SECRETS OF THE QUEEN’S HANDBAGS
The Queen’s handbag is her constant companion – but what goes into making one? Katy Pearson gets an insider’s view of a very British company…
Written by Katy Pearson
It has been on the Queen’s arm since the 1960s and she won’t leave home without it. In fact, Her Majesty’s
Launer handbag is almost as constant a presence as Prince Philip.
And she is not alone in her admiration of the British brand. The late Baroness Thatcher was a fan – sales jumped 53 per cent in the two weeks following her death –
as is the Duchess of Cornwall and Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith.
Indeed, Launer’s owner and creative director Gerald Bodmer, who bought the company in 1981, knows exactly what it takes to make a bag ‘fit for a queen. So what is
‘I’m not allowed to say a lot, but we do put a mirror and a purse in it,’ he says. ‘And we make diŽ erent spectacles cases for diŽ erent colours of bags. But there are the usual number of pockets in the Queen’s
‘Her Majesty does have some adjustments. We might make the handles longer, or we might take out a suede lining and replace it with a silk lining. She carries her bag, like a lot of women, as part of her clothing. The latest bag
has a frame, so it can be held under the arm. The Queen wants ease of opening from her bag: no shoulder bag or zips.
‘The number of handbags we send to the Queen varies. We sent two or three last year, but not a year goes by without us
doing something. We gave her a silver evening bag for the Diamond Jubilee.’
So how did this longstanding Royal connection come about? ‘Sam Launer was granted the Royal Warrant in 1968, after he sent the Queen a Launer bag, which she
particularly liked. The Queen’s dresser, Angela Kelly, is also very supportive of us.’
Has Bodmer met Her Majesty? ‘Oh yes. The Queen came to my previous factory in 1991, and I’ve met her a couple of times. She’s
fantastic, very unassuming and very loyal to British manufacturers.’
But how does it feel seeing the Queen with your bag on her arm? ‘I get a colossal buzz every time we see a picture of the Queen with one of our handbags. We couldn’t
have a better advert. It’s wonderful. She is partly the reason we’re still here. Having a Royal Warrant makes a big difference to a ‘firm like us.’
The company was established in 1941, so is it a challenge to stay ‘in
fashion’? Not really, reveals Gerald Bodmer, as his company doesn’t follow trends. ‘We make a structured bag and when that style is popular, we are in. Fashion comes and goes, and while we do different things all the time, that essence doesn’t
‘We have a niche. Our bags are timeless. We make what we’re good at. And at the moment, we’re doing very well.’
Gerald Bodmer and his wife design everything. ‘About 20 people work with us, manufacturing.
But my wife and I do the designs. We’ve tried designers in the past but we’re best on our own.’
And does Bodmer have a favourite? ‘What I love isn’t always the best seller. Encore (£899, a top-handled bag,
used by the Queen in 2001) is my favourite because I think it really is a well-designed bag. But the biggest seller is Traviata (£1,125, a Kelly-style handbag).’
Surprisingly, one of the biggest challenges facing this iconic brand
is ‘It is not easy to get apprentices,’ says Bodmer. ‘When you think of the unemployment in the Midlands you wouldn’t imagine it would be such a problem. But it is.
‘If Bentley Motors wants apprentices, 2,000 people
apply, but if you’re a handbag manufacturer – even if you are the Queen’s handbag manufacturer – you don’t get that much excitement. Kids don’t have the discipline, don’t turn up and then when they do, they are on
their mobile phones. I could go on forever…’
But Gerald Bodmer believes it is the high quality of Launer bags that has kept both the company’s Royal Warrant and customers loyal for decades. ‘We are really of the highest
quality, that’s the one thing I’m crazy about,’ he asserts. ‘I think people appreciate that.
‘It is not easy to manufacture in the UK and that’s why we have to be at the top. We’re a small operation in
relation to Louis Vuitton and Gucci but we’re still doing well. And that is very gratifying.’
Launer London: 01883-625562, www.launer.com
HEY - Did you Know?
Her Majesty reportedly uses her handbag as a signal when she wants to leave a reception. If she places it on the table, it means she wants to depart in five
Each one of the Queen’s handbags is kept in perpetuity. They are stored in cupboards at Buckingham Palace.
of Launer London handbags rose by 60 per cent after the Queen carried one at Prince William’s wedding.
Her Majesty favours Launer’s Diva and Traviata styles.