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The Definitive MANBAG Thread, Part II: 2014~

Discussion in 'Streetwear and Denim' started by rach2jlc, Oct 8, 2014.

  1. coloRLOw

    coloRLOw Distinguished Member

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    thank you for sharing that[​IMG]
     


  2. Master-Classter

    Master-Classter Distinguished Member

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    Great reading! Thanks and please share more when you can
     


  3. ParkerPierpont

    ParkerPierpont Senior Member

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    Awesome, we have interest! Glueing and Stitching are fundamentals, and can be expanded upon later to help us form some more usable knowledge when buying a leather bag.


    On Material Selection:
    You need nice material, and everything that I say is void if you don't start with nice raw material. (You already knew that, though.) If one starts with good raw material, anything done to it will only serve to diminish it's beauty. Branding in a conspicuous area is the best way to remove beauty from an object crafted from a beautiful material. Making a piece from two panels that could've been made from a single panel is the best way to remove structural integrity of a material. Both have been and will continue to be used to hide the fact that the maker is not using a beautiful material. It is so much easier to get away with poor use of material if you use it as more of a 'background' to showcase your logo.

    • On Lining: Lining is important in bags, for the most part. Not all leather sheds on the reverse side, but they often do. Additionally, lining allows for many structural, and ugly components to be hidden. Examples of these things can include: reinforcements, various fasteners, lines of stitching that aren't necessary to be seen on the interior and the exterior, and the ability to create pockets and divisions in a more unrestricted way (to create a useful pocket on a bag without a lining would require extra lines of stitching that would be visible on the exterior of the bag, typically - though there are a few exceptions.) There are a few bags without linings that are done well, and the best example would be some of Frank Clegg's pieces, or a thick bridle briefcase. Bridle is a special case, as it is often finished with wax and oils on the reverse side to make it resemble the appearance of the grain side of leather, to a degree. (You will still see many bridle leather briefcases with full linings.) Linings add a dimension of complexity and design opportunity to a bag.
      • Leather vs. Cloth Lining: Leather is often more durable than cloth, and holds up better than the odd nylon/poly/whatever blends that are often used. Usually the interior of a leather-lined bag will have a protective finish on it to help it resist stains from anything that you might keep in the bag.
      • Color of the lining: I've found that lining color is usually completely preference-based. However, a light-colored lining is often used because it allows for one to see the contents of the bag better. It's the same type of common-sense reason that Kodak film rolls were bright yellow - it's so you could see it in a camera bag that was probably black and filled with things that were probably black. The color of the lining is important, from a usability standpoint.
      • On pockets: It seems that many bags these days have pockets that fit certain things, usually technology related. If you can help it, realize that such pockets might be wasted space if you plan to keep the bag longer than you keep the cell phone it's designed to hold. Perhaps more relevant to custom orders, but something to keep in mind when buying off the rack as well. The more standard sizes of laptops and the higher chance of having heavy padding in a laptop pocket kind of make this point irrelevant unless you plan on significantly increasing the size of the laptop you carry everyday. When dealing with simple designs, it seems that fewer pockets are better in these circumstances. You can always add 'pockets' with the little zip containers I see everyone use at the airport, that they just throw back in their bag - but you can't remove pockets. Unused pockets are wasted space that clutters the inside of a bag. If you plan to keep something for a long time, it's something to consider when purchasing.
    • On Hardware: hardware is becoming more and more difficult for me to find. It seems that it's really easy to find things made from plastic and zinc, but very difficult to find things made from solid brass - especially closures and locks. Part of the reason that large brands don't use these things is because hardware is pretty expensive when using nicer metals. It's also heavier. Additionally, I'd speculate that a lot of the hardware found in men's bags made by brands that cater to women and men, have some overlap in the hardware that they use between the two lines. This is interesting for many reasons, but in personal experience, if you ask a woman if they'd rather a handbag to be really lightweight or of more sound construction, the answer would skew a bit more towards the lightweight side than if you asked men the same exact question. I can't accuse any single brand of doing this, but it's something to keep in mind, as things such as D-rings and zipper pulls could potentially be shared between bags marketed for women and bags marketed to men. Shoulder straps are a good way to isolate hardware from the bag a bit more - you could probably feel the heft of the hardware better by isolating it in that way.
      • Zippers: don't be a complete brand junkie with zippers, almost every brand will have several different lines of zippers with a variety of different materials used. With that said, I have to support that RiRi makes the best zipper I've ever used - and the zipper that I choose for my pieces. If the zipper is a bit tough to open and close, keep in mind that it will loosen up a bit over time if it feels a bit 'new.' If it feels like it's sticking because there's too much slack, that's a different problem, and you should avoid it like the plague. A good trick to making zippers slide a bit better is to put a bit of paraffin wax on the teeth. You can buy paraffin wax at most grocery stores in the canning department. It's also good for wood on wood drawer slides, if you have any of those. Moving on...
    On Craftsmanship:

