Wednesday 8 October 2014

In The Leather

Once upon a time I used to do outfit posts, these days its a matter of chucking my camera in my bag and grabbing impromptu photo opportunities between appointments. This one was taken by an undertaker taking a cigarette break between funerals! 

The bronze saddle, some of Walsall's street art, dedicated to the town's leather industry

Its been said that Jon and I are Walsall's unofficial ambassadors, forever bigging up our much-maligned home town on my blog. My affection for our town hasn't gone unnoticed, we're currently helping out with a project which, hopefully, I'll be able to reveal the details of very soon.

With two vintage fairs booked for this weekend I've been so busy that I haven't worn lipstick or gone further than the wheelie bin since Sunday night but, as part of the project, we needed to meet up with a few people in town today. 

And in-between appointments we popped to Walsall's Leather Museum to see something I'd fallen in love with on the Black Country Echoes festival website.

This! Made in 1969 by Walsall Leather Company, Tarantella, this gorgeous suede jacket really should be mine.

The factory started, like many, in the back of a house by Edna Kirby. Tarantella had a largely female workforce and became internationally famous for their leather gloves supplying companies like Marks & Spencer.

Unusually for the time, Edna Kirby valued her women workers, allowing them to continue working after they married and had children, even providing a crèche. However, in August 1970, after introducing family planning clinics for her workers, the story was picked up by the national press and the workforce was portrayed in a negative light, causing great upset for her female staff. Edna's reasoning behind it was quite simple, she'd lost many skilled workers through unplanned pregnancy, which was a blow to the factory when so much time and expense was lost spent training them. 

Edna sold the company in the early 1970s after pressure to pay her workers by the day rather than by piece work. The workers were kept on but the quality of the materials decreased and the company closed two years later.

Wearing: Second-hand skinnies, Vintage blazer, 1960s Tootal scarf, contemporary wool flat cap, Clarks' boots

Although I've been to the Leather Museum before (including attending a shoe-making workshop) I couldn't resist admiring the array of  handbags and luggage made in Walsall.

That snakeskin vanity bag, the gents top hat case, the places that suitcase must have been!

A variety of Walsall-made leather goods,

These boots were a common sight when I was growing up.

Hardy Amies wallets and Asprey of Bond Street, high end leather goods which started life in Walsall factories.

Contemporary leather including bags by Anya Hindmarsh and gorgeous hand made silver jewellery by our friend Jolene Smith.

Fashion bloggers go berserk over Mulberry, don't they?

Walsall-made dog harnesses from the early 20th century. The bull dog doesn't look very impressed. 
Suzanne - look, pugs!

I love this - proper pride in this factory's work.

If, like me, you're a fan of the TV show Salvage Hunters, you can imagine Drew going wild over the original factory equipment in these workshop installations.

When I first started work these clocking in machines were still widely used.

Sadly we didn't have time for a guided tour or a panini in the coffee shop but we'll be back. Its a short walk from our house and over the road from Second To None, Walsall's legendary vintage emporium!
Wearing: '70s Psychedelic skirt by Jeannie Jersey, Finish-made 1970s suede boots, 1970s green suede jacket, 1960s felted wool hat, 1950s beach bag
If you're in Nottingham (HERE) or Stockport (HERE) this weekend click on the links to come & say hello and to shop Kinky Melon. If you want to catch us before the end of the year click HERE for a full list of our fairs.

See you soon.


  1. Forget Drew Pritchard, I am going mad at those pictures and wondering what would work in my home. I loved seeing the luggage and the worn old work bench.
    What an amazing place and you're quite right to be proud of Walsall. xxx

  2. Ohh how i would love to have such luggage and an origanal hand made saddle for my litlle prince ..

  3. that looks like a handy saddle. Sorry, I just had to.
    Sweet museum! another cool place not on the tourist trail. Damn, Walsall should be paying you and Jon to promote the place.

  4. I love local museums! You're looking quite spring-like in all those fresh greens.

  5. The leather museum looks fab - I must pay it a visit! Don't know about Walsall, I think the English Tourist Board needs to sign you up!

  6. You look darling in your free leather coat my dear! I loved having a tour of the Walsall leather factory, how interesting! That leather cost should totally be yours, who knows you just might find one still! The history behind it is fascinating and I was sorry to hear that Edna had to call it quits. Thanks for the tour!
    Take care of yourself even though you are busy as all heck!

  7. This post is so interesting especially as its now local to me , I can definitely see you in that coat and I love loose suitcases you can see the quality in everything they have made . LOVE IT xxxx

  8. thats interesting!
    do you know that i worked in a leather clothes factory in my teen years? back in the days we learned a lot about leather and how to work with it. because sewing sweatshop style was to boring for me i worked in the cut-out department were we had to sort out carefully the leather - color and texture wise - before we could cut out the pieces for a jacket, pants or coat. high end leather (calf/goat) by hand with a special knife....
    love all the green in your look!!!!!

  9. Looking forward to hear about the town project you're working on!

    Oh what a tour! And I bet the place smells great, too. Thanks Vix.

