While twenty-somethings fresh out of university can these days be found ferociously applying for jobs, it was a different story for Graeme Ellisdon. The 25-year-old advertising graduate had just £500 in his pocket when, in 1980, he spotted a gap in the belt market and decided to start the now world-renowned leather brand Osprey London.
Graeme worked a variety of jobs after university before setting off to travel the world. He returned to England with a deep yearning to build his own business and a desire to sell something with craft and longevity. With previous experience in the belt industry, Graeme set out to teach himself how to work leather.
Not only did buyers love the pieces, they came in their throngs. Leading UK retailers such as John Lewis snapped up his simple belts handmade from top-quality leather sourced in Italy, Spain and North Africa and, by 1995, Osprey London had expanded to include luxury bags. While belts are still the heart of the brand, in 2002 Osprey Home was opened at the Osprey Saddlery in St Albans, offering furniture, lighting and art.
Graeme has a love of natural history and this is something he threads through his collections. ‘Everything has changed over the past 35 years but the essence and spirit of Osprey London have remained the same,’ he says. ‘Our business has a real passion for life, and we’ve expressed this by turning nature’s most beautiful raw materials into products to be enjoyed.’
Osprey London’s new collaboration with London Taxidermy is one such collection, ranging from fun antique specimens, such as a boxing squirrel (below), to delicate jewel-like beetles. All ethically sourced, you can peruse and buy the works in Osprey London’s ‘cabinet of curiosities’ in its new flagship store.
The shop was opened last year on London’s Regent Street, with everything on show available to buy – even down to the lampshades. Leaving no stone unturned, there’s even an in-store cafe for all-important coffee and cake breaks. Thirty-five years in the luxury goods business has certainly taught them well.
Osprey London 01582 877205; ospreylondon.com
CORRECTION: a previous version of this article published in the September 2015 issue of H&A magazine erroneously stated that before founding Osprey London Mr Ellisdon had been a door-to-door salesman in Hertfordshire selling plastic belts. This was inaccurate and we are sorry if Mr Ellisdon felt any embarrassment as a result and regret letting him and our readers down on this occasion