    If you think that a bag is crafted well because it's made by a certain brand, you probably wouldn't be reading this anyway. So, since I'm not tarnishing anyone's cultish love affair with any particular brand, I'm going to highlight a few things on a couple of bags to show how easy it is to find careless mistakes and traces of mass production. I'm not doing this to place a hierarchal opinion of bags upon you that doesn't exist, I'd rather let you see a few of the things I'm talking about for yourselves.

    Here are a few things I like to consider when making a quick judgement of the quality of handbags and similar items:

    1. Neatness, and attention to detail are the hallmarks of quality.
    2. Straight lines, no messy running of paint or weird stitches
    3. I am spending a large sum of money on something that I would like to be able to enjoy aesthetically, and functionally.
    4. If my job was to make these bags, as a craftsman, would I be satisfied with the quality of the work?
    5. Do the materials, exclusivity, uniquity, form, or utility contribute positively to the overall buying decision in a way that is separate from the brand that sells it?
    6. Do you think that the photos on this brands website are going to be better or worse than what you see in person?

    Examples to consider: (Photos chosen fairly randomly, just food for thought.)

    1. Photos taken from the brand's current website. I'd say that this is kind of messy.

    [​IMG]
    The edging on that cutout isn't that bad. But it's running over the edge

    popped stitch top right corner - right above where the piping ends.

    [​IMG]

    messy stitching along the bottom of the zipper - terrible edge paint job


    [​IMG]
    Your logo is a bit... off center. Okay, that's kinda bad.

    2. Photo taken from brand's website: I'd call this kind of messy

    [​IMG]
    Handle attachment has edge paint drip on bottom left corner
    [​IMG]
    The whole edge looks like a paint drip

    3. Vuitton doesn't look to have these same types of inconsistencies - also, notice the uniformity of the stitching
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    LV doesn't look to have these same types of inconsistencies - also, notice the uniformity of the stitching



    Perfection isn't really possible - but caring about your product is. We're not talking about just a bag, when we start creeping into the $2500+ range, and these brands are in the ballpark. Good enough to get instead of a coach bag? Not in terms of build quality. Just a short, half-assed look at what's online - even the photoshopped marketing pictures look abysmal, and mirror a lot of what's already been said about these brands. However, I hope that this helped visually represent a little bit of the things that people may be talking about if you're unfamiliar with what questionable build quality looks like.

    A few of you may think that this is nit-picky, and that's fine. But, you should also realize that you can potentially get better build quality for fractions of the price. You should also be aware that there are much better ways to make bags than what has been shown. Additionally, if we're to call out certain brands for having outrageous prices, Hermès shouldn't be who we pick on.

    If you can buy a comparable bag for $250 on amazon, that is listed by Prada at $2,400 (10x more).... it's interesting to ask "could you spend less than $500 and get an Hermès-comparable bag that was originally $5,000? I'd argue that you couldn't.

