Celebrating 40 years of Billingham bags

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April 7, 2013 by ginafashionistar

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Image via Pedlars

2013 is the 40th anniversary of M Billingham & Co, the highly respected and legendary maker of camera bags and travel bags.

Martin and Ros Billingham established the company in 1973, and it’s still owned by the family and run by their son, Harry. M Billingham & Co started out making and selling hard-wearing fishing bags from home, in an area of the West Midlands popular with carpers and anglers. They’ve always been based in the Black Country, having moved only a short distance from their first Old Hill factory in the last four decades. Their current centre of operations is at Brierley Hill in the West Midlands, where they still design and produce every single bag in their range.

Billingham is proud to confirm that every one of their bags is – and has always been – made in the UK. They also put three of their own honed qualities into the production of every bag: time, skill and patience. There are more than 100 individual pieces that make up each Billingham bag, and the vast majority of them are custom-made.

It wasn’t until 1978 that Martin Billingham had an epiphany about his range of fishing bags. He suddenly realised that photographers in New York were buying them to hold their cameras and other equipment. The pouches that were initially designed for fishing hooks and spare lines proved ideal for holding camera lenses, flashes and rolls of film. This first gave him the idea of marketing Billingham fishing bags as tailored camera bags – a move that proved so popular, the range was almost completely aimed at photographers within 12 months.  Their classic 550, which was introduced in 1983, was the first soft camera bag to be manufactured in Britain.

The popularity of Billingham camera bags is down to their thoughtful design – they’re handcrafted with a level of attention to detail that British design and manufacturing can be proud of. The soft materials used to make every bag mould to the body, creating an ergonomic effect that makes handling heavier items less painful. Dividers don’t just customise the inside of the bag, they also make a supportive ‘suspension system’ for the contents. Billingham has also pioneered the ‘double-grab’ handle on their bags, making them easier to pick up no matter if the flaps are open or closed.

The classic look of each bag is created by the traditional leather and brass trim, a hallmark of the Billingham brand that’s remained unchanged for 40 years. Rubber-laminated cotton canvas, which is used to make every bag, actually further seals the flap on each pouch when wet to protect the contents. The current Billingham selection includes laptop cases and slips, iPad holders, and larger weekend travel bags.

To celebrate such an important anniversary, Billingham has launched a new 2013 catalogue with even more bags and accessories than ever before. They’ve also created some exclusive new camera bags in collaboration with Pedlars, swapping their trademark khaki and tan for smart grey and fluorescent, contemporary orange.

For Billingham bags, Pedlars vintage staples/collections and the Pedlars Friday Vintage initiative, visit www.pedlars.co.uk, their shop in Notting Hill, London, or the Pedlars concession at Selfridges in London.

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