As we noted a few months ago, Abercrombie & Fitch catalogs are fairly common, and while these relics do present a glimpse into the once great brand, we would trade them all for just a few photographs of A&F’s old Madison Avenue location. This twelve story emporium at the corner of Madison and 45th towered over midtown Manhattan, encapsulating every conceivable item that the modern man could ever need. At its height the shop contained a shooting range, a fishing pond, an art gallery, and a golf school, but in the mid-century the store (and really the brand at large) began to shift away from outdoor pursuits towards home goods as a way of courting a younger audience that had no interest in A&F’s hunting heritage. It was around this time that they introduced Omersa’s leather ottomans to the shop. Abercrombie & Fitch was an Omersa stockist from the sixties through the eighties, but the brand’s story starts back in 1927, when “Old Bill,” a luggage maker for Liberty of London crafted a pig shaped footrest from his leftover pigskin.
This original animal ottoman became a hit for Liberty and when Old Bill retired in the fifties, he decided that the brand should continue. Old Bill found his heir in Dimitri Omersa, a Yugoslavian who had migrated to England with his wife Inge to work in the leather trade where he was introduced to Old Bill. The Omersa’s gleefully took over the ottoman business and that initial pig was soon joined by an elephant, a donkey, a rhino, and scores of other leather creatures. As their business surged in the U.K., Dimitri introduced his army of animal-shaped ottomans to America at the Sacramento Craft Fair in 1963 where his donkey took home a gold medal.
With their leather zoo available at A&F stores nationwide, Omersa’s creations soon appeared on the pages of Vogue and on screen in Factory Girl, immortalizing the ottomans as a quintessential mid-century modern curiosity. Omersa continues to produce about fifteen-hundred ottomans to this day, but it’s their vintage creatures, which have gained a gorgeous patina over the years that have become incredibly sought after, fetching as much as a couple thousand dollars at auction. That might sound like a lot of money for a footrest, but just think of it as some priceless (leather) animal companionship.