    Food for thought.
     


  4. razl

    razl Stylish Dinosaur

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    ...

    Some of the best reading I've had in a while, and I'm learning a lot along the way. Please continue!
     


  5. letsi

    letsi Senior Member

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    Amazing read. Please tell us more! :nodding:
     


  6. rach2jlc

    rach2jlc Prof. Fabulous Dubiously Honored

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    Excellent additions to the thread. The Professor is pleased. :)
     


  7. il_colonnello

    il_colonnello Senior Member

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    I have been following this thread on and off and feel compelled to offer my two cents on a few of the things that keep getting said here.

    First of all, it's pointless to keep saying Prada/Burberry or whatever isn't worth 2,5k because who buys these brands at full retail price anyway? Maybe clueless rich people IRL, but certainly nobody who takes the time reading this thread. 100 per cent of SF'ers are thrifters, so none of us would be paying these prices to begin with. So if you want to discuss whether a given label/product delivers value for money, let's measure it against what we would pay for it in end-of-season sales, or eventually on sites like Yoox, Spence et al. By way of example, in the last 12 months I have counted 7 full-leather Dior Homme bags on Yoox (messenger bags, briefcases, whatever, and that's only the ones I have seen); each of them eventually went for less than 1,000 euros on the European sites. So if the prices of such makes are supposedly blown up by a factor of 10+ compared to what you would pay for a comparable product on amazon, the real question is, would something you could get for 70-80 euros on amazon deliver the same level quality? C'mon. What bags I have handled at prices below 500 euros have been absolutely gruesome and nowhere near what you get from a branded product. (Whether the latter is the ultimate in quality is a different question.)

    Secondly, sweeping generalizations like "you could get the same quality as Prada for 250 bucks on amazon" are not helping anyone. There is a guy 1 page back ITT who's on a budget of $700 and thinks it's "impossible to find anything that has real quality, nevermind style" at that price, but apparently Prada-level style/quality can be had for under 250. Instead of making an empty general claim like that why not provide a link to a specific product on amazon, so people can check it out and make up their own mind?

    Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, people on SF generally (not just ITT) seem to have a hard time grasping that what makes designer-label products expensive isn't only that they are (hopefully) made of nicer materials or have better construction or whatever but that their design (as in: style) is conceived by pretty fucking talented designers who - just like the best tailors or the best leather artisans - don't provide their talent for free. So when somebody gets a bag from, say, Lanvin or Dior, the question of whether the same material quality can be had from, I don't know, Filson, is completely irrelevant, because it's anyway not the same bag, is it? The one is a designer product designed to be conspicuous at some level, while the other will always be a run-of-the-mill product that nobody will ever notice, and maybe that's okay if that's what you're looking for.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2016


  8. ParkerPierpont

    ParkerPierpont Senior Member

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    Good questions/points!

