Attire Accessories -Jul/Aug 2018 (Issue 71)

Martin Foster discusses how Lakeland Leather’s location and quality product ensure its continued success Tell me a bit about how the company started.What was the aim of the label when it was launched? Lakeland Leather started back in 1955. We’re based in Ambleside, at the heart of the English Lake District, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Perhaps most famous for its beautiful scenery and tourism, the Lake District is a farming community at heart. Lakeland was founded by Mr Jack Standring, the father of our current chairman. When it started, sheepskin coats and jackets were coveted fashion garments, but they were very expensive. Lakeland was known as the Lakeland Sheepskin Centre back then. Jack and his sons set out to make beautiful sheepskin products but at prices affordable to almost everyone. In the early days, this was difficult, but as the business grew and volumes increased, Jack’s calling to make beautifully crafted sheepskin products at affordable prices started to take shape. How were the initial products developed, and what was the response? Initially, the company focused on sheepskin slippers and coats that were made for Lakeland in Street, Somerset. Leather jackets and handbags were added in the 1980s.The early leather garments were bought as stock lines, over-branded with the Lakeland name and made in Turkey.The company learned a lot from this process and soon started buying its own skins and sending them to tanneries for production into leather.This remains our preferred production process to this day. We mainly buy UK sheepskins direct from the processor and then send them to be tanned.This allows us to control the quality of the leather – this is vital for us as we make mainly aniline finishes, which means our leather has a less chemical/ plastic topcoat. RAWHIDE What challenges were overcome when the company was starting out? Initially, being based in Ambleside was tricky because most sheepskin was manufactured on the South Coast of England. It was a slow and lengthy journey to visit suppliers.This changed over the years, and we’re now so pleased we kept the business in The Lakes, as the natural beauty of the environment in which we live remains an integral part of our brand DNA – we like to keep our leather natural and soft to touch. As we grew in size, recruitment proved to be the problem. Believe it or not, it’s sometimes difficult to persuade people to live in the Lake District. Recruiting designers, buyers and web specialists out of major cities proved troublesome. What never proved difficult was creating products and selling them to customers! No two pieces of leather are the same.The unique nature of leather inspires us every day to create things of beauty.This is partly why our customers remain so loyal – we craft distinctive ATTIRE 83 PROFILE