Monday, January 5, 2009

Stealth Brands: Launer

What is a stealth brand? One that has a fantastic pedigree in terms of history, quality, tradition--but doesn't trumpet itself through massive advertising campaigns. In recent years, many of these fashion stalwarts have been drawn into mega-luxury folds and repurposed into hip names (most dramatically, Lanvin). A fine few, however, remain in the shadows.

One great British example is Launer. Unknown or summarily dismissed by many fashion insiders, it holds the royal warrant for small leather goods -- in other words, it's Queen Elizabeth's go-to purveyor of handbags and wallets. Admittedly these are not It Bags in size or silhouette, but their craftsmanship is unimpeachable. In 1991, the Queen spent what must have been an atypically AbFab afternoon at the company's factory in Birmingham, meeting the people who assemble the items and learning more about the company history (it was founded by a Czech immigrant over 60 years ago, and has manufactured for such stellar names as Mappin & Webb and Asprey before establishing itself as an independent brand).

The point: stealth brands show up with some frequency in the secondhand market and are invariably undervalued. This Launer purse recently came up for auction on eBay and I got it for $6 (they retail new for £135/$196).

It looked a bit banged up in the scan, but fine leather can usually be restored to good condition. A bit of neutral Kiwi shoe polish (the real kind, in the metal can), some diligent buffing, and presto. A beautiful wallet I'm so happy to carry--and handle. Good leather, with a bit of life on it, has such a lovely velvety feel in the hand. More on stealth brands to come.


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