Everything We’ve Learnt From 100 Years In The Leather IndustryRik Aaron
Running a family business is something of a double-edged sword.
There’s great pride in the heritage that has preceded you, and yet continuing that history can also feel at times like something of a burden too.
The family never meant to get into the leather industry either, it just sort of happened.
At the turn of the 20th Century, my great grandparents, on my mum’s side, had a factory manufacturing knitwear. With it being rainy Manchester eventually they began to make raincoats, and leather coats followed soon after.
Coincidentally, when my dad left school his first job was working in a leather wholesalers in the city centre. He worked there until he was 35 years old, when he was suddenly made redundant. Now married to my mum and with two kids to support, he didn’t know how to do anything else and so they started a business together selling leather jackets.
And, in this way, the family tradition continued; my brother and I run the business together now.
As a family we’ve been doing it a long time.
You could say we ‘know our sh*t’.
We’ve sold over 3 million jackets in total, and just over 1 million of those have been Barneys Originals leather jackets.
Barney was our grandpa you see. Our mum and dad named the brand after him about 35 years ago, just after he died, and when we needed an in-house brand to sell to our customers. It seemed a natural choice, but we had no idea of the impact and success it would go on to have.
Let’s face it though, the journey of any business has its up and its downs; and we’ve had more than our fair share over the years.
But, we’re still here, and still doing what we do best; which, to be honest, is the only thing we know how to do really, really well; make great leather jackets.
Our dad used to worry every single January that this year was going to be our last. He was convinced that leather jackets would go out of fashion, and that being a luxury item they would be the first thing people stopped buying when economic times got tough.
And, every year, he was wrong.
Every year the business grew and the demand for leather jackets got bigger.
Every year the leather jacket climbed higher and higher in iconic status; a must-have, a wardrobe staple, an essential item.
But, like most areas within the fashion industry, the leather business isn’t always the nicest business to be in, and there are many people within that world that don’t take their ethical, environmental and moral responsibilities very seriously.
We’ve been in this business for so long, we often feel like the elders of the tribe. We feel a strong sense of responsibility to do everything we can to ensure our business operates in the most ethical and environmental way possible, and leads the way for others to follow on.
Whether future generations of the family or members of the existing team carry the business forward or not, we want to ensure that we leave the industry as a whole in a better place for us having been there.
Otherwise what is the point? It can’t all be about the business.
Profit is one thing, purpose is another thing entirely.
You see, we just love what we do.
And, even more, we love hearing from you when you tell us how much you love what we do, and when you send us images of you wearing our jackets, and you write to tell us your stories of the adventures you have had with your jacket.
That’s what makes it all worthwhile.