School, good riddance I say! I love learning but my experience of school was more like a refrigerated prison. I could not wait to be rid of its walls and fashion rules. I know I was not the only one. In ‘As You Like it’ by William Shakespeare he writes of a boy “At first, the infant,/Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms./And then the whining school-boy,/With his satchel and shining morning face,/Creeping like snail unwillingly to school.” Two trends in this quote have not died since Shakespeare’s time, children’s resistance to school and the satchel. The Cambridge Satchel Co was arguably the company that reset the trend, and over the last few years other companies have benefited from this demand or been born from it. Originally I was going to write one piece with my edit of the best available but I found the stories of these craftsmen so intriguing I wanted to share them with you in more depth. Today, I will introduce you to ‘The Leather Satchel Company’, Britain’s oldest surviving maker of the classic British satchel.
The Leather Satchel Co are a group of British Master Craftsmen that create satchels based on the traditional style of Oxford and Cambridge schools as well as other traditional accessories. The company was started in 1996 by Stephen Hanshaw and is still a family owned business with the next generation of the Hanshaw family Chris, Keith and (young) Ste Hanshaw all having roles and responsibilities too.
The company began in the early-to-mid 1960s when Stephen operated a small street stall selling leather goods. One day, whilst exhibiting in London, Stephen was presented with an opportunity by a local headmaster to make satchels for an independent school in Hammersmith. Due to the high demand for these satchels, Stephen was soon joined by his two younger brothers and together they established their first workshop in Liverpool. Although the family business has moved location, the main workshop is still in Liverpool with another one in Scotland to help keep up with demand. For over forty years now the company has been a member of the British Guild of Master Craftsman, testament to its quality and dedicated hard work.
These bags are not simply a fashion legacy of school days, but also of education and skill in the local community. In 2010, the family started an apprenticeship training program in the hope that it would inspire local youths to take an interest in working with leather whilst providing employment within the community. All apprentices that graduate from their specific training programs are offered full-time placements within the company.
Local is clearly important to The Leather Satchel Co as it strives to source all materials within the UK from ethically aware companies. On occasion they source raw materials from the EU but all of their leather suppliers adhere to strict standards and regulations relating to animal welfare.
Celebrity endorsement has come from the likes of Dakota Fanning, Zooey Deschanel and the handbag princess herself Alexa Chung. One of their original designs was even worn by Angus Young of AC/DC-now we are really talking School of Rock.
Traditional satchels in dark plain or bright leather are of course available, as well as those with fun spots or tartan.
However, why not be the class rebel and opt for one featuring state-of-the-art digital print from the “When Fashion Meets Art” collection (£175 for the one in the hero image above)?
To stand out further you can customise a bag to your taste and needs in multiple ways. You can try adding a handle, larger gusset depth, extended strap, interchangeable backpack/shoulder strap, shoulder pad, gold hardware, shoulder pad, hidden magnetic clasp and monogramming. Well that was a mouth full!
During Scotland’s Early Historic period (AD 300-900), book satchels made entirely of leather played an important part in Scotland’s conversion to Christianity. The leather satchels allowed religious texts to be safely carried through all weathers by monks on a mission to spread the word of God. What important message will your’s carry?