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A Handle on the World

From Asprey to Zero Halliburton, Attachés Have Cachet. They Carry Clout--and Your Business Papers.
Debbi J. Karpowicz
From the Print Edition:
Ron Perelman, Spring 95

(continued from page 1)

Besides, when someone walks in with a vinyl "leather-look" briefcase (and probably cheap, scuffed midcalf boots), it raises the questions: Would you buy a used car from this person? How could you ever take him or her seriously?

Of course, if you're lucky--or rich enough--you might have an assortment of briefcases. Just ask Bob Ermatinger, executive vice president of the Luggage and Leather Goods Manufacturers of America, who owns what he calls a wardrobe of briefcases and selects one every day based on his destination. His six examples include an underarm envelope made by Stuart Kern of America, a Schlesinger soft-sided case with three compartments, two more soft cases by Coach and Stuart Kern, a "lawyer-type" Holland Sport glazed leather case, plus a $600 private-label suede-and-black-leather attaché. "It's the same case that Ronald Reagan carried," Ermatinger adds. "It's not made anymore. When the recession hit, no one could afford it."

Steve Berglas, a Boston-based psychologist and author of the book The Success Syndrome, also tailors his briefcase to his audience. When making a presentation to a successful firm, Berglas carries a soft, glove-leather Tumi briefcase. But when he meets with executives in a struggling business, he uses a less intimidating case. "It's like walking in with a jewel-encrusted Rolex," Berglas explains. "You don't want to wear it if the other people there are wearing Timex and Seiko watches."

Dick Forte, president and chairman of Forte Cashmere, owns three briefcases. His favorite is a $285 J. Peterman suede mailbag. " I can put two sweaters, or 12, in there," Forte says. "It's very convenient." However, when Forte travels to China and Mongolia, he uses a case that can withstand the rough treatment, a Samsonite that doubles as a carry-on bag and briefcase. "To go into China with a shiny leather briefcase is a mistake," says Forte. His third briefcase, which he uses for board meetings, is a soft London Fog that matches his luggage.

Another attaché enthusiast is Barry Berish, president and CEO of Jim Beam Brands, who owns six soft cases by Mark Cross, Bally and the Sharper Image as well as a 25-year-old Schlesinger. "I change briefcases; it's like buying a suit or tie," Berish says. "It gives me an uplifting feeling."

The ultimate briefcase connoisseur is Bob Saks, chairman and producer of the New York Friars Club, which created the famous "roast."

"I own six briefcases in black, brown and tan," Saks says. "I'm not going to take a brown attaché when I'm wearing a black suit. I have a wardrobe of cases," Saks explains, naming his Louis Vuitton and Mark Cross versions, which are two-and-a-half to three inches wide. "They're very sleek and stylish."

Every case that he owns "must have reinforced brass corners in all eight separate corners," Saks adds. "That's where all briefcases wear out the most."

Like Berglas, Saks adapts briefcase to audience. "I use my Asprey briefcase when I go from my office to a meeting. My briefcases that cost $1,000 to $3,000 and my $3,800 Dunhill alligator I use to go into a board meeting or a private conference room with a Fortune 500 company," he says. "It revolves around whom I'm seeing, how much paperwork I'm carrying and where I'm traveling."

The meticulous Saks uses the same modus operandi with his Corum and Piaget watches. His gray suits demand a white-gold watch, whereas his brown suits call for a gold timepiece.

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