The ultimate travel accessory is a handcrafted, custom-made leather bag
From the Print Edition:
Jeff Bridges, Sep/Oct 01
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The difference? Not much -- except the price, which is about 35 percent less than a comparable Swaine Adeney Brigg piece. "The biggest difference," says Eastwood, "is that Papworth is machine-sewn rather than entirely hand-stitched. The leather is identical to Swaine Adeney Brigg, as are the fittings. Really, Swaine Adeney Brigg is bespoke, where with Papworth you get to choose from only five colors and you can't modify the bag." Papworth's colors are various classic shades of tan, along with a killer black that is as sleek and expensive-looking as a stealth bomber.
The other great British luggage maker is Tanner Krolle, which makes some of the most refined-looking luggage today, as befits a company now owned by fashion powerhouse Chanel. (Tanner Krolle's Web site, www.tannerkrolle.com, is witty and elegant.)
Like Swaine Adeney Brigg, the craftsmen at Tanner Krolle specialize in absolute bespoke. "The sky's the limit," says John O'Sullivan of Tanner Krolle's "Private Client Suite" in London. "We come to visit you -- we come to the States several times a year -- or you can come to our Private Client Suite here in London.
"Our designer," he continues, "is based in Paris. She comes along with us when we travel. Designs are submitted to the client, along with leather swatches and hardware types. You can get any sort of leather you like: traditional English bridle leather, of course, but also alligator, ostrich -- you name it. Fittings can be silver, palladium, gun metal. You can come to the factory and see your luggage being made."
What's the price for all this bespoke service? Much depends on your desires. A different color from anything in its normal range sometimes adds 20 to 30 percent to the cost, according to O'Sullivan. A typical, "off-the-rack" piece costs between $770 and $1,050.
A word about savvy buying: because the exchange rate between the American dollar and the British pound is favorable to Americans, it can pay to buy direct from England. Shipping by United Parcel Service is not expensive and the U.S. customs duty is only about 8 percent. Apparently, people often see the luggage on a trip to London, then return home and order it through one of the company's reps. Although there is no substitute for seeing, handling and smelling their superb
luggage in their London shop, you can buy Swaine Adeney Brigg and Papworth bags through various Web-based representatives, who are all selling the same items. They forward your order to the company. It pays to shop around, as prices for identical items can vary.
Since their e-commerce representatives don't carry much stock, if at all, there is room to negotiate if you're insistent. Look at Kensington Trading Co. (www.kensingtontrading.com), Sterling & Burke Ltd. (www.classicluggage.com), UK Stuff (www.ukstuff.com) and We-Sell-It (www.we-sell-it.co.uk), among others.
Once past price, though, the appeal of top-of-the-line leather luggage is its sheer luxuriousness. Packing and unpacking will never be the same. These bags are so exquisitely made, and smell so good, you'll want to crawl in yourself.
Matt Kramer is a columnist for Wine Spectator magazine, Cigar Aficionado's sister publication.