My Life’s Work | Robert Ettinger CEO, G Ettinger
In this new weekly series, we meet a Walpole member chief executive to discover what makes them tick, how they define success, and what keeps them awake at night. This week, Robert Ettinger, CEO of luxury leather goods specialists, G Ettinger, talks Royal Warrants, building a luxury brand and Sachertorte.
My mother was from Vienna and brought me up firmly but kindly on a combination of wooden skis, international schooling, and Sachertorte. My father was dapper, proud in a good way, and a linguist who developed a successful lifestyle business. He enjoyed luxury and making beautiful leather products. I inherited this love but I also wanted to build a brand. When I took over in 1990 I started working towards this end.
What does British luxury mean to you?
British luxury is intensely special, it is a look, a feel developed over centuries of craftsmanship and design. It is this history that makes British luxury so unique. Of course, it has to be high quality but it has to have something more, something that differentiates it from other global producers.
What’s your vision (for the company)?
To become a firmly established international brand, known for its quality, iconic style and integrity. Also to promote, enhance and foster historic British craftsmanship and prevent the loss of inherent skills which have been passed down from generation to generation.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Building the brand without the huge capital injections that other brands have utilised.
How do you define success?
Success to me is achieving one’s ambitions, however large or small they are, but not at the expense of other people.
What’s your greatest extravagance?
I do not really do extravagance but this is of course relative. I do like to be comfortable though.
What do you like most about your job?
Meeting interesting and talented people both nationally and internationally and mentoring young craftsmen just starting out.
I find sometimes that detail can be a little tiresome!
What has been your greatest regret?
Perhaps that I left building the brand so late but I have to remind myself that for everything there is a right time and a right place.
What inspires you?
Travelling around the world and seeing Ettinger products being sold and enjoyed in so very many different places globally. This inspires me enormously.
What was your big break?
In some ways getting the Royal Warrant, it is held globally in such high esteem as a guarantee of quality, craftsmanship and reliability. This so helps the development of international business.
What is your guiding principle?
If you cannot come to a decision then do nothing until you can.
Which living person do you most admire?
The Dalai Llama.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I guess like many people in the luxury business ‘elegant’ or any derivative of, ‘stylish’ and of course ‘luxury’.
What keeps you awake at night?
Generally not a lot actually, I think I am very lucky.
What do you most value in your friends?
Trust, kindness and loyalty but I also like them to be fun, quirky and interesting.
In a parallel life, what would you be doing?
A ski and mountain guide but I am getting a bit old for it now.
What piece of advice would you give someone entering the luxury industry now?
Make sure you start in a company that is right at the top and that they do their own manufacturing. It is important that they have a history and longevity. You want to gain experience of the best before considering branching out on your own.
Find out more at Ettinger.co.uk