Some of us have a strong taste for certain types of clothes and accessories, and some of us have a strong emotional tie to certain forms and designs. Oh, those ‘I need the same, just new’ searches or the ten similar T-shirts in the closet!
However, competing with Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom is challenging. She has been loyal to the legendary Launer bag model for over 60 years, and she has roughly 40 almost similar versions in her wardrobe. What is the key to this long-lasting friendship?
Sam Lohner, a Czech Jew who had fled England during the war, opened a small accessories shop in Soho in 1941, elegant and simple but handcrafted from high-quality exotic animal skins. Respectable Launer bags quickly found their way into the wardrobes of wealthy fashionistas and onto the shelves of the legendary Harrods department store, and the widow of King George VI, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the mother of Elizabeth II, soon purchased one for herself.
During visits, Elizabeth was required to shake hands continuously, and cross-body bags were deemed too casual and were not permitted in the royal wardrobe. Classic purses with short handles adhered to garments and lifted your sleeves when hung on your elbow. She liked the strict Traviata model of the Launer bag, which is rectangular, lacquered, has a large buckle, and (attention) elongated handles.
The Queen is said to have gotten her first Launer purse from her mother. Then a love story began, worthy of a film adaptation – however, the Launer brand is well-represented in the TV series “The Crown,” with as many as four models.
The king’s standard
The Traviata bag, like a bright coat or a hat, has become an essential part of the Queen’s style. Hundreds of hours of meticulous handwork, silk lining, ideal size for a small set of belongings, lambskin, subtle color… The Queen’s collection includes other models, but this is the most popular. Elizabeth paid a visit to the Launer factory in Walsall, spoke with the employees, and worked hard to promote the brand.
Launer became the royal court’s official supplier in 1968. Unfortunately, this did not prevent them from experiencing a drop in sales. There was no marketing plan or promotion for the brand. Their positioning was elegant bags for a solvent audience.
However, in the face of changing trends, the audience was expected to leave – few people were distinguished by such fashionable conservatism as the Queen (however, she had little choice). The brand was on the verge of a meltdown. However, a rescuer has arrived. Gerald Bodmer was his name. He was upset about the loss of many British brands to foreign markets, so he insisted that Launer stays in the country, even if it meant working in the same factory.
But he proposed several new models in bright colors and more modern shapes, deciding to use ostrich and crocodile skins while maintaining the “DNA of the brand” – the overall style, approach to work, and limited edition. In general, Bodmer began working with the brand as a crisis manager, whose job was to simply get them out of debt – but he stayed at the helm for the rest of his life.
Thatcher’s caricature as a source of inspiration
Margaret Thatcher, the British Prime Minister, is another well-known Launer client. This encounter took place in an unusual manner. Bodmer saw a cartoon in the newspaper depicting Thatcher beating Argentina with a bag against the backdrop of a world map (there was a Falklands War).
Because of the drawing, he decided to do something unusual: he packed one of the brand’s bags and sent Thatcher as a gift. And be ready for anything – the irony was lost on the “iron lady.” However, he soon received an order for several models for Thatcher and a thank-you note; it turned out that she enjoyed the joke. Also, the bag.
Since then, she has purchased Launer bags on a regular basis and has literally “grown-up” with them. “Where’s the bag?” exclaimed Thatcher’s daughter when she saw the statue dedicated to her famous mother. The sculptors were pressed for time to complete the prime minister’s image with a legendary accessory. Thatcher was remembered for his lush hairstyle, a bow-tied blouse, a pearl necklace, and a recognizable handbag. Thatcher, of course, did not beat Argentina and opponents with a bag, but she could knock on the table with an expensive accessory during a heated debate.
The Queen and the Prime Minister, by the way, did not compete for the brand’s bags. Different models appealed to them. Thatcher preferred the lighter, more fashionable Bellini and Adagio, and the brand even created a model specifically for her, named after her.
Is there anyone else?
Of course, the Queen isn’t Launer’s only client. Aristocrats and “mere mortals” alike purchase their bags. Every month, thirty copies of the brand are released. The biographies of famous clients are often linked to spikes in interest in their products; after Margaret Thatcher’s death, demand for bags “like Margaret’s” increased by 50%.
Thousands of women lusted after a “bag fit for a queen” after Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding. It was a complete disaster. The brand’s website crashed because it couldn’t handle the traffic, and the workshop, which only employs fifteen people, couldn’t keep up with the influx of orders! Bodmer was both scared and overjoyed at the same time. He was moved by the fact that, despite criticism of the British monarchy, people still wanted to imitate the Queen, and that local brands were just as interested in them as American brands.
Kate Middleton, for example, has not yet become a regular client of Launer (how old she is!), but she has already acquired a number of models. Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, is also ready to take over the baton of love for Launer from Elizabeth II, and has already paid a friendly visit to the company’s factory.
Today, you can find lacquered orange and purple multi-colored bags on the brand’s website, with bold buckles and the same comfortable elongated handles that allow you to easily hang the bag in the crook of your elbow to shake hands with a foreign diplomat.