From supplying stars to shifting pallets, it’s all in a day’s work for these sisters at Walter Reginald!

Family-run leather merchant Walter Reginald

From supplying stars to shifting pallets, it’s all in a day’s work for these sisters at Walter Reginald!

From supplying stars to shifting pallets, it’s all in a day’s work for these sisters at Walter Reginald!

What does Hagrid from Harry Potter have in common with the First Lady of Music, Beyoncé? Step forward Walter Reginald, leather merchants to stage, screen and everything in between!

At RLSD, we think Walter Reginald is doing great things with leather, as far as sustainability and innovation are concerned, so we spoke to the sisters who run the company, Bianca and Natalie, to find out about the glamorous and not-so-glamorous sides of their business.

Bianca told us: “We’re a family-run leather merchant. We’ve been doing business since 1948, however today my sister, Natalie, and I run the day-to-day operations.”

“The business was started by Walter Weiss in the forties and then, in the eighties, our father Raymond Farbey, along with his best friend and business partner Malcolm, and our mum, Jill, went into partnership with Walter. They eventually took over when Walter retired.”

Having been in various parts of London over the decades, today you’ll find Walter Reginald in Hounslow, West London. And between them, the sisters have got the running of the business down to a fine art. Natalie explains, “Because it is just the two of us, we must run a strict appointment-only system because our schedules can become quite hectic! We regularly visit customers, our tanneries or exhibit at trade shows. But when we are here, we are doing everything. Running up and down the stairs fulfilling customer orders – anything from pallet loads to single skins – managing the warehouse, stock, goods in, goods out…Then, obviously, there are phone calls, emails visits and all the regular day-to-day stuff.

So, what of the Beyoncé-Hagrid connection? You may have seen pictures of Beyoncé on stage last year in an iridescent David Koma London jacket with matching leather cowboy boots. Well, if someone needs leather of the quality needed for that kind of look, there’s only one place to find it: Walter Reginald.

Bianca takes up the Hagrid Story: “We supplied the leather for Hagrid’s boots amongst many, many other things for different costumes in the Harry Potter series. We work with this amazing bespoke shoemaker, Natacha Marro. She makes the most beautiful designs. They’re fantastic. Amazing.”

Besides the Harry Potter movies, other productions where one can see Walter Reginald sourced leather include Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. It’s not all showbiz, though. The business also supplies leather for high-end fashion brands, sports companies and upholsterers. . . In fact, anybody can buy leather from Walter Reginald. “We offer a bespoke matching and development service. So, whether we’re supplying leather to the fashion, footwear, costume or upholstery sectors, we pride ourselves in being able to offer and provide leather for everyone,” adds Bianca.

The sisters are much more than salespeople, though. Keen to spread the message about the sustainability, durability and beauty of leather, they spend time visiting universities to talk to students about their jobs and about leather’s role in the future. They, like RLSD, know that the choices young designers make are vital in the fight against fast fashion and the use of plastics for clothes, shoes and accessories. If they start their careers using natural materials, they are heading in the right direction.

The passion for leather obviously runs strongly in the family. The sisters know that using it is the right thing to do. And how do they make sure the leather they supply is sustainably sourced?

“Many of the tanneries we work with are LWG [Leather Working Group] certified, meaning that they are closely audited for best practice and traceability. For our European tannery partners, there is also EU legislation that they need to conform with, like REACH [Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals] certification. And, also, there are the new deforestation regulations (EUDR) that are coming in which will also require the tanneries that we work with to provide traceability of the hides.

“We work closely with our partner tanneries.  We choose to work with artisan, family run, tanneries. Many of them, Walter Reginald has worked with for generations.  We work closely with our customers to produce what they want through those tanneries in small quantities, and to keep up with new innovations and technologies. We pride ourselves on our innovations, whether that’s different finishes or different alternative effects like iridescence and glow-in-the-dark. Really unique finishes for the leathers. It’s important to us to always bring something new to the market.”

With all this innovation, would they consider working with manmade alternatives? “There are alternatives to leather, but they’re not durable. They’re not sustainable. They’re produced with chemicals and they’re basically plastics,” says Natalie. “And while people do have leather alternatives to choose from, the fact is that we already have the best version of leather, which is natural, sustainable, durable…. and which is already that byproduct which otherwise gets discarded or incinerated.  So, if we don’t use that, we are just added to the waste that’s going straight into landfill or to the furnaces. We are using something that’s already in circulation to make something that’s durable, that you can repurpose, that you can recycle, that you can renew and pass down to generations.

“But almost as compelling is leather’s end-of-life cycle for when its finally thrown away. Leather has a really high decomposition rate in relation to the plastic-based alternatives. Perfect.”

At RLSD, we hope that Walter Reginald can be a valuable connection for leather enthusiasts and designers seeking more information about a particular finish, as well as assistance with cost calculations and finding inspiration.

Find out more: