A duffel built to last a lifetime—two if you count the cow's
There once was a time when travel was more glamorous and travel bags were better built.
I was pondering this awhile back while waiting at the TSA security check. Most of the people standing in line looked like they were on their way to the gym, or like they had literally just rolled out of bed. Most of their luggage looked as worn out as they did. One man stood out from the crowd – a 21st century Steve McQueen. He looked like he just stepped out of Esquire magazine and knew how to travel. In his hand, he carried a leather satchel similar to ours, and over his shoulder, he carried a vintage leather duffel. It was at this moment that I became convinced Kendal & Hyde Co. needed to make travel bags to match our satchels and briefcases.
INTRODUCING THE CLASSIC WEEKENDER DUFFEL.
At Kendal & Hyde, we make things that we want but are not finding for sale. It is only after we are happy with our creation that we offer it to others. The three qualities we require in a product before we are willing to put our name on it are STRENGTH, STYLE and UTILITY..
You might think I am a little obsessive about making strong products that are built to last - you'd be right if you did.
Nothing frustrates me more than when things break. Most products on the market today are built as cheaply as possible with substandard parts. When one seemingly insignificant part breaks, the whole product is wasted, either because it cannot be repaired or because it is not worth repairing. Personally, I would rather pay more for something that is built to last than continually be replacing things that wear out and break - not only is it less expensive in the long run, but it is a more responsible way to purchase in a world with limited resources.
Since we started Kendal & Hyde two years ago, I have broken two carry-on bags traveling to and from our factory each month. Granted, I do travel more than the average person, and sometimes my bags are crazy heavy with leather and hardware, but a bag really should last more than 10-12 uses.
I believe the key to making a product last is starting with the right materials. We choose our materials to not only last a long time, but also to continue to look good, if not better, over time.
LEATHER: Leather is strong. And the leather we use is the strongest kind of leather—full grain vegetable-tanned leather made from old American cows and bulls.
Full grain: The grain is the outermost part of the hide. It is also the strongest, and therefore, most valuable part of the hide. We don't resurface or remove any of the grain so our leather not only retains its full strength, it also retains it's full character with color variations, pores and, occasionally, even a nice scar from when the cow brushed up against some barbed wire or a branch, or from when it was branded.
Old American cows and bulls: The age and nationality of the animal that so graciously donated its hide to make your bag might not seem relevant, but it is. The older the animal is, the thicker and denser the leather. American and Canadian cows arguably have the thickest and cleanest hides on the planet. They cost more, but they are worth it.
Vegetable tanning: The two most common ways leather is tanned are: vegetable-tanned, which uses vegetable-derived tannins from sources such as oak and mimosa bark and takes at least 40 days to as much as a year to process; and chrome-tanned, which uses really nasty carcinogenic and earth-killing chemicals, but only takes one to two days to make. Over 90% of the leather produced in the world is chrome-tanned. Chrome-tanned leather is spongier, stretchier, weaker and a whole lot cheaper.
There are three reasons why I love vegetable-tanned leather and one reason why I hate it.
I love it because of the way it looks as it ages. Veg-tan has a rich and transparent look that is not matched in chrome-tanned leather. The color deepens as it ages and it develops a beautiful patina, giving it a beautiful antique look in a surprisingly short amount of time.
I love it because it is strong. Veg-tan is stronger and longer wearing than chrome-tanned leather. It's the type of leather used to make saddles, harnesses and bridles. It does not stretch as easily as chrome-tan and better retains its shape.
I love it because it is environmentally friendly. I have seen the waste water from vegetable tanneries dumping directly into pristine trout fishing rivers after the solids are filtered out and turned into fertilizer—the process is that natural and clean. Being made from farmed plant material and byproducts of the meat industry, vegetable-tanned leather is about as natural as you can get, and unlike many man-made materials, completely renewable.
I hate vegetable-tanned leather because it takes such a long time to make. The time it takes to make the vegetable-tanned leather we use represents more than 3/4 of our production timeline. I wish it were faster, but it is not. It is, however, well worth the wait.
HARDWARE: Every travel bag that has failed me has failed because of the hardware. Most bags nowadays have zinc, or worse, plastic hardware. Both break.
We only use solid cast brass hardware. Brass does not rust and is very strong. By my calculations, our hardware is about twenty times as strong as it needs to be. Each ring, buckle, and clip is rated to hold in excess of 300lbs without breaking. Overkill? Perhaps. But I know it will not break under any reasonable use, which is my primary concern.
We plate our brass hardware with a matte nickel finish. It's less gaudy than chrome and lends an air of age to the bag. It also does not chip like chrome plating can.
