When our older son, Cal, left for New York to begin his first real job after college, he took something from my closet. It wasn’t a tie or a coat or a hat. (More likely, those items are the butt of jokes by my sons.) It was a Tusting briefcase.
I didn’t mind. In fact, I had stashed two Tusting cases up on a shelf. I had used them both and worn them in a bit and thought my sons might like them when they set off in the world. I still remember starting out myself many years ago, very light in experience and confidence, so I know that carrying a well-made briefcase with a bit of millage on it can serve as a hopeful portent of success. It’s also a practical way to carry increased responsibilities, should they come your way.
My sons can’t remember when Levenger didn’t carry Tusting cases, because the two companies have been partners for the last 20 years. So it’s about time I shared with you a bit more of the story behind these bags so lovingly crafted in England, and show you some photos from the visit to the factory that Lori and I made in September.
Five generations strong
William Tusting is the senior member of the fifth generation of Tustings currently running the leather-goods company, which is located in the village of Lavendon, about an hour northwest of London. William works with younger brother Alistair and Alistair’s wife, Gillian. John Tusting, William and Alistair’s father, still comes to work most days, as he did the day Lori and I were visiting. John has a beaming, avuncular smile and a hearty handshake. His desk is at the end of a well-lit office and presides over all the other desks, much as I imagine dear old Fezziwig presided over his young charges in A Christmas Carol.
In 1875, when the company was founded, the focus was on tanning leather, an occupation that other Tusting cousins in the area still pursue. Our branch of the Tusting family has been “tanning, grading and trading” some of the world’s finest leathers for 130 years. About 30 years ago, the family started to focus on making fine leather bags, and that’s what we’ve been bringing to America these many years.
Just as fine food begins with the best ingredients, fine leather bags must begin with the best leathers. This isn’t merely paying a high price for their leathers, although the Tustings do. It’s knowing just what kinds of hide, measured by myriad different characteristics, are right for the application, and then sometimes taking those hides for special (and rather secretive) additional preparation before cutting and sewing.
The hides in our Cambridge collection originate from North American cattle. They are aniline drum dyed, which enhances the luster and intensity of the color and their longevity. While you can use a leather polish on these bags if you wish, you can also blissfully ignore them for decades and watch them improve with natural age and character.
Tusting adds to these bags brass fittings solid and stout, plus top-of-the-line zippers, made on the Continent by RiRi.
We work with Tusting to modify designs for the American market and frequently add some more internal features for the exclusive Tusting-Levenger bags (our “inside IQ”). But the bags remain simple, and thus adaptable to the changing stuff we carry over the years. Like so many art forms, these bags triumph from what is left out as much as what is put in.
There’ll always be a Tusting
While Tusting is a small manufacturer on a world basis, they are one of the largest in England, and one of the most respected. When you buy your Aston Martin and check off the matching leather luggage option, you get a Tusting bag.
In our exclusive partnership, we bring to the United States the best of the Tusting designs, which are expanding and changing each year. Not only do we have the classic bags we’ve been selling for almost a generation, but you’ll also find new bright colors that have been garnering press coverage in London in Vogue and Elle, among other trendsetting magazines. (One such magazine published a photo of Princess Kate carrying a Tusting duffel, which reportedly she stole from William.)
Over the years, Tusting family members have become not just trusted business partners but friends as well. William and his wife, Susan, came to ride Loop the Lake for Literacy last year, and will be back again for this year’s ride.
A limpet? said I.
Yes, said William. ”You know—those creatures that stick onto rocks by the seashore.”
Limpet or no, customers do tend to stick with their Tusting bags. As one customer said about his Cambridge Messenger Brief, “The best purchase I ever made 13 years ago and I still use it today.”
Do you have a Tusting-Levenger bag to call your own? I’d like to hear about it here, and encourage you to post your story on our website as a review as well, for the benefit of other customers yet to form bonds with their own cherished bags.