A current best-seller in Harrods since it launched there a year ago, Gladstn London is coming to the US. The range of bags created in fine Italian leather began as a menswear range but now boasts styles that are considered “shareable” according to owner and CEO (or Chief Bag Carrier as he prefers), Richard Sharman, who sits down with FashionUnited while in NYC on a 2-day press trip to promote the launch. “The distinction between male and female customers percentage-wise is now 60 / 40 and our female base continues to grow,” says Sharman.
Sherlock Holmes carried a Gladstone bag while the original was a carpet bag created for UK prime minister William Gladstone to encourage travel. But despite the literary and legacy-sounding name, the Gladstn London brand is not yet five years old. However the ties with travel remain as Sharman’s inspiration for creating the range was the lack of luxury cases and bags that made travel manageable and convenient. The range contains trollies with pockets to slide your computer into that make airport security a breeze, elegant wheeled cases that stand upright on the narrowest escalators. These are investment items that are functional but stylish, with an element of fun.Although surrounded by glamor and fashion as a child running about his mother’s village boutique, Sharman chose to pursue a career in finance. Now on the other side of those corporate years he says his return to fashion seems full-circle, fated. Indeed one of his earliest bags, the Stanley, was named in honor of his stylish mother.
British luxury meets Italian craftsmanship in Gladstn London
Created by a small team in the brand’s London studio, all the styles are manufactured in small batches in workshops north of Milan, with leathers from tanneries around Venice and hardware sourced in Florence. “We work with small, intimate workshops that are often right above the family home,” says Sharman. ”And maybe only 20 of certain styles exist in the world.” The product is discreet, impeccably crafted, sans logos, the epitome of stealth wealth. Sharman is looking for stateside locations that reflect this aesthetic and he says he has no plans to ramp up the logoification or to deviate from the vision of effortless chic for which the brand has become known across the pond. But there are limited edition options, and for the client who desires a one-of-a-kind piece, there is a bespoke service available on the website where the client can choose from a selection of skins, colors, accessories and detailing.
In the meme-worthy scene from the hit HBO show, Succession, when Tom describes a bag carried by cousin Greg's date as “ludicrously capacious,” he might have been describing the Renegade or the natty Hampton tote, both stylish and roomy silhouettes in an array of punchy colors. As competitors, Sharman mentions brands such as T Anthony and Mark Cross in the US; Smythson and Mulberry in the UK; and Valextra in Italy.
Despite the luxury reputation of the brand, the moniker that Sharman is happiest to attach to it is “start up.” He says, “We’re not Louis Vuitton, and I think we’ll always consider ourselves a start up because you have to if you want to keep evolving.” He understands the customer’s excitement when they make a luxury purchase and so is particularly proud of the fact that he can guarantee global shipping, overnighting bags so that will arrive to US clients within 2 days: “You have to maintain that excitement and ensure the client gets their bag quickly.”
One of the statements on the website reads: “The everyday journeys we take are the essence of our lives. They’re the moments unfolding as we encounter the familiar and unexpected. Like a trusted friend, your Gladstn London bag will be by your side for the moments that matter."
This is great timing as we see in the headlines the rise of the phenomenon known as ‘revenge travel.” People are booking trips simply to get back at Covid for keeping us stuck at home for so long. So for vacation-starved Americans suffering from wanderlust, and desirous to get back out there to explore while also projecting the polished and timeless allure that quiet luxury demands, rest assured. Gladstn London has arrived.