Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016

8.13.2007

Omersa's Menagerie



For years I thought this iconic leather elephant was Abercrombie and Fitch's. Indirectly he used to be. In that era from the mid-1970s to whenever it was that A&E became a very different kind of store, these wild creatures were sold there. But the manufacturer was, and still is, a small British company: Omersa.

I know this only because last year I helped my mom order online a pair of hippos directly from Omersa's current owner, Josie Dale. (BTW: the customer service was excellent.)

Apparently the first animal, a pig, was created by a luggage-maker in 1927, using scrap pigskin. The craftsman soon started selling his stuffed animals as footstools through Liberty of London. In 1958, Dimitri Omersa bought the company and expanded the range of animals to include a now famous rhinoceros, an elephant, a donkey and others.

Omersa animals from the 1960s through mid-1970s are hot collectors' items. (Embossed on the underside of their ears is "Liberty," marking an exclusive deal with the legendary London emporium. My uncle had one of these "period" pigs.) Today the animals are still handmade in rural Lincolnshire.


Above, I think I spot an Omersa in Ruthie Sommers' den as seen in the December 2006 Cottage Living. Photo, Grey Crawford.

Scully and Scully is an online U.S. retailer, and I think Mecox Gardens stocks a few animals too. Because of the price, I view these oh-so-charming stools as a luxury item but they are totally kid-friendly, forever pieces.

(See also Frances' cute related post, Scully and Scully.)

13 comments:

Fairfax said...

I just read a book about Edie Sedgwick and she carried one of their hippos along on her adventures.

style court said...

Fairfax, how cool! I need to add a photo. Thanks!

paola said...

Not so kid-friendly. We've got one of the pigs and when my daughter started dribbling on it, brown dye dripped off onto the floor...

Possibly TMI :)

The Peak of Chic said...

I never knew this about Omersa! My parents have a hippo from A&F that they purchased in the 70s. I've always loved it.
(Do you remember the "old" A&F at Phipps back in the 70s? That was fun!)

style court said...

Jennifer, yes! The original Santa with his sled, the old movie theatre and A & E :)

Brilliant Asylum said...

...and Saks with it's grand staircase. They never should have taken that out!

robyn said...

I love these animal stools, can't wait to check out Omersa.
Thanks once again :)

patriciagrayinc.com said...

Very cute little guy. I am sure he is treasured more as the years go by.

Habitually Chic said...

I've never hear of this company before. I love learning something new! Thanks for the post!

patriciagrayinc.com said...

Just watched the DVD Factory Girl last night about Andy Warhol and guess what Sienna Miller (AKA Edie Sedgwick) brought in to her apartment...the lovely iconic leather elephant and announced that it was from Abercrombie & Fitch.

style court said...

Patricia,

Thanks for this detail! Haven't seen the film, so I would've missed this.

Career Girl said...

I have an original Omersa Rhino that my parents bought at Liberties in the late 60's. I have an old photo of Edie Sedgwick in her apartment in the Chelsea hotel, practicing her ballet on top of the same one. The Omersa website mentions that Factory Girl bought one for the shoot. I love love love mine! I also have a much newer, tiny rhino footstool. I will attest that they are not kid friendly (or puppy proof for that matter) but few of the great heirloom are right?
Thanks for the post!

Pollyvousfrancais said...

I have a large hippo footstool named Hubert which I got from Scully & Scully. He's my cheap date: doesn't eat anything and never talks back.

@Paola, they are kid-friendly; you just have to apply nikwax to keep the hide in good shape.