Despite harsh droughts and financial downturns, Saddler & Co leather goods has thrived, thanks to a creative spirit drawn from the outback.
From humble beginnings 10 years ago in a backyard leather workshop in a side street of Dubbo, Bede and Jemima Aldridge’s business, Saddler and Co, has grown to attract customers from far and wide. The husband-and-wife team has made a name for the handcrafted wallets, handbags and saddlery in their stylish storefront in the western NSW town.
Image credit: Abbie Melle.
Durability and practicality are key for Bede, a saddlemaker by trade. But designing an elegant clutch requires a different approach to a saddle – and that’s where Jemima comes in. They marry his leathercraft skills and rules of form and function with her design instincts and brand vision. The result: timeless leather accessories that seamlessly meld classic and modern elements.
Every detail is considered, whether it’s a messenger bag (Bede’s go-to) or a classic tote (Jemima’s favourite), and it’s the materials that are celebrated here – mostly cowhide leathers, sometimes supple kangaroo. “We seek to be original in our designs, while using traditional techniques in our craftsmanship,” says Jemima. “We derive colour palettes and elemental principles from landscape and architecture, both past and present.”
Living in the countryside, 15 minutes from Dubbo, offers a healthy freedom for the couple’s five young boys and a connection to nature. “That in itself is calming and good for our souls,” says Bede. “It keeps us inspired.”
“We love the sense of community here,” adds Jemima. “People out here are friendly and have the time of day. It’s what country Australia is well known for and we want everyone to come and try it.”
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Care for customers: “No matter what business you’re in, honesty and treating customers with fairness and respect and giving the best service you can muster will get you miles in front in good times and in bad,” says Bede Aldridge.
Detail is everything: Saddler & Co offers stamped initials on its goods, which “makes a quality gift that’s thoughtful and personal.” Touches such as stylish packaging are also important. “Customers sometimes travel three to four hours to shop here, many from interstate, because they’ve followed our story.”