STITCHING: The thread is the weak link in any bag construction. In the past, cotton or linen were used. Unfortunately, the acidic nature of leather tends to erode natural fiber thread—this is why so many antique bags fall apart at the seams, even though the bag is in otherwise pristine condition.
Most modern bags are stitched with nylon. Nylon is good, but we go a step further and use marine-grade polyester. It's every bit as strong as nylon, but does not get brittle when exposed to UV light like nylon does, so it lasts much longer. Polyester costs three times more than nylon, which is why most companies don't use it. But when the bag you are making has over $100 in leather in it, what's a few more bucks for the thread? I don't understand why so many companies cut this corner.
RIVETS: Brass rivets are placed at points that receive extra stress. We have these rivets custom made to be the same color, only slightly darker than the rest of our brass hardware. Our rivets are also double capped, giving both sides a finished look. If rivets can be beautiful, these certainly are.
STEEL HANDLES: These handles are hard to make, but they are even harder to break. That's because they are made from 1/4" steel bars sheathed in polyester and then wrapped in full-grain leather.
INVERTED SEAMS: All the major seams in the body of our Classic Weekender are inverted. This construction technique is not done so much for the way it looks as for the way it wears. With the stitching on the inside, it is protected from snagging and wear, making the bag very durable—a quality needed for travel bags which take far more wear and abuse than most bags.
CANVAS LINER: We don't normally line our bags, but since this duffel is meant to hold your clothes, I think it's necessary. In an unlined bag, little bits of leather would inevitably attach themselves to your black sweater like lint.
The canvas we use is strong enough to be used for the outside of a bag or even shoes—in fact, that is what it is made for. Maybe it's overkill to use it for a bag liner, but almost every vintage leather bag I have ever seen that was cloth-lined had holes or tears in the liner because the cloth chosen was more appropriate for a pillow case than for a bag. I figure it's better to use durable materials to begin with than worry about repairs later.
OUR LIFETIME GUARANTEE: We built this bag to last and will stand behind it for your lifetime. We are not claiming that it is indestructible. We are, however, saying that we are building something worth repairing if it ever does break.
If something breaks during your lifetime, send it back and we will fix it. If you manage to wear it out beyond repair in your lifetime, we will replace it. If you abuse or use your bag in a way for which it was not intended and end up destroying it, well, we will be happy to sell you a new one - there are limits to our warranty so don't use it as a chew toy for your pet dingo, don't scuba dive with it or use it for target practice. In short, be reasonable, and we will take care of you, should something go wrong.
Most of our designs are inspired or based on bags from the first half of the 20th century. Bags from this period were built to last, and there was a simple honesty in the designs where form followed function. With a little wear and use, our bags are easily mistaken for vintage bags.
I studied a lot of old (as well as new) travel duffels for inspiration in making our duffel. I kept coming back to the arched top travel bags of the 1940s. I tracked a beautiful example of one of these vintage duffels across the Internet from Pinterest to the actual owner, who refused to sell it to me. She said it was her favorite bag and she would never let it go at any price. No worries though - the one we made is better and more useful, certainly for my travel needs.
SIZE: Our duffel is a bit larger and proportionally flatter than the bags from the 40s, measuring 19" long, 12" wide and 10.5" tall—ideally sized for the smaller overhead bins on regional jets in which most carry-on roller bags will not fit. If not stuffed full, it can even fit under the seat on some larger planes and so can be counted as your "one additional personal item." The volume is roughly 25 liters.
COLORS: Our Classic Weekender Duffel comes in the same four colors as our other products, so you can match all your bags and accessories perfectly.
I love and collect vintage bags. But they often don't meet my daily carry or travel needs. The biggest shortcoming I have found with vintage bags is they generally don't have a place to carry and protect a computer, an object more commonly found in my bag than a pen (or anything else for that matter).
Air travel with a computer has been a pain since 9/11. In my opinion, a simple, safe and convenient way to carry a computer is a mandatory feature in a travel bag. Moreover, there needs to be a way to quickly remove and restow the computer at the TSA security check without rifling through one's carefully packed clothes.
INTEGRATED COMPUTER SLEEVE The computer sleeve is accessed without mucking about in or even opening the main compartment - an essential feature, in my opinion. The internal sleeve is also not attached to the bag on three sides, allowing you to place clothing both above and below the computer sleeve serving as padding to protect your computer. By using the clothes you pack as padding, your computer is protected by two inches of cushion without actually losing any carrying capacity. (See update #5 "How to pack your Weekender" for more details.)
If you don't travel with a computer, this chamber can be used for other items you may want to keep separate from items in the main chamber, like toiletries or shoes.
