Time for a return to sustainable and stylish kid leather goods?

Billy Tannery is bringing back a once-thriving British industry 

Billy Tannery kid leather backpack, £595
Billy Tannery kid leather backpack, £595

From an old farm building in the Midlands comes a line of leather goods with a difference. Billy Tannery’s stylish and super-soft backpacks and briefcases are made using otherwise wasted goat hides in what founders Jack Millington and Rory Harker refer to as a “microtannery” – the first of its kind in the UK. 

Billy Tannery co-founder Jack Millington with a self-tanned goat hide
Billy Tannery co-founder Jack Millington with a self-tanned goat hide

“For centuries, Britain had a thriving leather industry, but sadly today only a handful of tanneries remain,” says Millington. “After searching and searching we were unable to find a British tannery willing or able to tan goat hides, so eventually we decided there was only one option – to build our own. We tan in small batches of around 100 skins, which limits our manufacturing to small production runs and allows us to craft higher quality, environmentally friendly leather.” 

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The goat skins are sourced through an ethical supplier called Cabrito, which was started by former River Cottage chef James Whetlor to create a market for the kid goat meat that is usually a by-product of the dairy industry. Each skin can thus be traced back to its farm of origin, with a guarantee of high welfare standards, and tanned using centuries-old local knowledge. The result is the delightfully soft kid leather that is stitched in Somerset into Billy Tannery’s signature roll-top backpack (£595) – which comes in black or chestnut and has removable shoulder pads, a comfortable padded back panel and a laptop compartment – as well as a supple briefcase (£450), tote bag (£395) and hand-bound journals (from £85).

Crown Northampton x Billy Tannery kid leather sneakers, £235
Crown Northampton x Billy Tannery kid leather sneakers, £235

Next up are limited edition sneakers (£235) in partnership with local footwear company Crown Northampton, which are launched next week (September 12) and come in navy, tan and black, with the same choice of sole colours. But the jewel in Billy Tannery’s crown has to be Cecil’s Case (£1,995), a luxurious leather briefcase that was created for London Craft Week 2018 in collaboration with fine-leather craftsman Charles Laurie. Named after Sir Cecil Beaton and produced in a natty navy kid leather with matching kid suede lining, it is a fine showcase for the skill of this burgeoning young brand.

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