Shaper: Bill Amberg

Show aired on 8th August 2015


Luxurious bags, a celebrated baby papoose and Penguin book covers are just a few of the notable items that Bill Amberg has crafted from leather.

Amberg spent his early 20s in Australia working as an apprentice for Gay Wilson. After returning to England, he enrolled at London Business School and opened his first studio, receiving commissions for bags from Liberty and Paul Smith. Throughout his career he has collaborated with luxurious global brands, designers and celebrities and his successes have led him to open further premises in London and New York. He has worked as Creative Director at Mappin and Webb, and created luggage and small leather goods for Dunhill.

Amberg’s work has been recognised in the cultural sphere – the V&A placed his Rocket bag into their design classic archive, and he and his team won the Condé Nast Traveller’s Innovation & design award in 2012. He was also awarded an honorary degree from Northampton University for his contribution to leather design and manufacturing. Amberg’s projects with fashion students, apprenticeships, leatherwork programme and bespoke evening classes all show his dedication to education and the craft in which he works.

Follow Bill on Twitter @bill_amberg

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

Shoes. That’s what’s started my whole business.

My mum was always encouraging us to make things and leather was one of the materials that she would find on Northampton market and bring back. I ended up making hideous bags for everybody’s Christmas presents.

For six, seven, eight years I designed all of Paul Smith’s bags in leather and it was a fabulous time.

All the crafts people I employ know full well that I can make everything that I am discussing or asking them to make, so it is much more of a two-way street.

I built myself a studio in London where I could just make and play and that was really important.

One of the things that the London Business School taught me is that the framework for all business is the same.

I just try and keep it loose. But at the same time, giving people responsibility is really important – if they have the responsibility and feel that they are part of something, it brings out the best in them.

I put the workshop right in the heart of the business. So anybody that comes to my office has to walk through the workshop. It re-focuses everybody on the product.

3D printing and all that stuff didn’t exist four years ago. For us to really understand it and to be able to use it within our business is so exciting.

Legacy is a weird word and I don’t believe in it.  I think everybody has to do their thing.