Strathberry, an independent Scottish designer handbag brand, went stratospheric overnight after Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, wore two of its styles in short concession, after she got engaged to Prince Harry in 2017.
Since then, the label, founded by husband-and-wife duo Leeanne and Guy Hundleby, has gone from strength to strength, opening stores in the UK and launching new collection after the challenging year we’ve all had.
Here, Strathberry owner and co-founder Leeanne opens up about the brand’s success, and what it’s been like since the Duchess first wore the designs.
How did the brand start?
My husband Guy and I started Strathberry in 2013 after spending some months travelling through Spain with our four children. During our travels, we discovered some beautiful and picturesque villages in the South of the country and connected with the local craftsmanship industry. We met some incredibly talented artisans with generations of expertise and felt incredibly inspired by their meticulous attention to detail and skills with leatherwork.
We’d always had a keen passion for design and, once back to Scotland, it felt like it was the perfect time to start Strathberry. We went ahead with our plans to create a Scottish brand with a real international outlook (and close links to Spain, celebrating such a renowned industry!). With no traditional design or fashion background, Guy and I started creating paper models of what would then become our fist signature styles and all from a study room (the coldest!) in our house.
What is the inspiration behind the new collection?
The latest collection is a very special one for me as it really embodies the power of modern femininity and celebrates women. We looked at some of the most emblematic female figures of the 20th century – real pioneering women like inventor Hedy LaMarr, Marleen Dietrich and wonderful Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They really pushed the boundaries of what women can achieve and made a difference in how women are perceived within society, inspiring a new generation.
We wanted to create a collection that captured that sense of empowering womanhood, celebrating their determination, intellect and talent. The new styles are daring and understated, while maintaining the simplicity and contemporary minimalism that is part of our DNA. It’s one of my favourite collections yet!
Which bags have been your most popular throughout the seasons?
Our classic Midi Tote and East/West styles are still our most popular and most recognised shapes. Over the seasons, it’s been so exciting to see new fashion-forward designs like the Crescent and Lana Osette taking centre stage and being very well received by our customers. Our signature bar has evolved over time and we’ve enjoyed finding new creative ways of incorporating it into our new styles. We’ve just released an exclusive baguette bag called the Melville which is very contemporary and casual-chic, and the S Cabas, a practical carry-all, perfect for the return to the office.
S CABAS, £425
Handcrafted from buttery soft leather, the S Cabas is your new go-to stylish shopper, made to carry all your everyday essentials. It features a spacious interior with a side pocket and a secure zipped top closure, and is decorated with the signature S logo gold-tone hardware.
Meghan Markle was spotted wearing your iconic tote not long after her engagement. Was that a pivotal moment for the brand?
It was indeed. It was wonderful to see her with one of our designs and supporting a small independent British brand like ours. It was a very hectic yet incredibly exciting day for Strathberry.
How did your relationship with the Duchess come about? Did she pick the bag herself?
We’d been building our relationships with UK and international stylists and connecting with them since the very beginning, giving the brand visibility. I’d been a great fan of the Duchess and really admired her effortless and sophisticated style. It was a real honour she chose to carry our silhouettes to complement her looks.
You’ve got a new store opening soon in Chelsea, and a new collection. Is this your most exciting season yet?
Most definitely, it’s never a dull day at Strathberry HQ! We’re thrilled to be opening, not one, but two stores in London this autumn (in both Covent Garden and King’s Road) in addition to our boutique in Burlington Arcade, which has been the home of Strathberry in London since 2018. We really believe in the importance of retail as an opportunity to create connections with our customers, building a sense of community, and giving them the opportunity to experience the premium quality and level of craftsmanship of our products first-hand.
After the past challenging 18 months, it’s so exciting to see the world finally opening up again and we look forward to taking our brand to the next steps of our journey. The new store on King’s Road will also become a permanent showroom and an office space for our growing team, connecting London and Edinburgh on a new level. We have great plans for this space for 2022 including an exciting transformation into an exclusive concept store. More to come on that in the new year!