In a year of shuttered stores and bankrupt fashion brands, the idea of a heritage label that’s made it through decades (or centuries) of war, recessions, and massive cultural shifts feels particularly remarkable. Beyond desirability, it requires an ability to pivot, react, and, in some cases, predict how the world is about to change. At the turn of the 20th century, the family behind Tanner Krolle, the London saddle and leather goods company founded in 1856, saw how dramatically travel would transform our lives and began making luxurious, highly durable leather suitcases, jewelry cases, and travel accessories.
In 2020, its appointment of Tabitha Simmons as Tanner Krolle’s new creative director comes at another moment of historic change. The stylist, Vogue contributor, and shoe designer has been tapped to bring “innovation and novelty” to the house, starting with a few handbags you can use everyday—a timely pivot, seeing as most of us won’t be on a flight anytime soon. A standout is the 18 Annabel vanity case, a crossbody “jewel box” bag inspired by the original style carried by Princess Diana. The 2020 version is shrunken in size with sleek gold hardware, and comes in classic espresso and cognac as well as a distinctive emerald green. An elongated clutch and bucket bag are also included in her debut, and she’s “refreshing” the house’s most classic styles, like the Sportsman weekender, a favorite of Cary Grant.
“I love the stories and heritage behind this very quiet, luxurious brand, and am really excited to work together,” Simmons tells Vogue. “We’re bringing Tanner Krolle to a modern audience and will be offering new colors and some new hardware, but there won’t be four collections a year [the standard for most brands]. This is slow luxury—when you buy one of these bags, it should last for decades. I love that David Attenborough still uses the luggage he was given when he was 21.”
Where other brands have seen massive global expansion as the goal, Tanner Krolle’s distribution remains quite narrow, with limited quantities of each style produced. Once a bag is sold out, it may not be reintroduced again, at least not for a while. The success of that small-scale approach comes down to those values of quality, durability, and timelessness; once you have the perfect weekend bag, you don’t really need another one, at least not for a long time. Simmons points out that bespoke services, repairs, and “after care” are also available in Tanner Krolle’s flagship near Sloane Square. “You pay a lot of money for a bag,” she adds. “You want to make sure it lasts.”