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 â€œOld Bill,â€ 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.
Comments on “Omersa Ottomans | Put Your Feet Up”
It’s great to see Omersa getting some love after all these years. I cherish my Omersa animals. They continue to be a source of inspiration…
Like many folks of a certain advanced age, I also miss the Abercrombie & Fitch of old.
Sadly, the name A&F is now not even a shadow of its former self–the old A&F was a magnate store….I bought a beautiful leather collar there for my first Weimariner, back in 1967…..the old Brooks-Brothers and A&F, institutions of a “never to return” era!
A&F went out of business in 1977. The name A&F is being used by a completely different organization that had nothing to do with the original A&F. The bankrupt store’s name was bought by a mailorder sporting goods company, and then they sold the name to the Limited.
The A$f name was bought by a group,of savvy lawyers……..it is meaningless now.
Anyone else realize thats Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate (of Mason murders fame) in the phot on the rhino?
That was just brilliant. Favorite one is the Rhino.
I actually have very fond memories of going into the A&F store off Union Square in San Francisco as a child, where they had the larger size Omersa Rhino greeting customers as they entered. Edie’s famous picture made them “cool,” but of course old firms like Bullock & Jones, Abercrombie, Willis & Geiger, Burberry, Brooks Bros., Robert E. Kirk, Eddie Bauer, and even upstart 1980s Banana Republic (before being sold to The Gap) kept alive the spirit of clothes that you bought to wear for decades (I still have lots of BR, W&G, B&J clothing in my wardrobe), not years (or even a season). I have Omersa bookmarked, waiting for the day when I throw financial caution to the wind and buy my own rhino. Oh, wait — that’s right, I need a classic leather Eames recliner to pair it with. ;)
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