Heaven for leather: Bags by Dunhill
Since its beginnings over a century ago, Dunhill has led the way in design and quality
Alfred Dunhill, founder of the brand, always had an eye for precision and for how the world was changing. When he took over the family saddlery business in 1893, he saw the future less in horses and more in motors, offering "Dunhill's Motorities". This was a range that provided all the accoutrements required by drivers of these new-fangled things called cars. From goggles to trunks, driving coats to gloves, Dunhill turned the company's expertise in crafting leather into offering "everything but the motor", as he put it. But he wasn't shy in improving that either: he is credited with inventing the rear-view mirror in 1907.
He would also later seek to provide leather and other goods for budding "aeroplanists". The company soon won a reputation for its design as well as its production standards. These were qualities that would take Alfred Dunhill international, with a New York store opening in 1921 and the first in continental Europe in 1924. Look closely at a Dunhill bag and there is plenty of useful detailing: a pocket with an internally-attached key fob, for example; a small leather cross-hole through which to pass phone or tablet wiring; a wash-bag with a hook so you can hang it in your hotel bathroom... all in addition to the glossy leathers, Palladium-finished locks and tight stitching.
Today, Dunhill continues its keen eye for detail in its leather accessories. At its leather goods factory, only the best parts of each skin make the grade. What the makers are looking for are those skins without scars or any of the so-called "zebra effect", caused by the positioning of the animal's veins. And, since the makers produce everything they're working on – valises to laptop cases, envelopes to duffel bags – from start to finish, they have complete control over the quality.
This also makes each leather product made by Dunhill subtly unique, which means each craftsperson is able to identify their own work. They can also take ownership of their mistakes: a slight slip with a tool can result in many hours of work (even the simplest of products will take a couple of days to make) ending up on the proverbial scrap heap.
Indeed, it's all hardly the kind of thing one wants to expose to the wind and rain of an open-air car seat. Thankfully, car design has moved on too.
Photography: Matthew Shave; fashion director: Jo Hambro; photography assistants: Chantel King, Lainey Lawlor; fashion assistant: Julia Lurie. dunhill.com