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Strathberry: from Scotland to the world

Scottish premium accessories brand Strathberry is growing its retail store estate on the back of a little celebrity sparkle.

There is no doubt that the Duchess of Sussex, former Suits actress Meghan Markle, holds a powerful sway over the UK fashion industry. Her sartorial choices, from the bateau-neck Givenchy gown she wore on her wedding day in May to a red Self-Portrait dress she donned during a royal tour to Tonga, are closely watched by fashion fans around the world. As a result, the Duchess is something of a trendsetter – John Lewis reported that yellow dress sales in the week she was spotted in a daffodil-hued Brandon Maxwell sheath this summer.

One brand benefiting from the magic Markle effect is premium accessories label Strathberry. The Edinburgh-based brand was launched in 2013 by husband-and-wife team Guy and Leeanne Hundleby.

Former financial consultant Leeanne, and Guy – who previously ran a production company – started the business from their kitchen table after a spotting a gap in the market for a premium brand that prioritised quality. The Duchess of Sussex wore a bottle green version of the brand’s bestselling East/West bag, a cross-body style with distinctive bar closure that retails for £425, on a visit to Scotland in February. Clearly something of a fan, she has also been spotted carrying the brand’s Midi Tote in both burgundy and tan. Other high-profile champions include Lady Gaga and actress Natalie Dormer. The brand also collaborated with blogger Victoria Magrath (In The Frow) for a capsule collection in March this year.

Guy and leeanne hundleby colour

Leeanne and Guy Hundleby

“It is phenomenal to have that kind of support and to see someone that high profile carrying one of our bags,” Guy tells Drapers. “We had someone recently come back from maternity leave and remark on just how much the team has grown since she left – we now have around 30 head-office employees. Not all of that is down to Meghan, but it has certainly helped brand awareness internationally. We’re much better known in north America now and we’ve been taken aback by the level of interest. Now we want to use the interest to continue our growth.”

Even before its dose of royal sparkle, Strathberry was already on an upward trajectory. Turnover doubled from £3m in 2016 to £6m in 2017 and the brand is targeting £12m this year, although it declines to reveal profit figures. The brand has 19 wholesale stockists across 61 doors, including Selfridges in the UK, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue in the US and Bloomingdales and Harvey Nichols in the Middle East.

Inspired by old-fashioned music folios, the label is known for its feminine styles, which are available at a premium, but comparatively accessible, price point. Retail prices range from £75 for a small cardholder to £995 for a detailed tote that features an embellished dragon. It does not reveal wholesale prices.

The name Strathberry comes from the Scottish Gaelic word “strath”, meaning “wide river valley”, and the fact that berries were once used to dye traditional Scottish fabrics.

The business opened its first store, a 957 sq ft space on luxury shopping destination Burlington Arcade in London’s Mayfair, at the start of last month. It will be home to exclusive products, such as limited edition colours of the East/West range, as well as customer events.

Strathberry aw18 east west and nano tote navy and sand opt1

“The demographic Burlington Arcade attracts is a nice mix – there’s obviously lots of local shoppers and then also customers from the Middle East and China,” Guy adds. “There’s something about bricks and mortar: there’s no alternative to letting customers touch and try. We’re looking at Japan for our next store, because we can see how well the brand is already doing online in that market. The number of stores we’re aiming for changes every couple of weeks, but we’d like a couple of stores in London, as well as stores in New York, Beijing and Paris. A nice footprint to aim for would be ten stores over the next three years.”

Strathberry’s products are all made in Spain, where Guy and Leeanne travelled extensively before the launch of the brand. Inspired by their trips, they began creating paper models of potential styles.

“We’d explored Spain with our children and knew lots of big brands were already producing leather goods in the country,” Hundleby says. “We already had the Spanish language skills, which was another advantage. We did look at the UK and there are some great suppliers, but we knew Spain had expertise and scalability. We’ve grown with our suppliers.”

As well as new stores, new styles are also on the horizon for Strathberry.

“There’s lots of development planned at the brand in the new year. We’re introducing new silhouettes and designs and are exploring adding new products,” Hundleby says. “Cashmere, for example, would sit very nicely alongside our existing lines.”

Stylish, appealing product and some high profile fans should help this growing brand achieve its international ambitions. 

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