A finely crafted document case from Dunhill

Traditional handsewing and lush, thick leather make for a truly special piece

Dunhill’s leather Duke folio, £1,490
Dunhill’s leather Duke folio, £1,490 | Image: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

The zenith of leather-goods manufacture has always been saddle-stitching – the handmade process whereby a craftsman weaves two waxed threads in and out of the leather, looping them around each other and binding the seam. It creates unparalleled strength, and cannot be replicated by machine.

The leather used in the folio has a relaxed quality like that of Italian bags
The leather used in the folio has a relaxed quality like that of Italian bags | Image: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

A good deal of saddle-stitching still goes on in the UK today, but it is a cottage industry. There is very little at scale, unlike the operations supported by designer brands in France and Italy. The only exception – the flag bearer – is Alfred Dunhill.

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I’ve been particularly fond of the Dunhill operation in Walthamstow, east London, ever since I visited it a couple of years ago for my book Best of British. Although a traditional workshop, the workmen there are consistently pushing themselves with new leathers, techniques and designs.

The folio’s brass lock is deliberately uncoated so it will tarnish naturally
The folio’s brass lock is deliberately uncoated so it will tarnish naturally | Image: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

Dunhill’s leather Duke folio (£1,490), produced at that workshop, is a fine example of saddle-stitching, and a truly special piece for many reasons. Its thick, soft leather is very different from the oiled bridle leather used to make most British handsewn pieces; it creates a relaxed, casual quality like that commonly found in Italian bags, and has a wonderful heft in the hand.

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The folio’s brass lock, deliberately uncoated so it will tarnish naturally, is also very traditional. But its size and angled position are unusual, even indulgent. A smaller lock would be more practical, but a lot less attractive.

Like the best British goods, this is at heart a simple piece whose appeal is in the subtlety of the materials and craftsmanship. But it also has a little kick of continental flair.

Simon Crompton is a men’s style writer and consultant. He is the founder of the award-winning website Permanent Style (www.permanentstyle.co.uk) and author of Le Snob Guide to Tailoring (Hardie Grant Books, £8.99) and The Finest Menswear in the World (Thames & Hudson, £24.95). To read more of his columns, click here.

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