Fashion: Bags of character by Maxwell Scott

Maxwell Scott's fashion shoot at the former Robson & Cooper leather shop in York. Restoration work is due to begin on the house, which was built in 1714.  Lucca shoulder bag, �132; Scanno attache case, �465. Dress from Molly Browns, suit from Guards1843.
Maxwell Scott's fashion shoot at the former Robson & Cooper leather shop in York. Restoration work is due to begin on the house, which was built in 1714. Lucca shoulder bag, �132; Scanno attache case, �465. Dress from Molly Browns, suit from Guards1843.
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In a shoot capturing the finals days of a historic York leather shop, bag designer Maxwell Scott launches its Christmas campaign. Stephanie Smith reports.

If you want to get ahead in the modern world, a beautiful and useful bag is what you really need. A bag that will last you a lifetime. “Maxwell Scott’s main ethos is to defy fashion’s current throw-away culture,” says William Forshaw, founder of the York-based luxury brand. “We aim to rejuvenate the romantic element of investing in and treasuring a bag that is built to stand the test of time.”

Brown leather Donnini S Doctor's Bag, �324. by Maxwell Scott; evening suit by Guards 1843, tailored white shirt by Hawkins & Shepherd.

Brown leather Donnini S Doctor's Bag, �324. by Maxwell Scott; evening suit by Guards 1843, tailored white shirt by Hawkins & Shepherd.

Maxwell Scott bags and leather accessories for men and women are made from vegetable-tanned leather that develops a rich patina as it ages. William, who designs all the briefcases and holdalls, says: “For me, it’s all about offering my customers a leather that’s characterful. After all, leather isn’t meant to be perfect. It should be left to breathe and mature naturally.”

William launched Maxwell Scott in London in 2002, inspired in part by his mother, Jacqueline, and her bag-buying trips to Italy. A former advertising agency executive, he knew plenty of City types who could do with a suitcase or bag upgrade.

He began selling leather pieces around London, buying directly from Italian factories, then sold them at shows and horse trials. Business grew, and in around 2008, Maxwell Scott launched its website.

The name Maxwell Scott is a pairing of his own and his brother’s middle names, as devised by Jacqueline.

The Liliana S Croco, �360, by Maxwell Scott; dress from Molly Browns in York.

The Liliana S Croco, �360, by Maxwell Scott; dress from Molly Browns in York.

In 2012, William, grew up in Knaresborough, took the decision to move himself, his business, his wife Charlotte, and small daughter Liliana out of London and back to his native Yorkshire. He bought premises in Chessingham Park, Dunnington, near York, which is where the bags are designed and made up into a complete sample, which is then sent off to be copied by master-crafters in Italy.

“Leather with personality is highly desired by true sartorialists,” William says. “Patina is something that cannot be replicated due to its naturalness. This exclusivity is what makes Maxwell Scott leather stand out from the rest.”

There are about 150 different bag styles and they sell across the world, especially in the US and Germany. Marketing manager Julia Munder joined the company as a marketing executive in Germany and has since moved to York, where she is the driving force behind Maxwell Scott’s increasingly creative campaign shoots, from Goathland train station and the North Yorkshire Moors to Allerton Castle, near Harrogate. “Our recent photo shoots have highlighted Yorkshire’s majestic and beautiful scenery,” she says. “As a York-based brand, we are proud to show off Yorkshire to our international market.

“With our recent Maxwell Scott campaigns, our aim was to embrace the luxurious side of the brand, fused with our typically Great British aesthetic – an element that is desired by the rest of Europe and further afar.”

William Forshaw, founder and designer of the Maxwell Scott brand.

William Forshaw, founder and designer of the Maxwell Scott brand.

The latest Christmas campaign captures the final faded glory of the former Robson & Cooper leather shop, which closed its doors earlier this year on Lendal in the heart of York.

Founded as a saddlery and harness makers in 1840, Robson & Cooper made handcrafted leather equipment for cavalry regiments during the First World War, with Queen Victoria’s son Prince Arthur its most prestigious customer.

Built as a house in 1714, the four-storey building was once the home of York astronomer John Goodricke. It has been bought by the York Conservation Trust, which will restore the property so it can be used again. Meanwhile, the crumbling paint and plaster, and the jagged raw floorboards provided an atmospheric contrast to the decadent, opulent styling of models and luxurious leather bags, as the Maxwell Scott team’s vision came to life.

Julia says: “We wanted this year’s Christmas campaign to encapsulate our York roots and long-established vision to safeguard leather craftsmanship. Having the opportunity to honour York’s most iconic leather shop through this campaign was a dream come true for us.”

The 
Lucca bag, �132; dress by Molly Browns.

The Lucca bag, �132; dress by Molly Browns.

The brand has intriguing new plans in the pipeline, in particular, a new bespoke service so that customers can choose their own leathers, linings, colours and pocket styles.

“Maxwell Scott’s ultimate goal is to become the most-loved luxury British bag maker in the world,” adds William. “Staying true to honest and traditional Italian craftsmanship, there’s no doubt that we offer a quality leather to match, if not exceed, the big players in the industry.”

Julia Munder, who masterminds Maxwell Scott's increasingly creative fashion shoots.

Julia Munder, who masterminds Maxwell Scott's increasingly creative fashion shoots.

The Calvino suitcase, �388.

The Calvino suitcase, �388.

Liliana bag, �305; dress by Molly Browns.

Liliana bag, �305; dress by Molly Browns.

The Davoli laptop sleeve, �154; Suit by Guards 1843.

The Davoli laptop sleeve, �154; Suit by Guards 1843.

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