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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 2)

Basically there are three styles of business cases. An attaché is a fully framed, box-shaped, hard-sided business case usually secured by one or more combination locks. This is the type people usually think of when they hear the generic term "briefcase." To open it, you lay the case flat on its side; the top inside is frequently fitted with pockets or files to organize papers and other accessories like your Filofax agenda and calculator.

A briefcase, which is typically associated with attorneys and accountants, opens at the top while upright. It can be secured with a lock. The interior is usually fitted with two or more compartments with gussets that allow for expandability.

Envelopes are carried under the arm and have flap enclosures plus locks or snaps.

In the market for a business case? If you want to be in style, you'll have to forsake the hard attaché--once the ultimate yuppie status symbol--in favor of soft cases, which are lightweight, have a place for everything and allow for a shoulder strap. Due to changing consumer lifestyles, there's now a trend toward soft, supple looks. Besides, if your company has "casual day" on Friday, do you really want to lug a formal attaché?

In fact, sales of hard cases have plummeted in the past three years. The most dramatic drop occurred in 1993, according to industry estimates by Showcase, the trade publication of the Luggage and Leather Goods Manufacturers of America. That year, 7 million business cases were sold--down from 8.6 million in 1992.

"Basically, more and more people seem to carry less traditional business cases in favor of more casual styles like briefbags, backpacks and totes," explains Michele Pittenger, spokesperson for the luggage and leather-goods industry.

Michael Gelman, executive producer of "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee," follows the trend with his soft, black Coach briefcase. "I bought it for myself in East Hampton," Gelman explains. "I've always loved Coach leather. It's sturdy, functional and classic looking. My briefcase weighs about 20 pounds, and I have tennis elbow in my right arm, so I carry it in my left. Then I developed tendinitis in my left arm from carrying it, so now I switch back and forth...maybe I need a backpack," he says with a laugh.

You might also follow the example of Matt Lauer, the news anchor on NBC-TV's "Today" show, who carries a black private-label soft case from Barney's. "It was a gift from my girlfriend last Christmas," Lauer says. "I carried around an old, black satchel for 12 years, and it was completely broken. I keep all my wire copy for stories [in my case], newspapers, keys, checkbook and sunglasses. It's very boring."

Lauer commiserates with Leach. "When I first got my briefcase, I tended to forget it. Now it's like a ring on my finger. In New York City, you can't put a briefcase down for one second. They tend to disappear."

Another soft-sided-attaché enthusiast is Daniel Boulud, the chef/owner of the French restaurant Daniel in New York, who carries a black Longchamp briefcase. "It's soft leather with three pockets," Boulud says. "I carry my weekly and monthly reports, recording machine, cash organizer, pictures of my daughters, keys, three pairs of glasses and cookbooks."

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