I was born and brought up in Zimbabwe, surrounded by a menagerie of unusual animals.
My days were filled with exciting adventures on the African veldt. My grandfather, an eccentric Englishman, lived in the bush and had an unrivalled knowledge of cattle and a passion for game. It is therefore no surprise that my design inspiration comes from the wonderful memories I have of my African upbringing.
Early 1930’s | Justine's Grandmother and Grandfather being pulled across
the Save River bed by their cattle during the dry season.
Growing up, I was surrounded by cattle and game, and in years of drought the garden overflowed with tiny orphaned animals until they were big enough to be released safely back into the wild - from otters to elephants we had them all.
My first real friendship was an orphaned baby zebra named Dube when I was just 2 years old. My unique relationship with Dube cemented my adoration for the wonderful African bush and all the creatures that inhabit it. Years later, in 2016, the delightful Abbey Road came into our lives at only one day old. Abbey has inspired much of my recent work, and I am working on a new collection of evening bags which will include an element in their design to pay tribute to these wonderful stripey friends who are so much a part of who I am.
1989 | Justine, showing off her friend Dube
… 30 years later, Justine & Abbey Road 'catching up'
After completing secondary school in Zimbabwe, I went to university in England and Rome, and then studied at the famous Florentine leather school, La Scuola del Cuoio.
Under the exacting mentorship of true artisans I was taught the skills of handcrafting leather. By adopting the practices of the masters of Italy that have been developed and perfected over centuries, each of my leather articles exudes a quality and distinctiveness that can only be derived when a product is totally crafted by hand.
2017 | Justine in the Studio working on a custom gun sling order
2019 | Justine measuring a new belt on the Saru Print
I wanted to create a product that is 100 % my own, so I painstakingly designed each buckle myself. These have been brought to life by a professional sculptor and
individually hand-cast using the traditional lost-wax method.
While brass is the principal casting metal, buckles can be custom-made in various shades of bronze, silver and other metals, set with a single stone, or several.
All J de la Rue articles are handmade in Zimbabwe and South Africa.
2018 | Setting a Tiger's Eye into a rose bronze buckle for a customer in London
2015 | Getting ready for her first trade show. Justine learnt that every cabochon is slightly different in shape so here she has set each wax buckle with its own cabochon.
In appreciation of my family’s ranching history in the Low-veld of Rhodesia, every J de la Rue article combines African cattle skin with
an element of exotic in a design that is reflective of the geometric detail seen in tribal African pattern.
The J de la Rue prints are a wonderful reflection of the wildlife that surrounded her as she grew up. Some are realistic, while others have been selected for their ethnic feel. Then there is the smooth, supple bridle leather which has been deliberately hand finished with waxes and oils to show the true character of the leather.
All leather used for J de la Rue products has been sustainably sourced from farms with ethical practices as a by-product of the farming industry in South Africa and Italy. Each ostrich shin used is traceable back to the free-range farm it came from.
2018 | Justine browsing skins in the Italian Tannery where her prints are done
In appreciation of my family’s ranching history in the Lowveld of Rhodesia each belt is embossed with the old family cattle brand.
2016 | Embossing time in the Studio
2015 | The first belt Justine made branded and with her signature cross-keeper