Sam Launer came to England from Czechoslovakia as a Jewish immigrant and founded the company of Launer around 1941. He brought with him an idea that is as important to the company today as it was then: leather goods should be elegant, be formed out of the best materials available and made by highly skilled craftspeople.
Launer championed British, handmade goods at a time when others in the industry were looking overseas for their manufacturing.
Launer still operates out of the same Grade II listed building in the Walsall area of Birmingham, in the West Midlands of the United Kingdom. The building has been a centre for the manufacturing of leather goods since its construction in 1904 and has been extended over three floors. The shelves in the factory hold machines that have been used for decades and are a close link to the company’s heritage and tradition.
Launer has held the Royal Warrant from The Queen as ‘Manufacturers of Handbags and Leathergoods’ since 1981 and has been supplying the Royal Household since 1968.
Launer manufacture Handbags, Pocket Wallets, Purses, Breast Pocket Wallets, Accessories and Credit Card Cases that are handmade in the softest calf, exotic lizard, and ostrich skin.
Great attention is paid to detail, and the metal fittings are of a very high standard and are all gold plated. Every item bears the Launer signature rope emblem, which is the perfect, understated finishing touch.
Gerald Bodmer bought the company in the early 1980’s and continued the commitment to style, design and quality. Despite being in his 80’s Gerald and his wife, Sue, are still very much involved in the business, designing bags and its other products.
Launers products have become synonymous with distinguished figures globally, and their client list encompasses political leaders and the wealthy. Clients past and present include The Duchess of Cornwall, the late Baroness Thatcher, Japan’s Crown Princess Masako and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s wife, Svetlana. Such familiar figures as Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith are clients as well.
All of their products can be customised, and they offer a complete bespoke service.
Her Majesty usually chooses a simple black patent model, however since 2012 The Queen has chosen a variety of different colours.
Her Majesty is seldom seen without a handbag of some description, and the wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge was no exception. Her Majesty chose a cream handbag for that occasion. Whilst it is not unknown for Launer to indulge its Royal patron with the occasional gift, the Queen buys her bags, having four new bags made especially for her every year.
Gary Barnes, unit manager at Launer, says: “We didn’t even know the bag was going to be for the wedding, but we were absolutely thrilled when we saw her with it on TV.”
“It’s undoubtedly helped our firm’s success and we are very proud of our Royal Warrant and our connection with the Royal Family.”
The close ties with the family are clearly apparent as soon as you walk through the doors modest factory in the terraced building in Holtshill Lane.
Walls are lined with pictures of the Queen with her Launer bags, and on the desk of Gary’s office lies a note on Buckingham Palace headed paper. Hand-written by Angela Kelly, the Queen’s personal assistant and senior dresser, it requests the factory replaces a broken strap on one of Her Majesty’s favourite Launer’s. Proof that, despite her wealth, she is keen not to waste a good quality bag that can be rescued.
Each bag usually takes up to 10 days to manufacture, depending on the style and the client’s particular requirements. However, special orders for premier customers can be completed within two days.
In June 2013 In June, Launer revealed that the Queen uses her handbag to signal to her ladies-in-waiting when she wants to leave a function.
Mr Bodmer said she placed the bag on the table to provide them with a five-minute warning.
‘The Queen’s bespoke bags always come with a mirror, a matching purse and a glasses case’, he said.
Her Majesty’s handbags have a slightly longer handle, so they don’t get caught up in her clothes when she is greeting people. The Queen has a very practical approach to her working wardrobe and accessories, and she is said to dislike shoulder straps, zips and partitions.
Launer London bags are available at Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges and John Lewis, all of which are Royal Warrant holders in their right.
Photo credit: Royal Navy Media Archive via Flickr