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This Scottish brand is making quiet luxury accessible

strathberry royals
The Scottish brand making quiet luxury accessibleGetty Images

Of all the fashion trends to dominate recent headlines, ‘quiet luxury’ has been the most popular – ironic, really, as it’s hardly a trend at all. Frustratingly amorphous, quiet luxury isn’t easy to define, though you’ll know it when you see it: soft cashmere from The Row, elegant basics by Khaite, subtle-but-expensive jewellery and anything from old Céline.

The best quiet luxury pieces semaphore their desirability through exquisite materials and design, rather than logos. It’s a thought I put to Guy and Leeanne Hundleby, the husband-and-wife duo behind accessories brand Strathberry, as we sit on cream bouclé sofas in their sleek and comfortable Edinburgh showroom.

“I’m not sure quiet luxury is something you can intentionally try to achieve with a brand,” muses Leeanne. “It's just not needing to be too shouty.” And of all brands, Strathberry has a lot to shout about: founded in 2013, the luxury Scottish label has legions of fans, from Margot Robbie to Katie Holmes. Nicky Hilton has been spotted out and about with her Strathberry tote and Kelly Rutherford, the Gossip Girl star who enjoyed something of a renaissance at fashion month earlier this year, is a devotee of the brand – she’s taken her famous selfies wearing the Mosaic Nano and Lana Midi styles of late.

It may be somewhat surprising to hear of A-listers – who can afford accessories at the highest luxury prices – picking up on this small brand, but Strathberry has garnered a reputation for its exemplary quality at an accessible price point. Strathberry bags are made in the same Spanish workshops that supply high-end designers including Loewe and Carolina Herrera, while the cashmere comes from the same weavers as Chanel’s.

new york, new york february 13 wendy sy is seen wearing a never fully dressed coat, strathberry bag outside the coach show during new york fashion week fw 2023 on february 13, 2023 in new york city photo by daniel zuchnikgetty images
Strathberry’s Nano tote, spotted during New York fashion week earlier this yearDaniel Zuchnik - Getty Images

“We take a lot of time over our designs,” explains Guy, as he shows me around the brand’s headquarters, situated above the showroom in a Unesco-protected townhouse on Edinburgh’s swish Melville Street. “Development of a piece can sometimes take two years to come to fruition. We’re not just about making a bag and selling it quickly.” Here, colour swatches and moodboards jostle with prototypes, leather samples and stacks of hardware. At the centre of it all is the first bag the couple ever designed, which stands pride of place on a shelf: a top-handle tote with a metal bar closure, reminiscent of a vintage leather music case.

guy and leeanne hundleby, strathberry
Guy and Leeanne Hundleby, the husband-and-wife team behind StrathberryCourtesy of Strathberry

It was this bag that went on to become the basis of not just the brand’s design DNA, but its longstanding relationship with the royal family. Four years after Strathberry launched, the Duchess of Sussex carried the Midi Tote on a royal walkabout in Nottingham, which propelled the label to stratospheric success.

“You get these moments that come along where all the stars align,” says Leeanne. “We were already building momentum, but that enabled the brand to fast-track. We doubled in size over the following year.” The pair had no idea that Meghan would be carrying one of their designs. “I was shopping at Asda when I found out!” recalls Leeanne, laughing. “The phone never rang as much as it did in those few days afterwards. We had just a crazy number of orders.”

Meghan Markle with a Strathberry bag in Edinburgh
The Duchess of Sussex pictured with a Strathberry bag in EdinburghGetty Images
britain's catherine, duchess of cambridge attends a beating retreat by the massed pipes and drums of the combined cadet force in scotland at the palace of holyroodhouse in edinburgh, scotland on may 27, 2021, the final day of their week long visit to the country photo by jane barlow pool afp photo by jane barlowpoolafp via getty images
Kate, Princess of Wales, with a Strathberry clutch in 2021Jane Barlow - Getty Images

Meghan now has at least three of the brand’s designs and Kate, the Princess of Wales, has followed suit, carrying the Multrees wallet on several occasions and the Mosaic Nano bag to her annual carol concert at the end of last year. Sophie, the Duchess of Edinburgh, likes the Box Crescent bag, which she wore to attend the Order of the Garter service in 2023, while Zara Tindall has worn the East/West baguette clutch more than once – in cream for the royal family's Easter Sunday church service and in blue at the King's coronation ceremony. Princess Eugenie, meanwhile, was seen in Bahrain watching the Grand Prix, wearing a Topshop duster coat and Strathberry's Lana Osette Midi bucket bag.

Guy and Leeanne are low-key and discreet when they talk about their famous fans; a quality which no doubt helps their popularity among the royals. “They’re very good at supporting British brands,” says Guy, diplomatically, before adding with a smile: “But I think they probably quite like the product!”

london, united kingdom december 08 embargoed for publication in uk newspapers until 24 hours after create date and time catherine, princess of wales attends the 'together at christmas' carol service at westminster abbey on december 8, 2023 in london, england spearheaded by the princess of wales, linked to her shaping us campaign and supported by the royal foundation, the service is a moment to bring people together at christmas time and recognise those who have gone above and beyond to help others throughout the year photo by max mumbyindigogetty images
Kate, Princess of Wales carried her latest Strathberry acquisition to her annual carol concertMax Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images

"People are just so intrigued by the royals and the way they present themselves," says Leeanne. "Being worn by the royals has opened up whole new audiences for us and introduced us to people who had never heard of the brand before." She’s referring partly to North America, which is responsible for nearly 60 per cent of Strathberry’s online sales (the so-called ‘Kate effect’, which has the power to sell-out pieces patronaged by the princess, is especially effective across the pond).

It's no wonder Guy and Leeanne have expanded the business, which now sells cashmere, small leather goods, silk scarves and jewellery alongside its popular bags. In 2024, the couple will be working with their growing team to open more stores across the UK and increase awareness of the range of products. “Our percentage of the market is tiny, and there’s so much scope to get the Strathberry name out there,” Leeanne says. And they are thinking big. “We talk about becoming a sort of Scottish Burberry one day!”

For now, however, they are continuing to do what has built them such a loyal customer base over the last decade, she says. “Making products at the accessible end of the luxury space, but with the quality you’d expect from much higher up”. It’s a formula that shows no sign of failing so far.

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