After years spent working for designer brands, Fabian Lintott and his wife, Maria, launched their own Italian leather company, Rufus Country. This is their story.
What does your business do?
Myself and my wife, Maria, own Rufus Country, a British luxury Italian leather company creating men’s and women’s luggage, bags and accessories.
All products from Rufus Country are designed in Britain and made to last from the finest Italian leather, sourced from Santa Croce. Our high-quality products are 100% vegetable tanned with no environmentally damaging chemicals or synthetic agents. We are really proud of our products and they are always made with focus on quality and useability.
What is the story behind your business?
Our story spans many decades now! I founded Rufus Country back in 2015 with my wife Maria. I met Maria in 1998 in the art room at school and went on to study at Central Saint Martin’s London together. We have forged a strong creative relationship ever since. Sharing a love for all things art, design, and product. We got married in 2005 and have two lively sons.
When we created Rufus Country, we had already spent the past ten years working for leading UK brands including Radley London and Wedgwood. We were driven by a passion for thoughtful design, using the highest quality materials, at affordable prices. We do this by sourcing the best quality leather from Italy and cutting out the middleman by selling direct. Our logo, the Furnarius Rufus bird, is a South American bird which builds its nest from clay instead of twigs. For us this epitomises what we stand for, we believe in doing things differently!
There is something in the material that is just so satisfying. Top class leathers have a natural warmth, a suppleness, and richness that no other material can achieve. They also wear incredibly well and biodegrade when finally reach end of life.
What sets you apart from your competition?
We source all our leathers for their quality. Our designs are all penned in our studio in Great Amwell. This allows us to have complete control over our products. We can put all the extras in that normally get cut when you worry about retailers’ margins. We have no retailers, so our customers get the best product possible, for the best possible price.
How has business been during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Unfortunately, it has been tricky. Lockdowns are not conducive to selling bags and wallets because people aren’t going out or commuting as much. All challenges are there to be overcome and I think it has made us look at a few new areas to improve this situation going forward. I am particularly looking forward to our new range of belts. Which will be made in house with UK made solid brass buckles.
How do you see your market evolving over the next few years?
It is interesting. I think the traditional high street will continue to wither and internet sales will dominate. Purely because of people getting used to the convenience of the internet and their time poverty.
It will be interesting to see what happens to leather also. More people seem to be turning towards a less meat central diet which will also influence the quantity of leather available in the long run. Personally, I would pick a vegetable tanned leather bag over a plastic derivative because it’s currently a much better use of resources. Most plastic derived bags will end up in landfill and create pollution whereas leather will go on forever given the right care and attention – however, that’s for us to educate our customer on.
What is the hardest thing about running a business?
When you run your own business there is no down time, it is all consuming. You must worry about all aspects of the business, not just the bits you enjoy. Although if you have a passion for the business then it isn’t like work really but more like a part of your lifestyle.
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced?
We have had a few along the way. We had a flood in one of our storage units the night before a show which was a bit of a nightmare. Our vans clutch broke when delivering our stock up to a show in London. There are always different things that come along like that so it just becomes another challenge that you must overcome. I am lucky that my brain is fairly wired to discover solutions for problems which is a great asset when running your own enterprise.
What’s the best decision you’ve made so far?
Teaming up with my wife and going out on our own. It is challenging but incredibly rewarding and I would not change a thing.
If you could go back and change one thing, what would it be?
The first year of business we spread ourselves a little thin. We had a new baby, booked ourselves into all the shows, bought loads of stock, did a lot of freelance projects for other people, and generally went at 100mph and I think we ended up going around in circles. If I could go back and say to my past self, remember you are in this for the long game. Spend some time this year making long term plans too. Hindsight is always a beautiful thing though and sometimes you just learn by going for it.
What has been your proudest achievement so far?
It’s always difficult to pick out single moments but on the day my second son Gabriel was born Rufus Country was featured in the Saturday Times magazine so that would probably be pinned as our proudest day. I always get a great feeling of pride when I spy one of our bags out in the wild.