MADE TO LAST
Through uncompromising quality and timeless design, Ghurka strives to create a product that provides a lifetime of experiences for its clients. This simple, yet powerful, vision was formed from the most unlikely of places – old army gear.
Marley Hodgson, the man who founded Ghurka, was browsing an estate sale in England in the early 1970s and noticed an unusual collection of army boots, belts and backpacks. Immediately struck by the condition and character of the leather, he learned they had once belonged to a commander with the Nepalese Gurkhas, a British Army unit. Though more than 50 years old, the leather remained supple and sturdy.
Inspired by the resilience and ruggedness of the Gurkha soldier himself and the gear he carried, Marley conceived the Ghurka brand (a deliberate misspelling of Gurkha), which, nearly half a century later, continues to embrace his vision of uncompromising quality.
The first Ghurka bag, a leather knapsack, was created in 1975, and was quickly followed by The Express No. 2, a roomy carry-all that epitomizes Ghurka’s timeless design. Originally constructed of simple brushed twill, leather trim and solid brass hardware, The Express remains one of Ghurka’s most sought-after bags. “It was the first serious Ghurka bag,” says Marley. “It has an adventurous spirit and harks back to the grand era of style. It has a lot of beauty and seems to get more beautiful as it gets older.”
Decades on, the enduring Ghurka design and craftsmanship continue, highlighted with the classic duffle bags – now popular in walnut and chestnut-coloured leathers – and luxurious rolling suitcases, the likes of which are owned by Meghan Markle and Francis Ford Coppola, among many others.
“Though Marley has moved on from Ghurka, his vision has not,” says Steve Latkovic, Ghurka’s CEO and co-owner. “Our team continues to be inspired by the countless stories from customers about their journeys with a Ghurka, often involving the passing on of something well-worn and storied.” Last year, a customer recalled being gifted a Ghurka wallet by his father in 1996. “It was an 18th birthday and high-school graduation present,” he wrote. “It was there for the passing of my father three years later, my college graduation, marriage to my high-school sweetheart, medical school graduation, and finally the births of my two sets of twins. Finally, after 22 years, I needed a replacement, and my wife gifted me with the same style Ghurka wallet. Thank you for crafting an incredible product.”
In 1984, the brand received a request from the White House: President Ronald Reagan commissioned a set of custom-made Ghurka agendas, hand-embossed with the presidential seal. Ghurka has since worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands and celebrities, from creating custom collections for Bill Gates and LeBron James to providing co-branded, leather pouches and trays for McLaren car owners. “We’re humbled by our own heritage,” says Steve.
An emphasis on quality and time-tested production techniques has created a true American heritage brand, with many bags still stitched by hand in Connecticut by dedicated artisans. “We have a lot of the same folks here who were making the first bags 40 years ago,” says Steve. “That alone speaks to the passion everyone has for this brand, its heritage and our shared desire to create something different together. Something that tells a story. Something that will last for generations.”