How the leather brand beloved by royals and adventurers is making a comeback (just in time for Christmas)

Tanner Krolle
One of Tanner Krolle's handsome briefcases 

As if in tinsel-trimmed tribute to Richard Rogers’ revolutionary Pompidou Centre, branded goods emporia throughout the tonier districts of London have been turning their insides outside: doubling down on yuletide interior decorations with landmark displays of seasonally-induced largesse on their store fronts. 

But there can be no greater contrast to all this festive overshare than the new Tanner Krolle store, itself a tiny testament to under-the-wire urbanity tucked away in the residential enclave behind Sloane Square. 

Tanner Krolle, as any seasoned royal watcher will know, was the luggage brand favoured by Diana, Princess Of Wales, who equipped her two sons with its suitcases prior to dispatching them to Eton. Other aficionados of the business - which held court in the narrow streets below St Paul’s, once known as the ‘leather quarter’ of London before its demolition by the Blitz - include Cary Grant, who favoured a medicine bag-like style later dubbed the Sportsman.

Then there's Sir David Attenborough, who a few years ago returned for repair a soft-sided canvas suitcase he’d received on his 21st birthday and gone on to use on his many peregrinations around the planet. Notwithstanding the damage wrought by all those countless air-miles (not to mention car, camel and every other conveyance he and it will have been subjected to), his Tanner Krolle was returned fit for purpose shortly thereafter. 

So far, so standard, for a storied British brand that has survived, on and off, since 1856. But there hangs in the air, too, another salutary tale, of a business hoist on its own petard of excellence. Even allowing for its rarefied customer base, a product that lasts decades brings its own problems for a business owner.

Unsurprisingly, these owners have changed over the years, during which time the company lost access to its own factory in north London. But Tanner Krolle’s new custodians - who’ve opted to open in the most undramatic and thus novel way imaginable - are mindful that technologies as well tastes have changed over the years. 

The brand is renowned for exceptional craftsmanship 

Signalling its return to the fray, then, is a handsome albeit capsule collection of the cases that made Tanner Krolle’s name (a compound of the founding Krolle family, and a stationery business brought in to develop sales opportunities).

These include its emblematic Soft Trunk (a semi-rigid leather suitcase with trademark corner protectors that in one guise has been redefined for the modern traveller as a backpack), and the aforementioned Sportsman, now realised in Overnight and Weekend editions alongside a smaller, similarly silhouetted, handbag. 

At this time of year though, it’s the small leather goods that notably catch the eye. Beyond fit-for-purpose billfolds there’s a useful zip-fastening wallet that’s perfect for frequent flyers, as well as the piece de resistance in terms of appealing over-abundance: a double-side glasses case purpose-built for that individual for whom stowing both sun- and reading glasses in two separate holders is simply unimaginable. 

The new store debuts just in time for Christmas 

And for the lucky pup who has everything? Tanner Krolle is once again exhibiting its enthusiasm for bespoke with its by appointment made-to-order service. Currently on show in Cadogan Place is a trunk commissioned by jeweller Harry Fane in which to ferry his finest pieces to their final owners; another is currently under construction for Derek Harris, a purpose-built case designed to further protect the owner of Lewis Leathers’ motorcycle crash helmet. 

It’s doubtless many - if any - of these will match the mileage accrued by Lord Attenborough’s indomitable coming-of-age present, but it’s likely they’ll age just as well. 

Bill Prince is the deputy editor of British GQ

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