Five Minutes with Stephen Murphy

Stephen Murphy is the Chairman of Authentic Bespoke, the investment group that has our back here at Tusting and which focuses on protecting and promoting microbrands with an artisanal focus. He has a genuine love of life on the shop floor and craftsmanship, and is possibly one of Tusting’s best ambassadors.

You have a strong work ethic, which you also try to instil in your three sons. What was your first job?
I worked as a gardening assistant when I was 10.

What did you think you would be when you were a child?
I wanted to be a fireman. I used to love burning leaves and spraying the garden hose.

What do you do now?
I take care of the corporate finance aspects of Authentic Bespoke (acquisitions, fundraising, shareholders/ board level matters) and keep a watching brief on the US and Budd Shirtmakers in London, looking at the areas that my co-founder Rebecca cannot always fully cover. The job is really to think more about the current and future external forces that impact our businesses.

How did you end up where you are today?
Really because I am a slow learner! It has taken me about 30 years to accumulate the experience, network and soft skills required to be effective and productive.

How has your workspace changed over the years?
Profoundly. I started full-time work with just a small box, moving from desk to desk (due to a lack of desks in my M&A Department) at Salomon Brothers on the 42nd floor of One New York Plaza, where I started out as a financial analyst. Today, I work out of a quiet studio beside a church and graveyard in London’s Chelsea. The latter gives me peace and excellent space to think (we even used it for a recent Tusting photoshoot) but is also a reminder to hurry up because the clock is ticking.

How does what you carry to work today differ to times gone by?
My bag is much lighter. It usually contains a notebook, pen and phone, extra phone charger and business cards and likely a presentation.

What is your bag or accessory of choice for all this?
I tend to carry the above in my Westminster folio case. It is petite but does the job and looks good. There is definitely a lot to be said for the advances in technology that allow us to travel light and I could not live without my Notebook.  If I have a little more to carry, I like the casual elegance of my canvas Explorer bag.

Essential accessory?
My mobile phone. Like all of us, I would say I am far too dependent on it.

Dress-down Fridays? Yes or no?
No. We should dress up more on Fridays so you can go out directly after work and look fantastic.

How often do you travel?
Once a month on average for work and pleasure.

Favourite destinations?
The US national parks, Egypt and Ireland.

Best travel memory?
My tours of the US with my wife Suzy.

Tips when packing for a trip?
Do it the night before and look at the destination weather forecast.

Travel essentials?
Washbag, a Tusting one in leather.

The skill you would have liked to learn?
Languages, especially Arabic and Spanish

Things I wish I had known when I started out?
To be more goal-focused rather than experience focused.

How do you save?
I invest which keeps me from spending.

What about Tusting makes you tick?
Its authenticity and its potential.

What three Tusting pieces would you pick if you had the choice?
The Hingham weekender from the Century collection, a bespoke Goldington trolley case that I am currently having made (an Ellsworth Kelly red colour!) and a valet tray. I probably need one of those wherever I go or stay.

With three sons, how does the hand-me-down game work? Survival of the fittest?
No, it’s who is nicest to either me or Suzy!

Behind the Century Collection

The Early Years

The roots of the Tusting leather dynasty reach back to 1870 when the modern sewing machine had recently been developed. Revolutionising the leather-making industry, this mechanical feat of engineering meant that new ease and speed was introduced to the shoemaking process, allowing the market to grow as makers became more creative and ambitious, working with an array of leathers and designs that would have previously been unimaginable. With this new energy and demand for shoes, came a new energy and a runaway demand for high-quality leathers.

A British Dynasty

Many shoe factories sprung up in the area along the Nene and Ouse valleys east of Northampton. This allowed them to take advantage of the already abundant supply of tanneries that had been established in the region as a result of the good water supply. The thriving industry, in turn led to the demand for more tanneries. Step forward, Charles Pettit: a young labourer with an entrepreneurial spirit. He saw the opportunity emerging on his home ground and grabbed it with both hands. He founded a tannery and, without even realising it, a British leather dynasty was born.

An Heir Is Born

Charles Pettit had only one child, a daughter, Eliza. She grew up around her father’s business and shared his passion for it. As a young woman, she met and married a local haberdasher by the name of John Tusting. The couple had an only child and heir, also named John but known to all as Jack. Like his mother, Jack spent much of his childhood at the heart of the family leather business, and shared her love of it. The family anticipated that he would work alongside his grandfather when he became of suitable age and one day, take over the reins. All was not to be however. In 1914, Jack turned 17. The period should have heralded his coming of age, but instead, he was steered off course by the outset of the First World War. Our young hero was soon enlisted into the Royal Flying Corps.

A Family Feud

Thousands of miles from his home, Jack was on active service in Egypt when his grandfather, Charles passed away. Unbeknownst to the young man, Pettit’s second wife (of whom Jack was certainly not a fan) decided to sell off the tannery. Returning back to the UK in 1919, Jack found things much changed. The family business was gone, with nothing left behind.

The Tusting Brand Is Born

If there’s anything that can be said about the courageous young Jack Tusting, it is that he was a determined young man with his eye on the prize. He had dreamed of running a tannery throughout his life, and not to be defeated, set about establishing his own state-of-the art tannery. He succeeded in re-establishing the family business with even greater gusto than before, achieving a position of one of the country’s foremost suppliers of leather to the trade and importantly, becoming the first at the helm to carry the Tusting family name.

Keeping It In The Family

The rest, as they say (and the story that brings us through to today and a century on from Jack’s renewal of the family business) is history. Three generations later, Tusting family members still remain at the helm of the company, although their focus has shifted from tanning to bag making, all from our premises at Lavendon, a mere hop, skip and jump down the road from Jack’s tannery in Harrold.

Century Collection

Our Autumn Winter collection for 2019, launched 100 years on from Jack’s return, is called Century and pays homage to Jack’s story. Made up of seven pieces, designed to be used together or on their own, Century combines Jack’s aviation past with his passion for leather. Each bag is named after a WW1 airfield, with aviation cues prevalent throughout the designs. Pockets and bag flaps on the collection’s backpacks and small shoulder bag recall the shape of a bi-plane wing, whilst the corner details of our city-focussed holdall and suitcase are evocative of the tail-fin. A piped-leather trim finishes the bags off, whilst an innovative, fully biodegradable lining in Air Force blue reminds us once again of Jack’s roots and heroics.

It’s All In The Detail

Available in a choice of three colourways, Century is our most prestigious range yet. We have chosen an exceptional, premium, full-grain hide leather which is lightweight and aniline dyed using modern tanning techniques. The benefits of this are richness of colour tone and leather that feels beautifully soft to the touch, yet is deceptively hard wearing and durable. Pushing the luxury and finish of our bags still further, each one is complemented by the introduction of new and elegant signature hardware, upping the lux level and providing a contemporary nod. This comes in the form of Tusting T-clasps in chrome and brass and redeveloped more shapely handles.

Bags of Distinction

These are bags made for today’s modern gentleman, and as such, thought has gone into every detail; from slip straps to make carrying a bag on top of your trolley easier, to a nifty detachable, interior leather pouch for your phone or passport and concealed, secure pockets, we have put plenty of thought to ensure that functionality and style are balanced in equal measure. These are bags of distinction, in a class of their own.

Shop The Century Collection

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