Leather for All
Fabian Lintott fuses Italian leather and Chinese workmanship to create a dapper, stylish and very attainable range of leather briefcases and dispatch bags at Rufus Country
Article by Rupert Watkins
Following Central St Martin’s with spells at Radley London and consulting for a number of leather brands, Fabian Lintott took the plunge last year and set up his own leather goods brand, Rufus Country. Having worked for and consulted to a number of companies, Fabian felt he, “did not want to make the compromises” of working with another firm any more.
From the start with Rufus Country, Fabian was determined to source both the finest and most unusual leather hides he could, whilst being completely honest about the sourcing and manufacture of his bags. Like many other new brands, he commented on the ability of social media to burn the unscrupulous as well as meet the desire of people to know the provenance of what they are buying. Despite this focus, Fabian commented on a number of high end brands who still remain somewhat opaque over their craftsmanship processes – mentioning one rather well known European luggage brand that has outsourced some manufacturing areas to the sub-continent.
Along with the desire to control the construction and sourcing of his bags, Fabian also wanted the finished product to be keenly priced – an attainable piece of craftsmanship and style rather than an unobtainable dream. He sources his leathers from Italy from Yankee Conceria, an organic vegetable tannery in Santa Croce in between Pisa and Florence. Fabian was always set on using a vegetable based tannery and avoiding the chemicals and blemishes more industrial processes leave behind. He has always felt Italian leather to be more tactile; softer than English bridle leather, it is more pliable and ages well. Yankee Conceria usually will have a two to three week turnaround for any of Fabian’s orders and he will normally follow up any order with a visit out to Italy. He also makes a point of attending Linea Pelle, a major leather trade fair in Milan each September.
Fabian is quite clear that Rufus Country bags are manufactured in China. Far from the general belief that the country only mass produces, Fabian uses a small Chinese factory just over the border from Hong Kong he had worked with during his tenure at Radley London. Though the factory had to undergo some re-structuring, Fabian maintained his relationship with the owner and craftsmen which has paid dividends for Rufus Country. It is a small workshop with around 30 staff. He maintains that the precise Chinese mindset means very high standards in the wares that are created. The master craftsman at the factory will make his prototype design, refine it with Fabian before instructing the more junior craftsmen in the manufacture of the particular model.
Rufus Country is a rather new brand, it has only been in existence for a year. The website was launched in January and the first products entered the sales space a month later. Fabian is keen to currently keep the range of offerings small. He has focused on a range of silhouettes that he knows from experience will work well. The kernel of the collection is a range of briefcases and dispatch bags that can be used by either gender. Tactile, stylish and well proportioned, these are certainly a dapper manner to bring the laptop, tablet or work papers into the office and with starter prices at £195 for the larger briefcases exceedingly affordable. Two smaller bags – targeted at women – will be launched in September this year though Fabian is being very careful over how the range evolves. Rufus Country also does a small range of men’s wallets and again, Fabian is analysing his options for the next tranche of smaller leather accessories. As he says, “the smaller goods and lower price points are important to get people in”.
As a shooting enthusiast, Fabian is contemplating branching into this arena. He has a long-term idea for bespoke gun cases with pockets and linings made to the customer’s specification as well as cartridge cases but remains acutely aware of the exceedingly competitive and small nature of the shooting goods world. Aside from this niche market, he has had a prototype weekend holdall made but again stresses the approaching saturation point in the market for medium to large leather bags and is currently looking at how best to approach and break into this area.
Fabian offers a repair and renovation service as required for Rufus Country wares. All sales are internet based and he has no plans for concessions or stockists at this time. Via the internet, he can focus on service, it offers an excellent way of controlling the customer’s experience and, “builds faith in the brand”. Offering free returns for his leather goods, Fabian knows the ability of a customer to phone or email him is critical to building up the ethos and momentum of Rufus Country. Later this summer, he will be doing a collaboration with Captain Fawcett, the grooming emporium at Goodwood Revival, having designed a leather pouch for the Captain Fawcett beard grooming kit.
So why the name Rufus Country for this Hertfordshire based leather brand? As Fabian explains, the Furnarius Rufus is a South American bird that unusually builds its nest out of clay rather than twigs. That spirit of going against the mould, offering style, panache and quality at accessible prices, is why the discreet bird is stamped on his wares. Looking to the future, particularly the coming 12 months, Fabian is looking to maintain his intimate sales values whilst carefully rolling out new products and is looking at participating in a number of new shows such as the Country Living Christmas Fair. By fusing dapper style, quality and price, Riddle reckons anyone looking for a smart addition to their leather collection should keep a beady eye on Rufus Country.