153 – Building a family business in post-Brexit Britain – Gillian Tusting

What does it mean to be a UK leather bag business in 2021?

Today I’m chatting with Gillian Tusting from English heritage leathergoods brand Tusting.

Gillian shares the story of how the family business, founded in 1875, evolved from a small tannery to a thriving part of the UK’s leathergoods industry.

She describes the craftsmanship that goes into the making of their leather bags, and how collaborations with brands such as Aston Martin are an important part of their business.

Like many UK manufacturers, Tusting has adapted to making PPE over the last 12 months, and is now experiencing a growth in sales to the to the domestic market since the UK left the EU.

Gillian also has some brilliant points to make about the sustainability of the leather industry, and how vegan alternatives are perhaps not as great for the environment as people may be led to believe.


  • How Tusting began in the 1870’s [02:43]
  • How the business changed when the majority of the UK leather industry went offshore in the 1970s [07:25]
  • The happy accident that meant Tusting pivoted to become a bag factory [08:21]
  • Which classic styles are Tusting still making after 40 years [11:14]
  • How a Tusting bag is built to last [12:45]
  • Which components can be sourced from the UK and what has become impossible to find here [15:35]
  • How leaving the EU has affected the Tusting business [17:44]
  • How the UK customer is now a growing market for Tusting leathergoods [22:36]
  • How Tusting helped to make PPE during lockdown in 2020 [24:13]
  • Collaborations with other UK heritage brands such as Aston Martin [27:33]
  • What sustainability means to the Tusting business [33:32]
  • Why ‘vegan leather’ is an oxymoron and how non-leather alternatives may not be that great for the environment [35:31]
  • How tanneries in Scotland have gone completely carbon neutral [39:55]
  • Bringing children into the family business [45:18]
  • What does ‘Made in UK’ mean to Gillian Tusting? [47:13]

Tusting website


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