When craftsman John O’Sullivan established Gladstone London three years ago he wanted to revive some of the styles and construction techniques of London-made luggage from the 1920s – substantial, with the panels sewn edge-to-edge so that the seams created a rigid, boxy effect (the kind of bags that didn’t need to take into account the logistics of economy air travel).
O’Sullivan brought an encyclopedic knowledge of leatherwork to the company, having worked in made-to-order luggage for over 30 years, including stints at Chanel and Tanner Krolle. The leathers employed are all cut by hand – softer versions of the luggage are made in Italy, while the harder (usually one-off pieces) are made using original 1920s techniques.
The bespoke service starts at £7,000, available by appointment only at the label’s Shepherd Market boutique, and can take anything from a couple of months to two years if certificates of provenance for certain skins – such as Nile crocodile – are needed. “I want to pay homage to the artisans who cared for and crafted things by hand before mass production,” says O’Sullivan.
Any bag or case can also be hand-gilded or finished with graffiti or other handpainted effects. “We recently created a set of six pieces, handcrafted in fine vegetable tanned leather and polished to create a unique patina,” says O’Sullivan. “The client requested our rose-gold hardware, and the lining is in a salmon-coloured Alcantara (a suede-like microfibre). We also made a ‘jigsaw’ set of luggage for a sports car.”
This is the perfect luggage for going on the road with, and captures some of the romance of early-20th-century travel – it definitely isn’t luggage you’d part with on a conveyor belt at check in…