When empty, the sleeve lays flat and does not take up any space in the duffel.
LOCKING ZIPPERS: Brushing up against people in crowds and stowing your bag in the overhead compartments on airplanes are notorious for opening zippers little by little until something falls out. Our zippers have an integrated locking mechanism that will only open if the tab is pulled. It is so subtle and seamless, you probably would never have noticed had I not pointed it out.
ZIPPER TAB HOLDERS: I don't know if we are the first to do this or not, and it probably doesn't matter, but both our zippers have a leather extension added that, when buttoned down, keeps the zipper pulls from dangling free. This feature is not to keep the zipper from opening accidentally—the zipper lock has that covered. The function of these little tabs is to keep the zippers from tinkling like little jingle bells when you walk.
DETACHABLE SHOULDER STRAP: This might seem like an obvious, necessary feature, but the original travel bags that inspired the Classic Weekender Duffel did not have shoulder straps.
Most leather straps you find on bags nowadays are made from two pieces of thin leather sewn together over a nylon core (needed to keep the thin chrome-tanned leather from stretching). The problem is that the stitching on such straps takes the most wear of any part of the bag. Over time, the thread will fray, look bad and eventually break, requiring a replacement or a repair.
Our shoulder strap is made from a single-ply piece of 4.5mm thick leather taken from near the midline of an old bull's back where the leather is thick, dense and strong—it's the same leather we use to make our belts. It has minimal stretch and next to no stitching that can wear or break.
Our shoulder pad is unique, as far as I know. Rather than stuffing it with neoprene foam, which makes the leather wrinkle as it curves over your shoulder (which is more uncomfortable than no pad at all in my opinion), we use leather inside our pad. Not only does our leather-stuffed pad not wrinkle, it molds to and holds the shape of your shoulder, increasing in comfort the more you use it. It might sound strange that hard leather would make for more comfortable padding than foam, but in this case, it works.
INTERNAL POCKETS: Duffels are meant to be one cavernous utility space, but I find that a few little divisions come in handy for organizing small objects like keys, toiletries and electronics chargers. The Classic Weekender Duffel has four internal pockets to help you keep everything organized.
ACCESSORY CLIP: There is an extra D-ring on the outside of our bag to attach a travel tag, water bottle or anything else with a clip. (Before you ask - Yes, we make this water bottle holder as well as matching leather travel tags.)
TRAVEL DOCUMENTS POCKET: Sometimes you need a free hand, and to temporarily tuck your boarding pass and ID away—at least I do. At the airport, this little pocket is one of my favorite features.
SOLID BRASS FEET: Five feet protect the leather on the bottom of our duffel from wear and weather. These feet are riveted on and very secure.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
I get a lot of questions about how to care for leather and in particular how to care for our products. Leather is, as morbid as it sounds, skin. When the skin was alive it was constantly nourished with oils to keep it flexible. As leather there is not natural process to replenish the oils so you must do it by rubbing on a conditioner.
I recommend a deep conditioning with a light oil dressing (leather dressing, not salad dressing). It's hard to put on too much in the initial application so put in on thick and let it soak into the leather for a few minutes or longer before wiping away the excess. You will notice the color deepens as the leather it wet with the oils. you may even get a few dark drips and think you ruined the leather. don't worry, the discoloration will fade in a few days as the oil penetrates and spreads throughout the inner fibers. Letting the bag sit someplace warm will speed the process. You may want to repeat after a few weeks. Once you have completed your deep conditioning a heavier weather protectant cream with a higher wax content is used to spread a layer of heavy oils and waxes on the surface to repel water. Reapply the weather protectant when you bag feels dry or gets wet. When properly protected there is a slight waxy feel and water beads and rolls of rather than penetrates. It's the same care regime one would use to care for a horse saddle or leather boots.
There are many good products on the market or you can choose from to protect your HYDE with our suite of leather care products made from natural oils and beeswax. We do not use any silicone, petroleum oils or solvents in our leather care products which can damage your leather over time. Because of their all natural ingredients, our leather care products are safe to apply with your bare hands.
If you would like some of our leather care product added to your order, just add the value of the leather care products you want to your pledge now and then you will be asked in the survey which products you want.
Our LEATHER LIQUOR is 8 or 16oz. of deep conditioning love designed to moisturize, lubricate and soften leather fibers. It is great for restoring dry and brittle leather and preventing further damage.
