Close to my Herts: Graeme Ellisdon
PUBLISHED: 00:17 23 December 2011 | UPDATED: 20:28 20 February 2013
Graeme Ellisdon is the founder, designer and managing director of British leather brand OSPREY LONDON. He tells Louise McEvoy about his evolving business and his inspiration for designs
Tell us a bit about your background.
Im a Hertfordshire boy, born and bred. My father was a carpenter and I grew up in a terraced house in Watford. I was interested in design and property from a very early age. When I was 11 I remodelled my room using the silvered, weathered planking from the garden shed and it looked really good! Today at OSPREY HOME - our contemporary lifestyle store outside St Albans - weathered wood remains one of my favourite natural materials.
How would you best describe your company and your products?
OSPREY LONDON is a British leather brand and were probably best known for stylish, vintage-inspired bags and accessories in the most sumptuous of leathers, created using traditional saddlery techniques. I think they offer a modern, spirited take on formal English style, often with a hint of the dark side. Increasingly, were creating a reputation for our stores, whether thats the OSPREY HOME flagship store or our OSPREY LONDON outlet stores, where we offer at least 30 per cent off.
How many people work for you?
We currently employ around 120 people in the UK.
When did you start working with leather?
Having left art school to go travelling around Europe, I came back to England in my early 20s and got a job selling leather belts for the father of a friend of mine. Something clicked. I really loved working with leather and I began to suggest design alterations and special touches that soon meant I was selling many more of my own belts than my colleagues, so it seemed like a logical move to set up on my own.
What was your aim when you established OSPREY LONDON?
We started OSPREY LONDON in 1980 with 500 when I was just 25. At the time, I just wanted to be able to earn my living, to work for myself creating great products out of leather. I achieved this aim within the first year of trading, but as you achieve one goal there are always several others waiting to take its place and drive you onwards. Over 30 years later and the business has transformed and diversified into bags, leather accessories, mens shirts, gifts and a diffusion leather range.
What inspires your designs?
I take inspiration from everything that interests me - from my travels, the garden, music, art and literature, and even traditional equestrian tackle. I love working with colour, which is what we were originally famous for in the 80s when we first started out.
Whats next for you?
As a company, weve traded through good times and tough times and I rather enjoy it when times are tough; I think it brings out the best in people. Rather than sit and wait for stormy times to blow over, we think the time is right to return to the capital and we hope to open a new London flagship store in the spring although my heart remains very much in Hertfordshire.
What advice would you give to any budding entrepreneurs?
Timing is crucial in most things, so read the market and try to be ahead of the curve if you can. You have to be ready to change direction and to take risks if you want to succeed.
Where do you live in Hertfordshire and what do you like most about the area?
For the last 14 years, Ive lived with my wife, Alex, three children and assorted dogs in rural bliss just outside Codicote. Its a great place to live. It has a shop, some great pubs and a sense of community that were sometimes told is lacking today.
How would you spend your perfect day off?
As I spend so much of my time travelling the world to source our products, for me it would always involve spending time at home with my family.