Product Review: OHBA A4 Business Bag
Japan isn't just known for its unique, quirky streetwear, but also for a long history of artisanal tailors, shoemakers, and leather craftsmen. One of the best of these is the brand OHBA, a leather maker with a long history in Japan, who has recently branched out into international distribution. I've often viewed OHBA in Japan at stores like Isetan and Mitsukoshi, but I had a chance to speak with designer and CEO Kozo Ohba in Florence and view their classic A4 size leather business bag.
History: OHBA started in 1935 making schoolbags for the Imperial Primary School in Tokyo. Though they still make this classic line, they've branched out over the years into smaller leather goods, a women's collection, men's bags, and travel goods. They began international distribution in 2011 with a booth at Pitti Uomo, and are looking to expand further outside of Europe. Their trademarks are their quality, attention to detail, and wide range of styles and colors. In addition to a standard box calf, they also offer grained calf, cordovan, bridle leather, and exotics ranging from ostrich to crocodile to (legally culled) elephant. The A4 bag is available in black, beige, camel, green, dark brown, maroon, and a gorgeous turquoise blue.
Details:Pricing is in the premium range, about 140,000-170,000 yen, which depending on the exchange rate would range from $1500-2000. Quality, though, is no comparison to other "top" brands (Prada, Gucci, etc.) in this price range; imagine a BMW next to a Bugatti for the same price. A bag with this attention to detail from Gucci would be $5000 or more.
Nitpicky Criticisms:The only downsides to the brand are the poorly designed website, the limited distribution and (perhaps a personal preference) the sometimes slightly outdated feel to some of the bags. I feel as though Ohba could stand a consultancy with a brand stylist, who could help tweak very small bits here and there to give a more modern and contemporary feel. While quality is always superlative, sometimes a choice of hardware, lining material, or treatment to the leather looks like an afterthought to the function or shape of the bag; to contemporary shoppers, refinement of every single detail is essential to get just right, especially at that price level.
Overall: For a shopper looking to spend ~$2000 on a business bag, one would be hard pressed to find a better, more subdued, quieter sense of luxury that doesn't scream its provenance and will only get better with time. In short, Ohba is DEFINITELY worth a look.
Link to this particular bag
Two detail pics from the Ohba site showing range of colors and a detail of the soft calf leather.