Mar. 16th, 2015

Fabulously British Leather Everything: The Smythson Heritage and the Brand's Many Famous Clients

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Photos Credit: Smythson


Imagine Queen Victoria jotting a note to one of her trusted advisors on ornate stationary; or picture Katharine Hepburn adding one of her famous friends to her elegantly-engraved address book—the name embossed on both of these specialty items was none other than Smythson.

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Founded in 1887 by Frank Smythson, the path to this beloved luxury brand’s success is a long and illustrious one paved by ingenuity and a distinct attention to detail. For more than 125 years, Smythson of Bond Street has been carefully hand-crafting high-end leather goods and accessories as well as personalized stationary and diaries that have since found a following with British royalty, A-list celebrities, and lovers of bespoke products alike.

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On September 29, 1887, Smythson opened its doors at 133 New Bond Street, London selling customizable leather goods from stationary with 24-carat gold trim and hand-painted borders, to notebooks with hand-etched patterns and monograms. In 1908, they created the first featherweight diary that could be toted around, exposing the beautiful made-to-order items to an even larger audience.

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Through the years the brand has expanded its line to include everything from purses, to photo albums, cufflink cases, passport covers, wallets, manuscript books, key rings, jewelry boxes, travel bags, and iPad and iPhone covers. What began as a few pieces has grown into hundreds of products across a wide range of collections, with the sky being the only foreseeable limit on what they can conceive and customize for their discerning clientele.

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What continues to propel Smythson forward, and into the hands and homes of the elite, is its ability to adapt to the times, yet stay true to its roots. Classic designs are given new life with the option of vibrant colors such as orange or yellow and the addition of sleek metal finishes and closures. Leather types include goatskin, calfskin, lambskin, deerskin, crocodile, alligator, lizard skin, and python, plus the finest cotton, suede, and nubuck linings.

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Each product is manufactured in a small artisan factory in Italy, Spain, and the UK from only sustainable sources. The brand works in support of and under international trade regulations put in place by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) to ensure the protection of specific plants and animal life.

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Although British royals, UK politicians and Prime Ministers are still loyal customers of Smythson of Bond Street (the Queen, Prince Charles and the Duke of Edinburgh all hold royal warrants), its appeal has reached around the globe to the likes of actress and Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly and New Zealand mountaineer and philanthropist Sir Edmund Hillary. Madonna, Rachel Weisz, Jessica Alba, Cat Deeley, and Victoria Beckham are also fans of their high-quality, time-honored pieces.

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Today, the Smythson of Bond flagship is located at 40 New Bond Street across from the original storefront. Inside is a small “museum” showcasing the brand’s rich history and famous followers, displaying such notable items as Sigmund Freud’s personal notebook and stationary made especially for the Maharajas of India during the 1920s.

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The luxury label opened its first freestanding store in the United States on West 57th Street in Manhattan and can also be found close by at Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue. Smythson’s UK presence includes boutiques on Sloane Street in Westbourne Grove, Harrods, Selfridges, Biscester Villages Outlet Mall, Heathrow Airport, and Harvey Nichols, along with international shops at Galeries Lafayette of Paris and Pacific Place in Hong Kong.