  10. Oooh, you are looking foxy!!!! Love the look!!! This museum sounds fascinating and she sounds a super employer! I'd like to visit. I've noticed that about Mulberry bags too! I almost went for a job at Mulberry at Harvey Nicks once-I doubt is have got it though-too scruffy! X

  11. Yes, for sure that jacket belongs on you, Vix!
    Thanks for giving the fascinating back-story of Edna Kirby, although the ending is quite frustrating -- that a family planning clinic would get negative press.
    Cannot wait to hear more about your project! xox

  12. Thanks for promoting Walsall!
    The only people I have known in the U.S. who have heard of it have been those who had been involved with horses knew about the saddle making.

  13. I can't wait to hear about your new town project!

  14. In the olden days, before you were running a fantastically successful vintage empire! Well, we'll take whatever we can get, so between appointments it is! You and Jon are the most fantastic ambassadors for Walsall, it's very warming to see people who make the most and see the best in their surroundings and circumstances. My friend moved to Walsall last week, I'll have to introduce you. All this leather history is great, we had lace in Nottingham. You're going to be great with this new project, I know it. Xxxxxxxx

  15. P.s. See you n Saturday in Nottingham!! Xxxxx

  16. Fab post, love. I always think you are both brilliant ambassadors for Walsall, which is a great place I think. I was totally won over by it. Can't wait to heat what the new project is.
    That jacket should be yours!
    See you soon, darling.

  17. Wow, wow and thrice wow. How cool is that museum. So interesting and so well designed. These factories were the heart and soul of their communities, its so sad they are not there. And I love that notice about the finish that was expected in items. I am going to check out my leather goods to see if they were made there. Clean and eyeable, that's an excellent phrase. I actually think I may have visit one day.

  18. I also covet that suede coat at the museum, but I think the one your wearing is just as wonderful! :)

  19. You gotta know I spotted that pug right away! LOL I have pug radar. My baby would look positively royal walking around the neighbourhood wearing that.

    What an interesting place and story.

    I agree...that coat needs to be in your closet.

    What about a shirt notecase? What is that about I wonder. I was attracted to the illustration.

    That hat and matching green suede jacket are so funky! Jon is looking especially dapper. You two look like the most fun couple ever to hang out with.


  20. Brilliant post Vix, most interesting. What a fascinating tour around the factory, what lush leather goods were made there. Loved that sign, more's the pity we don't have them in some of today's workplaces. Looking forward to hearing about this new project, you both deserve to be involved, promoting Walsall as you do. Totally love that 1969 suede jacket! xxx

  21. You two are excellent ambassadors for Walsall ... Here I am an ocean away and completely taken by the town you get to call home! Thanks for the interesting tag-along tour of the leather museum.

  22. Wow Vix how magnificent! What a great story and tour! I confess to loving leather, which was a huge torment to me when I was vegan. I can absolutely see that wonderful coat on you. You are right, it should be yours. I love Jon's blazer, cap and boots though, and must admit I was as taken with those as with all the amazing factory images.
    Here in Canada, in the back woods, when we clock in at work we just sign our names on a piece of paper.

  23. Ah, Vix, I can smell that wonderful leather! Once upon a time, I had a double-rein bridle custom made for my sturdy little Quarter horse...and I still remember the heady scent of the shop.

    At the very least, the museum should permit you to wear that coat for a publicity shot. What would you wear with it?

  24. What a unique museum! So many interesting things on display. Love that suede jacket and the vintage bags are adorable.

  25. Another hat ... I'm loving the hat :0)
    I think they should give you the leather coat as a gesture of goodwill ... after all look at all the publicity you're giving them ... I for one will definitely visit the leather museum if I ever find myself in Walsall :0)

  26. That was an interesting read - I've learnt something today! My Mum used to have a coat similar to that in the museum and unknown to me she gave it away to a charity shop a few years ago. I wasn't pleased to say the least! I'm loving your green one though.

    Looking forward to hearing about your Walsall project too xxx

  27. You look adorable wearing your green coat and printed maxi and fabulous hat!!, gorgeous!! (and John is really elegant!!)
    And I'm loving your report on leather museum and all those traditional made goods, it's a great museum!. Amazing trunk department, I'm loving that "School 'First Night' Bag", the name itself is evocative!!
    besos & fairs

  28. Do I sound like a total perv if I say I have a real thing for the smell of leather? I love it! So I think I would really enjoy a browse round Walsall's Leather Museum, so much to enjoy, from the history to the items themselves. Those cases! That jacket! What a shame that Tarentella didn't survive and become one of those heritage high-end brands like Mulberry or Dents. And that Patterson & Sons sign is just brilliant.
    As always, you and Jon look superb, and you really are fine ambassadors for your town. I'm glad it hasn't gone unnoticed - I'm excited to hear about your new project! Wish I could call in to see you in Nottingham but I've got a do to go to - but I'll be seeing you very soon! LOVE! xxxxx

  29. The museum looks quite interesting and your outift looks stunning!

  30. Hi my dear- loved this post, the museum looks so informative and awesome, fab photos and you look wonderful as always! xx

