In my experience, finding a good business bag is fairly easy. Aside from color and the grade of leather, there are only so many variations on a classic men’s briefcase and after a certain point, the differences all lie in the small details. I’ve also found that it’s fairly easy to find a sports or school bag: one looks for function and a relatively low price, and often chooses from a narrow range of lightweight synthetic materials like nylon or plastic.
Finding a classic, luxurious casual bag that is well made and fairly priced, however, I’ve found is not particularly easy. One sees cheap canvas bags from department store brands with odd logos or patterns and stiff, glued together materials; one then sees across town $2000+ offerings from Yves Saint Laurent, Missoni, or Bottega Veneta. Stylistically, one needs something less stuffy than a briefcase, but dressier than a nylon backpack, a casual bag that can be used for going out in the daytime, carrying while on vacation, or just something to sling over one’s shoulder while on the run. For price, one wants something that won’t require a second mortgage.
In my years of searching, one of the best brands that fits this middle-range is Italian brand Daniel & Bob. Though they’ve been a popular brand around the world for decades, but they’ve yet to make a large splash in the US market. I was happy to see them presented at Pitti and to have a chance to discuss the new collections with owner and founder, Andrea Bortolotti.
What I like: the brand does a great job of relaxed, casual bags made in Italy from high quality materials at a fair price. The styles aren’t pretentious or stuffy; the leathers and canvases are often soft and washed, giving a broken-in, slightly worn feel. As well, given that they’ve been in business since the 1970’s, they are hardly just copying trends and have steadily produced collections with a definite and recognizable aesthetic. And, with prices ranging from $400-1000, depending on size/leather/etc, it’s definitely accessible to those looking for a step up from department store brands, but not wanting to spend $2500+ for Bottega Veneta. For the price, the quality is very good, bordering on excellent; this season, a soft calf shoulder bag features a gorgeous leather that, Andrea tells me, comes from the same source that Hermes uses for its newest soft-calf line.
What I don’t: Sometimes the styles look experimental or with functions I couldn’t imagine, and sometimes there is a small logo embossed or placed on a leather tag in a too-conspicuous spot. As well, sometimes the hardware or lining looks a little light, though Andrea told me directly that he’s aware of this and is working to find a good balance of cost/quality (for those who don’t know, zippers are like shoes or anything else… there are Hushpuppies and there are Lattanzis).
Overall: It’s definitely a good brand with a good history, working hard to maintain a level of integrity as it continues to grow and expand around the world. Japan, for example, has become its key market and Andrea mentioned doing more business there than anywhere else in the world; he mentioned that they go his brand for the high quality-to-price ratio and the distinctive, but not garish, styling. This expansion has given him the ability to experiment and streamline, and he’s excited to take his ideas about bags and bring them into new markets. When he does, I’ll definitely be waiting.