I first discovered Original Peter in London, during a visit to meet Instagram pal and heritage savant, Tony Sylvester. In addition to designing clever, umbrella friendly satchels and accessories for London Undercover, Tony worked with Original Peter founders, Jonny Trunk and Edward Griffiths, on a spectacular update of a World War II-era canvas and leather holdall dubbed the Bertie (more on the name below).
When I dropped into London Undercover to say hello (and collect Shoreditch shopping advice), Tony showed me his personal Bertie prototype. Given my background in bags, I thought I had seen everything in the old-is-new-again design category. However, the Bertie really wowed me with its clean design, archival backstory, and alchemic weld of trad materials and modern functionality (airline overhead bin ready). I was so smitten with the bag (and energized by my conversation with Tony) that I immediately reached out to Original Peter to find out more about the bag, the brand, and to place an order.
As it were, it turns out that the Original Peter gents are fans of Archival and actually owned one of our original Columbiaknit sweatshirts (small world indeed)! Original Peter got its start designing LP bags – a genre I admittedly know very little about. What follows is an interview with company co-founders Jonny Trunk and Edward Griffiths about the origins of the LP bags, their plans for Original Peter, and why vinyl should never be paired with tweed or linen.
Heddels (Lesli Larson): Could you tell me a little bit more about the origins of Original Peter and the design thinking behind the Bertie bag?
Jonny Trunk: Original Peter started because we are both big time record collectors, Ed started Blaxsploitation.com and I am Trunk Records. We met for a catch up and realized we were both looking for the same thing—a fine bag for records. By this, we meant something that was usable every day; basic, functional, perfect for LPs but also in tune with our taste in well-made, classic and period clothing.
There was not much out on the market; all record bags were made of that black vinyl material with velcro (which looks terrible with a tweed jacket or linen). We could find nothing close to what we wanted apart from an old document bag made by Brady of Northampton. So we spoke to Brady and they agreed to listen, modify and manufacture a range of bespoke record bags exclusively for us. Once we got the hang of designing the record bags, we considered what else we could do.
I’d found a very unique 1940s/50s handmade bag made for a US Army General. We knew this as it had the officer’s name stenciled on the front. It was a great size, perfect for everyday use, great for traveling, the right size for hand luggage and had a most unusual style. We thought with some slight modifications to the straps, it would work and we’d both want one. We had some prototypes made—some bigger—but the smaller original size we went with worked better. We called it the “Bertie” as my youngest son stole the prototype and uses it for his holiday packing. He is called Bertie.
H: How did you get started in manufacturing? Do you have a background in retail/apparel?
JT: No backgrounds in retail or apparel. Ed keeps an eye on modern markets, I spent a lot of my time digging about for old clothing when I am not looking for records. As for manufacturing, we are both believers in finding out how to make something by having a go and learning and listening carefully as you go.
Edward Griffiths: My backstory’s a bit more nuanced. I’ve had an interest in manufacturing and engineering since I was a kid. I grew up in a small post-industrial mill town in the north of England that had been one of only two centers of world excellence in silk manufacture in the UK for hundreds of years. The town still contains many large ex-silk mills. When I was growing up there the mills were largely derelict, or used as artists’ or band rehearsal studios.
Some elderly family friends had the surname Weaver, and lived in a thin, tall, four story 150 year old cottage. One day they took me up a set of tiny, narrow stairs at the top of the house and I was stunned to see a full-size silk loom in the loft. It had been constructed, piece by piece, in place, up there. They were from a long line of professional silk weavers who did home work. Textiles and manufacturing were hugely important to local culture, architecture and history, and that has stayed with me.
H: What are your long range plans for the brand? Do you intend to keep producing bags through Brady or would you like to take manufacturing in house?
JT: We plan to keep on making bags! Record bags are the bread and butter of Original Peter but we are always looking out for new directions. As for manufacturing, I think it would take us years to work out how to do it ourselves. Those craftsmen at Brady have decades of experience in leather, brass and fabric work, skills we could never realistically acquire or bring in house. Maybe if we sell millions of bags we could just go and buy Brady.
EG: I have family connections with Walsall, where Brady is from. It was one of the UK’s leatherwork centers, and still produces some of the world’s best saddles (and the Queen’s handbags!). Family members remember family and friends doing piece work for Brady and other saddleries from home many years ago. Brady were always top of our manufacturer wish list. We were delighted when they said they’d work with us.
H: What are some other brands that you admire?
JT: You might have to ask Ed about that. If it’s bags, I’ve always like Brady and I very much like weird bags of the 1960s and 70s by brands like Gucci and LV (before they became the monster global beastie brands they are now). There’s also nothing wrong with a classic Adidas “PeterBlack” Northern Soul style kit bag.
EG: We’re both wearers of Americana so Filson is definitely up there, as is Red Wing. Oliver Spencer for his modern take on British classics (and he’s a nice bloke, too.) John Smedley for knitwear. Can’t beat Barbour. William Lennon in Derbyshire, or any number of Northampton footwear manufacturers.
We both have a thing for Paraboots, too. Their Michael shoe is a classic. When I was a kid up North in the 1980s, no-one could afford (or get hold of) Paraboots so we all wore knock-off Timberlands instead. The Paninaro look was huge where I grew up – I think it came over from Italy to the North of the UK with the ‘casuals’ scene around European football in the 80s.
H: What is your take on the state of Made in the UK manufacturing?
EG: I think UK manufacturing is on the up again. Sure, we’re unlikely to return to the high volume, large run manufacturing environment of the past (except in cars perhaps) but there are so many great small makers here who have an edge in experience, flexibility, depth of product knowledge, attention to detail and innovation too. Factories who’ve been manufacturing apparel for literally centuries. The most important consideration is quality. There’s a reason why 100+ year old Brady bags still regularly turn up for sale.
H: Were there any specific challenges involved in producing your bags in the UK?
JT: At the moment, it seems to be stable. The only challenges are costs; we could get cheap bags made abroad, but for us it’s all about the incredible quality and attention to detail we get here. Our bags are superbly made and we both believe you get what you pay for.
EG: Other than cost, it’s just so much easier to work with local manufacturers. If there’s a question or problem, or we want to develop a new product, we just get on the phone (in the same time zone!) or, better, jump in the car or on the train and go and meet the team face to face. That’s important to us, and to Brady. We also don’t need to wait months for finished products to arrive.
H: What’s next for Original Peter?
JT: To sell more bags. We’ve just released the amazing record rucksack (it has changed my life!) and I do have a very groovy post war travel bag we are looking at trying to prototype.
EG: As Jonny alluded to, we’re both perfectionists around details. We’ve both run record labels and collected clothing: there’s always been a strong link between music and fashion. We normally make way too many prototypes of each bag until it’s as close to perfection as we think we can get. And we really do road test the hell out of them, too – we have the photos to prove it! The Bertie was an instant hit with both of us. It’s just a beautiful design. I’ve used the Bertie regularly when travelling and am constantly surprised by how much stuff you can cram into it.
Learn more about Original Peter via their website.