  31. What a great photo tour, thanks Vix

  32. A leather museum? Living in Texas you'd think that kind of museum would be on every street corner, but I've actually never heard of such a thing! Aaaaaaweomse

  33. I do think they should let you model that jacket, it is so you, and Vix, Ambassador for Walsall, has a ring to it!

  34. What an interesting place, thanks for giving us a tour! I would love to pay Kinky Melon a visit one day - perhaps next year I'll make it up to your part of the world x

  35. Ok, I have to admit I'm pretty indifferent to leather - but I love YOU, and your photo tour is very interesting and detailed. You are a wonderful, beautiful, soulful ambassador for your town, and I am so very happy that you got noticed. Can't wait to hear details.

    You and Jon are the most fun stylish couple! Love green and black outfit very much, and that leather coat really should be yours! xxxxx

  36. ALL the cases should be mine, and the coat most certainly YOURS!
    I love how you and Jon are such proud ambassadors for Walsall! And why the feck not?! Clearly, there is a great vibe there. I am picturing you two in some splendid tourism advertisment!!!
    Love this Leather Museum, bloody fascinating!
    Love Helga XXX

  37. great place!
    have a fun sales weekend with kinky melon!

  38. Ohhhhh I'm very interested to hear wher you'll be revealing. I adore your green jacket.

  39. That suede jacket is the stuff of which dreams are made! And the quality work sign is a treasure, truly deserving of it's place in a museum. Looking forward to the coming reveal! Enjoy the fairs; wish I could attend!
    xo, Anita

  40. Sooo much leather love! Thanks for the tour.
    What's up with those boots..crazy! Not yours, the factory ones. How sad the factory had to close. Sometimes things that look like progress really are a retrograde step in the long run. You are both looking gorgeous in your busyness! Can't wait to see the reveal...but I will have to. Bated breath over here! Xo JJ isn't bated a great word!

  41. Fab post Vix. I went to the Leather Museum on a training course in a past life, but we didn't get chance to look around properly, so this was fascinating. I shall definitely make a point of visiting.

    That school trunks poster took me back to my childhood. Not because I had one, sadly, but it reminded me of the Mallory Towers books, and What Katy Did At School.

    One day, a Tarantella jacket will be yours. I can feel it!
    See you soon, love Annie xxx

  42. Thanks for this wonderful tour, Vix. It's very cool that you and Jon, who live in vintage, are bringing attention to your town today and its history. I love how you're mixing up your posts. Those traveling trunks are incredible. I shudder to think what they would look like with handling in modern-day air travel - unless flying by private jet. I look forward to hearing what your project is!

  43. When I was growing up my Nan used to work in a leather factory in Hatherton Street Walsall - I used to stand outside and wait for her to finish work - I loved the smell of the leather and the glue that they used - I can be transported back 50 years if I happen to smell glue like they used to use in that leather factory - She also used to use a clocking in and out machine like the one from the museum x

  44. When I was growing up my Nan used to work in a leather factory in Hatherton Street Walsall - I used to stand outside and wait for her to finish work - I loved the smell of the leather and the glue that they used - I can be transported back 50 years if I happen to smell glue like they used to use in that leather factory - She also used to use a clocking in and out machine like the one from the museum x

  45. That tour sounds awfully interesting! And ironic that liberal workers rights accidentally ruined what was already a very liberal factory! I would happily tool leather all day if I knew my kids were in the crèche next door. I am loving your green suede coat too and that afghan looking coat totally should be in your possession!

  46. Thank you for the tour of yet another piece of fascinating history in your town! I would love to visit that museum and see those beautiful leather pieces. You should at least be able to borrow that coat for a photo.

    Edna Kirby was a woman ahead of her time, and of course, her practical approach towards women's health care would be seen as too controversial. Sigh.

  47. What a fantastic place Vix!
    Can't wait to see what you are working on with your fair city!


  48. Hey Vix,
    I've included your blog in my International list called "Around the Globe in 20 Blogs." Hope you can join us on this exciting flight!

  49. Such a neat, informative post. Love the employee notice and the use of "eyeable."

  50. Somehow, I can only imagine you dropping in the brilliant detail that you got an undertaker on a cigarette break to take your photo.
    You do indeed do a very good job of tourist attraction for Walsall (the project sounds enticing) - so much so that every time you post something about your home town I think: really MUST visit. You've already produced via your various posts a sort of 'Vix's Trail: Guide to Walsall'.

  51. I need a visit to there, it looks great.
    And I bet it smells amazing too!!

  52. That jacket and hat are just amazing on you!! Really gorgeous, reminds me of a hat my mum used to have actually. Lovely history snippets at the leather museum - what a set of luggage, I'd happily have a porter trailing behind me pushing that lot. P x

  53. I just had to pop over and read this. It looks like a really interesting place - and ahead of it's time - a crèche, family planning - that's forward thinking.
    I love the Please Read sign - if only standards were kept as high these days. I really hope this stays open.


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Lots of love, Vix