A few of my favourite things: Connolly

Isabel Ettedgui, head of the leather-maker and lifestyle brand talks through her picks for the season


Founded in 1878, Connolly was first a small family business that worked on shoes and saddlery. In more recent years it has had a rich history providing leather for automobile interiors. Bentley, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Ferrari and Rolls-Royce, to name a few, have all been clients. Connolly leather has also featured on board the QE2, in Supermarine Spitfires in the Second World War, in the Coronation coaches of the British Royal family, on the original Barcelona chairs by Mies van der Rohe, in The Ritz in London, on board Concorde and on the benches in Parliament – the red and green upholstery in the House of Lords and House of Commons.

Today, Connolly lives on as a special emporium dealing not only in leather and leather goods, but also in specially selected artisan-made objects, decor and clothing, under the curatorial eye of Isabel Ettedgui, who worked along with her late husband, Joseph, at their eponymous fashion business for many years. The pair bought Connolly in 1999 and nurtured it until Joseph’s death in 2010. Now, Isabel has relaunched the brand as a new venture, based in a beautifully restored Georgian Mayfair townhouse at number 4 Clifford Street.

Here, she shares some of the best pieces from her collection.

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Connolly Aran Hand Knits, £450.

These are hand-knitted in Scotland. The idea was developed with my knitwear designer Lorraine Acornley, when we discussed what would be the ideal thing to wear in an open-top sports car when it starts to get really cold. Heavy-knit wool sweaters were almost waterproof in the past, and well-suited to this role. Lorraine then played with the idea of Aran wool – it’s so beautiful to have something that is knotted by hand – and we decided to do them in strong automotive colours. In the end, I can say that they do repel rain and snow, and they’re not a crazy price. As a result, this type of knit has become one of our key pieces. I love it because like anything created by hand, each jumper is different, made by a different person –they’re very special. We have one that you can order which is in natural, unwashed cashmere, but it’s not fluffy. In Scotland, it’s the water that gives you that softness in the cashmere. When you wash it the wool ‘bursts’ and becomes soft. When you don’t wash it, it stays more firm. So, the washing is in the manufacturing process, and you can safely hand-wash it at home. Now we’ve found the Blue Leicester, this incredible sheep. We’re using its wool to make knits – not dying it, but leaving it as natural as possible.

Joel Parkes Bowls, starting from £2,300 (priced individually).

I first saw Joel’s work on an Instagram feed of Saffron Aldridge, who is a friend. I thought that if it looks like it looks on Instagram in reality then it’s incredible. I contacted him and we talked, and I told him I really liked the look of his pieces. Next thing, he drives up in his old Land Rover with tree trunks in the back and he produces three of the most beautiful bowls I have ever seen. They were huge. It was the day before we opened our store, and I took them. Joel finds dead wood, old trees – he doesn’t cut them down, they are given to him by the council. He produces bowls and seats and infills them with some English pewter or pigments. So you get the veins, and different pigments. He’s based down in Dorset.

Connolly William Yeoward Beer Tankards, £165

I’d seen a picture of Oliver Reed where he had a standard pub half-tankard glass in his hand. And I thought, that’s what we’re going to do. So I asked my friend William, who works with British crystal blowers, if he could make something similar, but I said it’s got to have those cuts. These tankards are blown out of one piece of crystal lead, and each piece is hand blown. They’re just exquisite. Crystal is very heavy and I think it’s nice to drink anything out of these. I’m very proud of the fact that each one is made as a one-off.

Connolly ‘Binoculars’ Case, £3,000

This is designed by Sebastian Conran and was based on something that his grandfather had – a small pair of binoculars in a case. Sebastian and I were talking about doing flasks and picnic hampers, maybe updating our Connolly travel coffee-making kit, and he said let’s do a binoculars case because it’s easy to carry when you are out shooting or walking. The design is curved and beautiful, and being Sebastian, he made it so when you open it up it becomes a stunning piece, with cups and tiny flasks, for whatever you want to have with you on a walk. It epitomises the way he thinks and works and enjoys design; it’s a truly joyful piece. Sebastian sources everything himself. It has to be made by hand, as it’s very complicated to make, and we only produce three at a time. They are proving very popular. Needless to say, it doesn’t actually hold your binoculars – instead it’s home to a flask and two cups or glasses and two mini-flasks for whatever you want to add to what’s in your big flask – milk, brandy or whiskey, say. The big flask could take coffee. Or Negronis.

Connolly Driving Tweed Trousers, £590

We developed ‘Connolly driving tweed’ with Lovat Mills (known as ‘The Home of Tweed’) near the River Teviot on the Scottish border town of Hawick. Made in brown with a Bugatti blue windowpane check, these have three percent Lycra mixed with the weft of the wool fibre to allow for comfort when driving, while still maintaining the tweed’s traditional and natural properties. Water-resistant, wind-resistant and, in timeless style, made in Italy with a classic rise, tapered fit and side adjusters with buttons.

Cedes Milano Travelling Cashmere Brush, £310

We work with an Italian manufacturer called Cedes. If you’d asked people in-the-know what was the craziest, most luxurious men’s shop in Milan, they would probably have said this tiny shop that sold knives and shaving kits: Lorenzi, opposite Cova on Via Montenapoleone. Unfortunately it closed. However, they’ve kept the business going as a family, making special pieces. We produce things that are really at the crazy end of Italian luxury: a travelling truffle slicer, a travelling cashmere clothes brush in a leather case, a travel set of mother-of-pearl spoons – for caviar, ice cream and egg – in a black leather case. These are for someone who really does have everything. You know when you have to take your shoes off on a boat? Well, they make a long shoe horn with a waterproof leather handle for just that occasion!

Connolly Short Beaver-lined Coat, £3,900

The short length of this brown coat is perfect for city elegance, and it is hardy and water-resistant, has the warmth of a beaver lining and is comfortable and easy to move in. We have it made in Paris, and each coat is cut piece by piece and constructed on a table in an atelier on the Quai de Valmy, the canal district of the city.

Connolly, 4 Clifford St, Mayfair, London W1S 2LG; connollyengland.com

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