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Review: Custom leather briefcase from Narragansett Leathers in Maine, US.

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Mr. Moo, May 9, 2011.

  1. Mr. Moo

    Mr. Moo Senior member

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    I have had a number of briefcases over the last year or two – a sort of trial and error to see what I like and don’t like about each kind of style, sometimes mixed in with a bit of “leather artisantry wannabe” to explore how to restore/rejuvenate older cases. In my never ending search for the perfect case I happened upon a website of a US-based artisan (in Maine) who made leather bags, briefcases, belts, and other such leather items. I contacted the Alan McKinnon of Narragansett Leathers (http://www.narragansettleathers.com/ e-mail: McKinnon752@roadrunner.com), to see what he can do for me – basically, to see if I can customize a briefcase and if so, how much customization room I had. Alan and I exchanged many e-mails in total from start to finish, with Alan explaining what he could and could not offer in terms of style, finish and cost. Every e-mail was answered within, at most, 48 hours with a detailed, thoughtful reply. He sent me photos of completed cases so that I can see some of what was possible, and explained why he would choose one styling or structural detail over another. His 40+ years of experience put me at ease in that the level of quality that I was expecting would be met with superlative expertise. For me, hand-made, well made and “not horribly expensive” were the top 3 category check boxes that I wanted to fill – and I think Alan accomplished that wonderfully. Do note that Alan hand cuts and assembles each briefcase – a one man operation. I told Alan that I wanted the following features, and he was able to accommodate them all: •Chestnut color (basically a slightly darker/richer British Tan) •17"x13"x4" dimensions (exterior) •2 interior compartments - 3" (closest to front) and 1" (closest to back) •Two pen holders and one miscellaenous sized holder on the middle panel, placed close together in the middle of the panel •Two strap/buckle closures in natural finish, solid brass color •Rounded flap edge •Back 'quick access' pocket covering entire back of the bag As you can see, you have a choice of leather color, dimensions, compartment number and size, interior adornments, flap style, closing style, buckle style, and exterior finishing. This is where my imagination took me, so I am not sure if there is room for more personalization outside of the categories I’ve listed. The type of leather (quality, tanning process) is very important to me. I love leather, and I want it to look good, age nicely, and be sturdy for a long time. Alan uses the Wickett & Craig tannery out of Curwensville, PA (http://www.wickett-craig.com/). His choice for his briefcases is the English Bridle vegetable tanned leather. It is 6-7oz in weight, which is perfect for this application. The leather comes with a finished backside, so Alan does not line his bags. I was hesitant about this, but now that I have the bag I rather like that it’s not lined. The leather as described on the Wickett and Craig site: “Used in more ways than we can count, drum dyed and hot stuffed, English bridle needs no finishing. After drum dying we impregnate the leather with our own formula of waxes and oils to create durable yet flexible leather. We then finish the grain and flesh with our rich beautiful aniline dye to show off the natural texture. Last, we seal the color in and then finish it with a wax coat to give it a look like none other! Check out our “color” and “pricing” tabs for more information.” Alan’s construction and artisanship, IMO, is top notch. The bag is very well made, with nice attention to detail and excellent stitching, leather thickness. It's one of those "you know it's great just by looking at it" bags. The stitching is by machine at about 10 SPI. Everything is tight and even, with no loose threads/skewed edges or anything of the sort. The handle is thick yet comfortable, and the interior pockets are exactly as I wanted them. OK, enough writing. Here are some photos that Alan sent to me while he was making the bag. I asked for these specifically so that I can see how it’s made, and Alan gratefully accepted to do so. [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] And here are some of my photos that I took today. It took about one month from order to delivery. [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] Overall, I am extremely happy with how my first custom bag turned out!​
     
  2. SpooPoker

    SpooPoker Internet Bigtimer and Most Popular Man on Campus Dubiously Honored Affiliate Vendor

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    Holy fuck. Thats a great bag. You put in every detail except the most important one though.... [​IMG]
     
  3. Guero

    Guero Senior member

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    Looks really nice, congratulations.
     
  4. Harold falcon

    Harold falcon Senior member

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    I have one of their belts. Quality leather. Nice business.
     
  5. Mr. Moo

    Mr. Moo Senior member

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    Holy fuck. Thats a great bag. You put in every detail except the most important one though.... [​IMG]

    Thanks man. I don't want to mention the price, but he has prices listed on his website. Mine was a bit more than his list due to the customization aspect and that I picked the larger of the two case sizes that he worked from.

    Looks really nice, congratulations.

    I have one of their belts. Quality leather. Nice business.

    Thanks guys.
     
  6. w.o.e.is.me.

    w.o.e.is.me. Senior member

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  7. crider8883

    crider8883 Well-Known Member

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    I have a couple belts from these guys. Can't beat the quality - especially for the price you would pay for a mediocre belt at Marshalls.
     
  8. Mr. Moo

    Mr. Moo Senior member

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    niiiice.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    I have a couple belts from these guys. Can't beat the quality - especially for the price you would pay for a mediocre belt at Marshalls.
    I agree. And, to be clear - it's just one guy and his wife. [​IMG]
     
  9. sinnedk

    sinnedk Senior member

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  10. teddieriley

    teddieriley Senior member

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    Wait, you smell that?
  11. GBear

    GBear Senior member

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    Wow, that's amazing!

    Does anyone know how this compares to Customhide?
     
  12. embowafa

    embowafa Senior member

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    Really nice bag moo.

    *obligatory deerskin reference* [​IMG]
     
  13. luftvier

    luftvier Senior member

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    That's a fantastic briefcase for what I am sure was a reasonable price (judging from his published pricing schedule).

    Now I know where to look when I'm ready to make the plunge.
     
  14. NewYorkIslander

    NewYorkIslander Senior member

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    Does this one man operation know that he will now see an upsurge in pain in the ass customers like us!? Looks great Moo, enjoy it!
     
  15. MrGimpy

    MrGimpy Senior member

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    Beautiful case, Mr. Moo.

    Do you happen to have among your previous purchases anything by Henry Tomkins? If so, I would be interested to hear how they compare. Henry seems to follow a similar model to Narragansett and offers similar pricing. (He made a case for me last year and I've been very pleased with it.)
     
  16. Mr.K

    Mr.K Senior member

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    Bag looks great MOO. I know who I am sending my business to for a new camera bag. I have a filson I use, but want a leather one also. Maybe that wil be my B-Day present to myself. Atleast using his service one can get what they want and not a massed produced bag that just does not cut it in the end.
     
  17. nihraguk

    nihraguk Active Member

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    Really beautiful. I've been thinking really hard about where I should get my briefcase from, but I think this thread has nailed it for me.
     
  18. Mr. Moo

    Mr. Moo Senior member

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    Thanks all for the nice comments and kind words!

    I have no experience with Henry Tomkins bags but I remember looking at his site and passing for whatever reason.

    Please PM me if you have price questions about my bag.
     
  19. Cary Grant

    Cary Grant Senior member

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    Knee deep in curds
  20. Cary Grant

    Cary Grant Senior member

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    Bag looks great MOO. I know who I am sending my business to for a new camera bag. I have a filson I use, but want a leather one also. Maybe that wil be my B-Day present to myself. Atleast using his service one can get what they want and not a massed produced bag that just does not cut it in the end.

    What Filson do you use for your camera. Is it a DSLR?
     

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