“Old Bill” 1927 – late 1950’s
The story goes that the first leather pig came into being almost by accident when ‘Old Bill’, who worked making hand luggage for the department store Liberty of London, wondered what could be done with leftover leather. He came up with the idea of a footstool in the shape of a pig which he offered to Libertys for resale.
In those early days the pigs were made from pigskin and had very long noses. The picture below is the oldest example of a pig made in the 1930’s for which we have a photo. It is still in the hands of the family and has visited us a few times over the years for some TLC.
To celebrate our 90th birthday in 2017, we designed a “90th anniversary pig” (code ENG/1702) along the style of the original. Production was limited to 90 pieces with the issue number stitched on to the underbelly. This piece is no longer available as all 90 pieces have now been issued.
Libertys has stocked our animals ever since the 1930’s making the product very much a part of Libertys heritage as well as our own.
1958 – 1985 Dimitri and Inge Omersa
Dimitri Omersa, a Yugoslav by birth, and a naval officer by profession, was imprisoned by the country’s ruler Tito for 10 years after the second world war. After his release, he and his wife Inge came to England in 1955 and settled at Lavender Croft in Hitchin, Hertfordshire.
Dimitri Omersa found work in the leather trade and whilst representing a small Hitchin leather company he met ‘Old Bill’ at Liberty’s. ‘Old Bill’ was due to retire and a deal was struck for Dimitri Omersa to take over the business and continue the supply of pigs to Liberty’s. The brand name Omersa was established at this point. The business re located from London to Hitchin in 1958 and before long Dimitri Omersa had ideas for other animals.
His first new piece was an elephant, followed by the donkey and rhinoceros. Initially, Liberty’s were sceptical of the rhino but it became a “best seller” and subsequently formed the Omersa logo. In the UK, the animals were made exclusively for Libertys until the mid 1970’s. During this period, animals can be found with LIBERTYS OF LONDON embossed on an ear.
1963 – Omersa expands into North America
Dimitri Omersa expanded the business beyond the UK and took the animals to North America. In 1963 he entered his new donkey in the Californian State Fair and won a Gold medal. Despite the donkey’s very thin and rather wobbly legs!
The animals caught the eye of Abercrombie and Fitch, at that time a high end purveyor to the fantasies of the rich and famous. The animals held a place in the A&F catalog from the mid 1960’s through to the late 1980’s when the department store went into administration. Since then the animals have been stocked by Scully and Scully of Park Lane, New York and with whom we continue to supply today.
Dimitri Omersa passed away in 1975 and his wife Inge carried on producing the animals for a further 10 years.
1985 – to date
In 1985 another “Hitchin” family, Jeremy and Jane Cave, acquired the business from Inge Omersa. Jane continued to grow the business by adding to the product range and introducing new sizes to meet the economic needs of the market place.
Jane Cave retired in 1999 when the business was sold and relocated to rural Lincolnshire. The business remains in the hands of the Dale family with the 2nd generation now involved in the business. The business has continued to grow organically under our stewardship with new product styles/sizes being added. We are always mindful of product quality and limit our annual production to ensure we provide an excellent product and friendly customer service. Above all we want you to be thrilled with your purchase and one that will be treasured for many years to come.
2017 – Omersa badge
To confirm the authenticity of our animals, we added a leather badge in 2017 bearing the name OMERSA and the year of manufacture. Going forward there will be no doubt as to the provenance.