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How The Cambridge Satchel Company fought back and won

Written by: on :: 16 Comments

The story of how British bag makers The Cambridge Satchel Company ended up receiving an undisclosed sum from rival bag firm Zatchels in an out of court settlement

The Cambridge Satchel Company

The Cambridge Satchel Company

It goes something like this…The Cambridge Satchel Company was launched by Julie Deane from her kitchen table in 2008. She took the classic British satchel and gave it a much-needed makeover by manufacturing her bags in a wide selection of distinctive leathers, such as metallics and fluorescents. Although other people had been making leather satchels for years, The Cambridge Satchel Company made them fashionable again. The bags were picked up by fashion stylists around the world and used by designers such as Comme des Garcons on their catwalk, and they are now stocked in world-class stores such as Harrods and Selfridges.

Despite the company’s rapid growth Julie always vowed to make the bags in England, and in 2010 when orders grew she took on an additional handbag manufacturer called Leicester Remedials & Sewing. A year later a suspiciously similar new leather satchel company appeared on the scene called Zatchels.

Zatchels bags were strikingly similar to those from the Cambridge Satchel company, right down to the types of leathers that they offered. Fair enough, you may think – a product becomes fashionable and everyone does their version, there’s nothing new in that. However, a search at Companies House revealed that the copycat satchel brand was registered at the exact same address as Leicester Remedials & Sewing Ltd – the manufacturer used by The Cambridge Satchel Company. And the leathers that they were using for their Zatchels range looked remarkably similar to those that Julie Deane had supplied them with to make her bags. They were even exactly the same sizes as Cambridge Satchels, which meant that the manufacturer was using the same patterns that The Cambridge Satchel Company had paid for.

The Cambridge Satchel Company

The Cambridge Satchel Company

So Julie Deane sought compensation and damages from Leicester Remedials for breach of contract and the unlawful use of her patterns and leather, and last week it was announced that she had won an out of court settlement, resulting in Zatchels having to pay an undisclosed sum to The Cambridge Satchel Company.

Obviously discovering that your manufacturer is ripping you off is a very stressful experience, but sadly it is all too common in the fashion industry. It is probably less likely to happen when you manufacture your products closer to home, as you can keep a better eye on what is going on, but it still happens.

It has been tough for manufacturers in Britain over the last few years, and wisely many have sought to fill down time at the factory by making their own collections. Private White V.C. and Cro’ Jack are two great examples of British manufacturers who have started their own labels WITHOUT resorting to copying the work of others.

The happy ending to this story is that The Cambridge Satchel Company have now set up their own factory to make their bags, and many of the staff from their former manufacturers have now come to work with them, finding Julie a far nicer employer.

Julie is now the latest star of the Google Chrome advert shown below,  part of a series entitled ‘The web is what you make of it’, showcasing people who have become successful thanks to the internet. Well done Julie!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0qDrRJT4zE] [elegance-modal-box]

16 Responses

  1. Cass says:

    Heard the trial went in favour of The Cambridge Satchel Company, as it should

  2. Kate Hills says:

    I should’ve also mentioned the fantastic Fox Brothers in the article. Another great example of a British manufacturer who is now supplying directly to retail with their own unique goods, in the form of their Merchant Fox range.

  3. margaret gorman says:

    There was no court case – it was settled out of court. Cambridge satchels don’t want any competition and seem to think they invented satchels and just try to bully all the other satchel manufacturers.
    I had one when I was a girl and that was going back 40 years ago so they certainly didn’t have any original designs or make anything that wan’t already around. They came up with a story that the naive press went with and still do.
    Good luck to Zatchels and their different twist on a very old design. They do different sizes , different bags and don’t whine on and blame anything or anyone to stay in the press……

    • L says:

      If the facts were different, I would partially agree with you, but I feel the need to point out a few facts.

      If you opened a company, where you paid for the metal patterns to be made AND for all the leather that is used, but found out the company used YOUR patterns and YOUR leather, while breaching YOUR contract, surely you would be a little annoyed too?

      The fact is, the company STOLE the leather from her, to make bags with the equipment SHE bought, to make money for THEMSELVES.

      The out of court settlement was justified as it equated to theft and making monetary proceeds from the companies stock.

      Now the case is settled, there is no attempt to shut down any of the numerous bag makers — they are still running and making bags – difference is that now they are using their own stock and equipment, so they are doing it right.

      I feel the case was justified on the grounds that she lost stock, resulting in less of her own bags being made within the money she invested, while also using her equipment.

