We thought we’d have a catch-up with British accessory designer, Bill Amberg, to see what he’s been up to and what exciting things he has in the pipeline.
We’ve been fans of Bill’s since our Wallpaper* reading days in the mid 90's. His honest and handsome pieces have always let the signature bridle leather speak for itself, in shapes that have become design classics.
Left – Bill in his Shepherd Market shop, Mayfair
For the past decade, Bill had become better known for his interior commissions, making suede walls for luxury residences from Highgate to Hong Kong. He made the leather floor for the men’s shoe room at Selfridges.
A few years ago, he split his business into two, one for the interior side – Bill Amberg Studio - and the other for accessories.
He now feels it’s time to push the accessories side again. His main markets are Japan and Korea, but he’s re-entering the American market this year. The online retailer, Mr Porter, has become his biggest stockist and this is because Bill’s designs are priced realistically. If they carried a different 'designer' name, they would be 2, 3 or even 4 times the price.
Right - The classic ‘Rocket’ in cordovan leather - £1800 – Majorly lusting after this one. There's even one in the V&A Museum
He makes all the prototypes of his new designs in his studio in London and is forever working on new collections and ideas. He likes to “kill” lines even if they are selling well.
The final manufacturing of the bags and leather goods are then split 50/50 between the UK and Spain. There are certain shapes that the UK can no longer do and he says “they have a certain touch and feel and skills in Spain” that he requires for his more difficult designs like his classic doctor's shape the 'Rocket' (pictured).
Bill originally worked on an oil rig, "travelled a bit" and then did an apprenticeship in leather goods in Australia. Now 52, he started his business in 1984 because “bags seemed the most simplistic way of making money with my skills”.
He was picked up by Paul Smith and made bags, under both their names, for 10 years. He says he feels “much more confident” now on the accessories side of the business and always designs for himself. I ask him how he would feel if he got a call from Marks & Spencer, would he be interested? “I would love to do a line for M&S” he says.
His current collaborations include a bag for Mr Hare for SS14 and the Japanese technical label Nanamica. I ask him whether he would like to do any clothing? “I’d definitely like to do coats; a couple of shearlings and a couple of leather jackets,” he says. He says he’d also like to see where these collaborations lead in terms of shoes.
Left - The new 'Raleigh' bag from Bill's new AW 13 collection - £385. The designer of this bag went on to work for Phoebe Philo at Celine. Spot the difference!
His current store is in the quiet and villagey environs of Shepherd Market, just off the main drag of Piccadilly. He did open in the blinging Westfield White City shopping centre, when it first opened, which he calls a ‘disaster’. His simple and subtle accessories didn’t speak to the great unwashed, looking for their next fix from Louis Vuitton or Tiffany.
He says he will be doing something, hopefully, for the forthcoming London Collections:Men in June.
TheChicGeek says "Bill Amberg isn't heavily branded, which allows the shapes and quality leather to speak for themselves. He appeals to people who like design and would rather buy into quality form and function than shiny status symbol trophies."
Bill Amberg, 9 Shepherd Market, W1
More images below