8oz. LEATHER LIQUOR retail $18 Kickstarter SPECIAL $15
16oz. LEATHER LIQUOR retail $30 Kickstarter SPECIAL $25
Our LEATHER CREAM is a heavier conditioner designed to leave a thick protective beeswax coating to repel moisture and protect your leather—a must have to keep your satchel looking its best. Apply as needed for weather protection. After application wait a few hours then buff off any excess with a dry cotton rag or horse hair brush. Comes in 4oz. or 8oz. tins.
4oz. LEATHER CREAM retail $18 Kickstarter SPECIAL $15
8oz. LEATHER CREAM retail $30 Kickstarter SPECIAL $25
Both our Leather Liquor and our Leather Cream come in three scents:
HONEYCOMB—Beeswax is one of the main ingredients in our leather care products, but we added a bit more honey scent to make it smell like just like warm honeycomb fresh out of a beehive—if fresh honeycomb is not something you have had the opportunity to smell, put it on your list.
LEATHER—Want your leather to smell more like leather, or rather to keep that new leather smell? This is your scent.
OLD BOOK—You know that smell that really old stuff and antique stores have? Our perfumer describes it as a mixture of vanilla and grass which actually is harder to imagine than just saying it smells like old books. Well, you can make your bag smell like that. You might ask "Why would I want to make my new bag smell like an old book?" "Why not?" we reply. We are making you a bag that is meant to look like it was passed down from your grandfather, why not complete the effect by making it smell like it did?
Retail $30 Special Kickstarter price: $20 ($10 off retail)
Made of the same leather we use to make the duffel to match your duffel, and double stitched to last as long. Holds a standard 3.5"x 2" card.
Retail $65 special Kickstarter price: $55 ($10 off retail)
Our passport cover has become my travel wallet. Passport, credit and travel reward cards and some cash - everything I need while I travel in one beautiful leather package small enough to fit in my pocket. Double stitched with burnished edges.
ADD ON WATER BOTTLE HOLDER AND STAINLESS STEEL THERMOS BOTTLE
Retail $80 special Kickstarter price: $65 ($15 off retail)
Holds a 500ml S'well-type water bottle, 800ml Kleen Kanteen or any 2.8" diameter bottle. No worries if you don't have one of these types of water bottles because we are going to include one stainless steel vacuum-sealed thermos that will keep your hots hot and the colds cold without getting hot on the outside or sweating. These water bottle holders are compatible with our past and future bags.
CLASSIC WEEKENDER DUFFEL
Retail $550 special Kickstarter price: $400 ($150 off retail price)
One weekender duffel and matching shoulder strap. Your color preference will be asked after the campaign ends.
If you would like more than one reward, pledge for the highest reward, then add the reward value of any additional items. Additional items ship free with the highest priced reward. We will confirm all the items you wish after the campaign ends.
- JULY–AUGUST design and prototyping COMPLETED
- MAY–SEPTEMBER leather development IN PROGRESS
- JULY–AUGUST manufacture custom hardware COMPLETED
- SEPTEMBER–NOVEMBER tan leather for first 200 bags
- OCTOBER 2 launch of Kickstarter campaign
- OCTOBER 5-9 final design tweaks and overseeing the production standard samples COMPLETED
- OCTOBER 12–16 make cutting dies COMPLETED
- NOVEMBER 2 end of Kickstarter campaign
- NOVEMBER 2 order additional leather for second production as needed
- NOVEMBER 16 receive funds from Kickstarter
- NOVEMBER–DECEMBER production of first 200 bags (7 weeks)
- JANUARY shipping first 200 bags (3 weeks)
- JANUARY (2016) second production of additional bags (4 weeks)
- FEBRUARY (2016) shipping second production bags (3 weeks)
Risks and challenges
This is not our first campaign, but we are still a young company. With each product launch we learn a little more and get better and quicker, but problems can and usually do arise. The one that concerns us the most is leather. The leather we use is vegetable-tanned and quite thick. It is custom made to our specifications and takes two to three months just to make. If the tannery makes a mistake or something goes wrong in the process, it can take a long time to get replacement leather. This has happened to us before and has delayed production schedules on past projects by months. Because of such delays in the past, we have moved our business to a different tannery that has proven to be much more reliable. We have been developing our custom concept for leather with this new tannery for nearly six months and are now in full production with them, and we should have a steady supply of the most beautiful leather we have ever worked with from here on out.
All our other vendors and partners are organizations we have been working with for some time now. Yeah, problems still happen, shipments of hardware get lost or delayed, and there are always a few holidays, but these are minor bumps we can deal with.
The timelines we present are our true and projected timelines, not padded to give us more time than we need, or artificially shortened to get more backers. Timelines often get confounded, but we keep our backers informed of the progress, the expectations, the windfalls and the delays.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (32 days)