21 December 2022
It’s not often that an independent fashion company establishes itself as a ‘royal favourite’ within just two years of launching – but that’s exactly what happened when Edinburgh-based handbag brand Strathberry became a go-to on the arm of none other than Meghan Markle, the (then) future Duchess of Sussex, writes Fiona Ward on Real Leather.
Meghan Markle’s and Kate Middleton’s favourite handbag
Having been selling its small line of accessories from its Scottish HQ since 2015, by 2017 Strathberry had become known the world-over as “Meghan Markle’s favourite handbag brand”, thanks to a number of headlines sparked by the future royal’s growing collection of totes and crossbody bags – worn for a number of official engagements ahead of her momentous royal wedding to Prince Harry.
It was a smart choice from Meghan not only in publicly supporting a small Scottish brand – a fine way to show her respect for UK labels – but also in championing small batch ethical fashion practices, since that’s what Strathberry is grounded in.
Born out of a passion for Spanish craftsmanship – after husband and wife founders Guy and Leeanne Hundleby spent time living in the mountain regions of Southern Spain – the brand handcrafts each of its accessories in the region, using ethically-sourced Spanish leathers.
Leeanne Hundleby told the Evening Standard in 2019: “We stumbled upon these amazing families who had embraced working with leather down through the generations. We were super impressed by their skills and high attention to detail. Their understanding of leatherwork, in many ways, is unparalleled.”
She adds on the Strathberry website: “Our products are produced in limited runs and designed to be cherished for years to come. In supporting the independent leather industry and the work of talented and skilled artisans, we aim to promote a more conscious and sustainable approach to fashion.”
Its tanneries, based in both Spain and Italy, are principally certified by the Leather Working Group – the globally recognised auditing body representing responsible leather sourcing to the industry and consumers – and follow environmental best practices across water and energy usage, traceability and waste management. No piece is mass produced, with collections designed to last a lifetime rather than just one fashion season. In fact, each piece takes a minimum of 20 hours to craft by hand.
Since Meghan’s Strathberry endorsement, the brand’s popularity has only soared – and now Kate, the Princess of Wales, has followed suit, a Strathberry handbag can officially be considered a modern royal staple.
These days, there are a number of options for leathers and finishes, from colour-blocking to pastels, though the brand’s signature gold bar hardware – inspired by old-fashioned leather cases for sheet music – are a constant.
Despite the ‘Meghan effect’, Strathberry remains rooted in Scotland, with a head office in Edinburgh and a select few boutique stores. And the brand is realistic about not relying on its royal connections.
“We were already starting to take the brand international and her championing us has really helped to spread the Strathberry name globally,” Leeanne has said of their famous customer. “That said, I don’t think the Meghan effect guarantees long term success, that’s about the brand and your product.”