    1. Quote: Kind of a weak basis for attacking a post on the identification of craftsmanship. But I'll take note. Once again, I'm not a regular buyer of Prada/Burberry. I'll have to stand by my position that better quality can be had elsewhere, though. I'd have to say that I think the people that buy prada at full price aren't 'suckers.' It's just that people continue to hold the brand in high esteem, despite the actual quality of their product. I think that at the $2,500 range, there is a bit of uncertainty of what exactly you're getting.
    2. Quote: I think that the comical price proposition, including the 10x multiplier allows us to think of this differently. I'd like to defend only that my post was primarily and exclusively geared towards those that would like to know what kind of standard to have when buying bags at higher price levels, and secondly at the insanely poor quality of some high-end bags.That being said, (this surely isn't going to be a popular opinion), but you can buy a Michael kors bag with very similar materials and craftsmanship to the prada for around $250. In fact, when you type in 'handbag' to amazon, you're greeted by a variety of bags with straighter logos, identical materials, and more attention to detail than some of the prada offerings. I think that this kind of opinion is inherently valuable to the forum, simply because no one else is saying it. If anything, I'd like someone to rip this assertion to shreds so that we can really nitpick the issue of quality. But telling me I'm unhelpful because I've neglected to post a link for you seems a bit harsh. Also, it's kind of a generalization in itself, no?
    3. Quote:
      I totally butchered this quote, but I couldn't really make sense of the points. So I'll separate it into what I believe you're saying: (please clarify, the last paragraph is a lot to take in.)
    • The designers of these bags make them special
      • Good design in sculpture takes someone who has mastered the medium that they work in. Good design in furniture has the same rules. I'd also assert that usable financial modeling requires mastery in excel, and that running a blog takes mastery of writing. If one is not practicing mastery in their craft, they are not on the edge of design. I know that this is a bit far fetched for general concept, but you're assertion is too general for me to dissect otherwise.
    • The quality of materials is irrelevant from bag to bag, depending on it's designer
      • That is not true. Materials always matter, and are never irrelevant, in my opinion. Material is king. It is the boundary one works within.
    • The some designers have the license to create bags that warrant their showing off, and some don't.
      • This doesn't sit well with me, fundamentally. I think that if beauty is first filtered through who designed it, rather than the inherent beauty of the object itself, you end up with a really constricted view of what is allowed to be appreciated and what isn't. Does this not create a delusion that is all too often, literally 'bought into?'
     


  9. Master-Classter

    Master-Classter Distinguished Member

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    I've made a similar point about MTM generic versus OTR designer + tailoring. Sometimes I've seen a suit that was MTM and technically speaking it's got all the right measurements, but the base model itself had no design, no style, no real personality. It fits, but it's boring. I'd rather take a 8/10 fit with a 10/10 style, than a 10/10 fit with an 7/10 style. Of course you get guys who simply have to have X brand and they get something that doesn't fit them at all, or doesn't suit their personality or lifestyle, or they fall victim to buying the brand and end up getting the 1/100 random weird experiment items from a clearance center etc... My point is that yes there's a lot to be said about 'quality', ie materials, construction, etc, but there are other factors that go into people's decision making process. Having a beautiful design counts for something... what if it can't be executed all the time perfectly? What if people making it aren't good enough to make it. Would you say the designer did a bad job because they didn't take that into account? Would you say we need better quality control and screen out ones that aren't perfect? Would you say that overall design and style is important enough that even if a few aren't perfectly 'made', most people buying it won't notice or care and appreciate the design more anyway. I've seen lots of stuff on Etsy that was made from the best materials and old school construction and all that stuff but they look ugly. As you've pointed out, there are bags from the high end designers that have surprisingly obvious poor construction or design flaws. Materials and construction aren't the only thing that matters, I guess that's my point. In an ideal pure version of the world, sure, the item should speak for itself, but most people I know are stupid and need to be told what to do or what they're looking at. Companies realized a long time ago that customers don't know anything about the product. Make it good enough, lots of flash and advertising, jack up the price, and they'll assume that it's good. There are very very few companies who sell themselves as 'we basic, simple, and done properly, no flash, just a good product that does what it's supposed to'. I mean... Filson, Saddleback, those sort of people right? But then start naming branded companies... there are a million. It sucks but seems to me that's how the market works. From all the conversations I've had with people about trying to understand why they buy this or that, and do they know anything about it, or why did they spend so much, etc, I've realized they live a very surface level life, don't know much about anything really and just sort of fumble through. They overpay. They're efficient but not effective. They walk in, pick something, and walk out. That's how the companies make money. Their profit is their customer's stupidity. If everyone appreciated design, materials, etc, a lot of companies would be out of business. We want to know. We're a minority in that regard. Anyway, just my 2 cents.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2016


  10. il_colonnello

    il_colonnello Senior Member

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    @PierpontLeather, I would have wanted to reply sooner, now @Master-Classter beat me to a few points.

