Tusting, it’s this: he was no quitter. His whole life, he’d dreamed of running a tannery like no other – and that’s exactly what he did on his return. In the very same village he’d grown up in, Jack Tusting established his own state-of-the-art tannery and made sure that the TUSTING name would be an unforgettable one.
There’s a certain irony that the same industry that eased TUSTING’s entry into the leather-making business could have heralded its end. The 1970s recession hit, and shoemakers were forced to move operations to the Far East in order to survive. With too little demand to sustain the business in its current form, TUSTING faced a challenge: to survive, the business would need to evolve.
Happily, whichever genes carried Jack Tusting’s indomitable spirit had been passed down through the generations. A two-stage survival plan was put in place: firstly, to leverage the company’s expertise and import the best leather from overseas on behalf of the remaining, and most successful, domestic shoe brands. And secondly, to put those 100 years of passion and skill to first-hand use.
By the late 1980’s, we had decided to manufacture our own premium leather goods.
Today, with two of Charles Pettit’s great-great-grandsons at the helm, TUSTING is a global name in luxury leather goods. Our busy Lavendon workshop lies just a couple of miles from the original tannery, at the heart of England’s leather country: the juncture between Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire.
There are families here whose stories are interwoven with our own: generations of leather experts who have worked for TUSTING as long as any of us can remember. You may not have known our history, or how we came to be a globally loved brand. But, if you’ve admired our beautiful leather bags, we hope it’s because you feel the passion and experience that goes into every stitch.
Every bag we sell becomes part of its owner’s story: these are signature pieces that, with the right care, will only become more beautiful over time and are often handed on to the next generation. A wonderful investment, designed to delight for a lifetime.
Following his degree at the University of Cambridge, Alistair spent time working in product design for global power tool and hardware manufacturer Black and Decker.
Perhaps longing for a little more glamour, he turned down a place on an MBA at Cranfield to join the TUSTING family business in 1990; since then, he’s become our head of finance, production management and product design.
When he’s not here at TUSTING, Alistair is happiest on a snowy mountain, indulging his love for extreme hill walking.
You’ll find Edinburgh graduate of physiology and pharmacology Gillian at the helm for all things brand and customer-related at TUSTING. Brand equity is one of the most valuable things we have here at TUSTING; Gillian uses her wealth of management consultancy experience to manage our customers’ experience and ensure that we never waver from the qualities and values that our customers love so much. When she’s not at her desk – or one of the many events she attends on our behalf – she can be found bouncing around a course of jumps on her little pink horse.
We wouldn’t be surprised to find out that William was actually made of leather. He graduated from the University of Northampton, home to the world-renowned Institute for Creative Leather Technologies, where – perhaps unsurprisingly, he majored in leather.
Since then, he’s devoted his time, expertise and enthusiasm to TUSTING, and has become an authority in the research, selection and matching of leathers.
William likes to unwind (so he claims!) by tackling ever more gruelling cycling races in his free time.