The Queen’s most recognisable style signature is her ever-present handbag, even when she’s receiving guests, like the Obamas, at home. HRH’s famous structured handbags have been made by British luxury label Launer since the Sixties and in Grazia's Jubilee issue (out now!), we reveal that she uses them as a signal that she wants to leave a reception in five minutes' time by putting it on the table. Genius! And she moves her bag from arm to arm when she's tired of taking to someone. For more details on her signature bag, we talked exclusively to Launer’s owner and Creative Director, Gerald Bodmer...
How did the relationship come about – why Launer?
Sam Launer was granted the Royal Warrant in 1968, after he sent her a Launer bag, which she took a particular shining to. I took over the company in 1981 and established a very good contact with the dresser. The great thing is the Queen wears our bags, and we look after her older bags, so we have a very permanent relationship.
Why does the Queen love Launer bags?
She is patriotic, and she wants to support British manufacturing. We have a factory in Walsall in the Midlands in a beautiful old listed building. I think it’s important for the royals to carry our bags.
Have you ever met the Queen?
Yes, the Queen came to visit to our previous factory in Hackney in 1991, and we gave her a bag on for her 80th birthday and I was allowed to present it to her. And we showed at a trade fair in Buckingham palace. I can’t praise her highly enough - she’s very bright and she knows this is a difficult business to be in.
Your bags can cost £1020!
Yes, but you should compare us with Hermes - although I’m small and they’re big - we make at a similar level. It’s a lot of benchwork as ours as are all structured, and there are a huge number of pieces; around fifty for each bag. We only use calfskin. The fittings are all gold plated; they’re beautiful things in themselves. So yes, they’re expensive. And the price allows us carry on manufacturing in the UK.
Who makes the Queen’s bags?
We have a factory manager who has been here 29 years and his assistant 27 years and we use the best girls to make the Queen’s bags.
When did the Queen last order a bag?
We’re just about to deliver two, and make two more.
Which are the Queen’s favourite styles?
Probably the Diva and Traviata bags, in black.
What are the Queen’s requirements for her bags?
All our bags for the Queen are bespoke. She likes that ours have a frame in the middle so she can open them easily. She likes a slightly longer handle than a standard bag, so that it doesn’t get caught up in her clothes when she’s greeting people. And all our bags are suede lined, but not for the Queen; hers are silk lined to make them lighter to carry, as she’s often walking long distances. The silk carries the Launer logo.
Anything she doesn’t like?
She’s not keen on zip bags, nor does she want a shoulder bag.
Is Angela Kelly very influential on the Queen’s style of handbags?
Yes. For instance, she’s requested we put a bow on the new one and she’s conscious of the fact she wants the Queen to wear it.
Does the Queen only carry Launer bags?
Most of those I see in the newpapers appear to be ours. There isn’t any other company in the UK that does what we do.
Why does the Queen need a handbag?
People always ask that, but it’s part of her outfit, it’s part of being dressed.
How long does it take to make a Launer bag?
It can take up to two weeks, depending on the specifications. But for special occasions or urgent orders a bag can be ready in two days.
What does a British bag have that others don’t?
All our bags are turned and butted so there are no raw edges (Italians use a lot of raw edges). With us, you will never see a sharp edge. We refine everything – the bags always lie shut.
How are the bags stored?
Every one is kept forever, stored in cupboards at Buckingham Palace, and they’re all listed. The dresser [Angela Kelly] looks after her wardrobe.
What are the Queen’s colour preferences?
She wears mainly black, although she ordered one in mushroom when she went to Italy. She’s a classic lady; she likes white, beige. Although she’s been carrying a lot of black patent lately.
How many does she own?
Maybe thirty or forty of ours. It’s amazing how often they buy. I’ve seen some old ones come out, and we get the odd one back to replace a handle. They’re not a throwaway item. Since 1952 that is quite a lot of bags. She has them in eight or ten styles.
Have you ever created a printed bag for her?
Is there a Queen effect like the Kate effect?
After the Queen wore her Lydia Launer bag to Will and Kate’s wedding our internet bags sales soared; the site crashed for two day and sales of that style doubled over the summer. Top handles are very in now. She makes our bags look fashionable.
Would you like Kate to carry a Launer bag?
I would, I’d love it.
Can’t you just send her one?
It doesn’t work like that…now.
Who else carries Launer bags?
Camilla Parker Bowles The Duchess of Cornwall (at her wedding to Prince Charles), Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith and Baroness Thatcher.
by Angela Buttolph