      Had this have been a case of her suing over someone else making a similar bag, I’d be on your side, but as the case was for what I stated above, the situation is different and I stand by the steps that were taken.

      Source? I have family working for them, so heard about the grounds for compensation.

      • Kate Hills says:

        Well said L. I agree with you that if she was merely taking them to court for copying her bags in would be different, but they stole her materials for their own gain, which is morally wrong.
        I also went to a talk that Julie Deane from The Cambridge Satchel Company did recently, and she said that they factory also contacted her customers as well, trying to sell their bags to them instead of hers.
        The manufacturer ripping her off is not the only problem that she has had, The Cambridge Satchel company has also had to take action on over 300 fake Cambridge Satchel Co websites that had been put up selling copycat bags, most of these manufactured in China. Should she have let them carry on because they were healthy competition? No, because it would give both her brand, and British manufacturing as a whole, a reputation for inferior quality by those who bought them thinking that they were the real thing.

  4. pat says:

    I have to agree totaly with the last comment, I really wish bloggers would do research before posting other peoples accuastions. Have they even asked both sides of the story before publishing. Talk about supporting british manufacturing, do it the right way and get all the facts, dont just jump on the bandwagon I too think cambridge try to rail road anything that gets in their way. Well done to Zatchels for staying put,when so many places are going under,

    • Kate Hills says:

      Hi Pat
      Obviously everyone is entitled to their own opinion on this but you only have to look at the dates that each company launched to see who the originators were. No designer should ever have their work copied, it is morally wrong.
      Many thanks
      Kate

  5. jan says:

    I am about to set up a bag business, I have my own ideas, I also want to get the bags made in the UK, I dont see why we spend money in other countries when our own country needs the business. Any ideas on good leather and non leather manufacturers ?

  6. chanelle says:

    Hi,
    I want to get a few bags made or prototypes made up from my basic designs. Where in the UK can I get help with this,?Or could anyone point me in the right direction? It would start off as just a few bags and hopefully develop into much more. Prices and advice would be much appreciated thank you

  7. Cathie says:

    While I think that it is not right to copy the work of others, I don’t think that “The Cambridge Satchel Company’ has a right to be pointing fingers. I really love the british satchels of “The Leather Satchel Co’. http://the.leathersatchel.co/
    If you take a look at their satchels, they look ALOT like the Cambridge satchels, except that The Leather Satchel Co has been operating since 1966. I think that this is just an another example of The Cambridge Satchel Company railroading the competition. People need to see the company for what it truely is, and start to shop elsewhere!

    • Kate Hills says:

      Hi Cathie
      Thank you for your comment, however I do think that you are missing the reasoning behind why the Cambridge Satchel Company sued Zatchels, maybe my article was unclear.
      They did not take Zatchels to court for any infringement of design, it was actually because Zatchels had used leathers and cutting knives owned by The Cambridge Satchel Company with which to make and launch their own bag range. The value of these items was what TCSC was looking for in compensation, not because of any grievance that they had with loss of earnings due to a copycat business being launched by their manufacturer.

      • In ignorance…
        The company in Leicester has made footwear uppers for years and done footwear remedial work, and so would have known where to get thick leather and would have had some in stock.

        The company in Leicester may have charged for new knives and broken an exclusivity agreement, or not. I guess that the customer was pretty cross if a dispute lead to an “out of court settlement” but I can’t check what that means or why it happened.

        I agree with everyone on this thread that the design of a satchel should not be the important part of a dispute; this is something bigged-up by people who get stuff made cheaply in the far east and like to pretend that their intellectual property is the important thing, which it is not. I think that’s partly why classic satchels are in fashion – just because they are classic and not the IP of some gobal litigation group that claims to have invented the shoe or the bag or whatever. The important part of making something in an expensive country like the UK is simply making it!

  8. Emma Noe says:

    good morning,
    I wished this country -praising itself so often- would import more quality from Europe. I am from there and lived one year in the UK as an “au pair” girl, and went to school at night. I did get better jobs, but ended in the US. Their workmanship laxes in every Department. From hardware to every day items, China is almost on everything. I have been trying for ca. 2 1/2 years now, to buy some decent house shoes, but to no avail. Most sheepskin are from UGG and they are very narrow. My toes go to sleep.
    I did order handmade british sheepskin booties once, but a few days later the people cancelled my order for fear of problems and money deficiency. I already had paid for them with my crdit card, but it did not make any difference.
    I am a very honest person -my husband would otherwise divorce me- he was a 28year vet in the military. So, I like to try again but get several pair. Our bank is the USAA in Texas. Thanks for listening.
    P.S. I miss Europe a lot. EGN

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