    However, I don't think that companies only count on customer ignorance (stupidity, if you want to call it that). Especially luxury labels realise that the more specific (=inimitable) their product looks, the more their customer has no choice but to turn to them for a given style. And that's fair. SF groupthink tends to condone high prices when they are justified by exclusive materials and rock-solid construction (Hermès) but seems to assume that style and design have to be thrown in for free (all other brands). I don't get that. If a provider has honed a certain style and there is no-one else who has that, there's no reason why that unique style shouldn't come at a higher price, same as high-quality materials and construction.

    Re-reading your earlier post, maybe we're approaching this from different viewpoints. You seem very concerned with technical and practical aspects, like placement and sizing of pockets and such. I suspect though that to the majority of brand customers the question of whether the iPhone 12 will fit into the pockets of a bag purchased today is at best secondary. That's simply not why people are loyal to a given brand. And it doesn't even apply only to mainstream brands like Gucci or Balenciaga, but to smaller labels also, some of which are held in high esteem on SF. The faded "scamosciato" look of Ann Demeulemeester leather goods can only be had from that label and nobody else, so if that's what catches your fancy, that's what you buy. Same for Bottega Veneta's signature "intrecciato" technique and so many others. It's moot to keep saying that a local artisan or a smaller company ("that doesn't spend millions of advertising blah blah") may deliver the same or even higher material quality for half the price.

    Btw when it comes to women's bags we accept this as perfectly natural. When a Chloé afficionado says she wants a Hudson, nobody says "oh but why don't you go to a local maker and have something custom made up, sure it'll look totally different but it'll be made of very similar leather, fulfull all the same functions and be much more honestly priced!"
     


  11. il_colonnello

    il_colonnello Senior Member

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    P.S. Of course having said all this I will check my next potential purchase, a Loewe puzzle XL, against all of the minute quality details you have enumerated! ;)
     


  12. ParkerPierpont

    ParkerPierpont Senior Member

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    @Master-Classter I'm definitely victim to analyzing a bag's construction, and weighing that as heavily as anything else - to an extent that can often be unbalanced. Both you and @il_colonnello provided interesting and accessible points that really help explain the more complex, and somewhat unexplainable side of purchasing. Obviously, it's impossible to correctly map how any individual would go about purchasing - but I think you both laid out a really qualitative question in a straightforward way.

    Quote: @il_colonnello
    Well said!

    Quote: @Master-Classter Agree.

    Quote: @il_colonnello Give the puzzle bag a bit of a break - that's a lot of edges [​IMG]
     


  13. Master-Classter

    Master-Classter Distinguished Member

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    My girlfriend wants some Gavriel Bucket bag that's all the rage. I told her why doesn't she go get a custom made one for a similar price that'll have extra features she likes, be unique made for her, may even be cheaper and will likely be better made. She wouldn't even think about it. Part of the cachet of owning the item is the brand. Partly it's about the design, the build quality, and all that, but there's a section of that decision, let's say 30-40% of it that's purely just 'this is the must own bag', it's 'that brand' etc.

    If you think we're not all still brand whores over here on SF, go look at the WAYW. Almost every post includes a list of brands. Why, becuase there's street credit involved. If the clothes spoke for themselves we wouldn't need it. Someone posts a good enough fit with a bad photo but lists the 'right' respected brands for this crowd and they get lots of thumbs. People can't really see the fit or evaluate it properly but becuase of the brands listed, they give the benefit of the doubt. They assume it has to be well made, or was expensive, and the poster gets credit by association to the brand. Often the items in the photo are from years ago, and they don't list the actual time/model/serial, it's just a list of brands. So maybe 1/20 times it's the new item currently on the shelf and someone else might say oh I loved that item I'll go look for it at the store, but 99/100 it's not going to happen, so they're just listing off brands for the thumbs/approval. Sometimes people even list the brands before the actual photo itself, as if to set expectations. My point here is that I've learned after nearly 10 years in this clothing/style hobby that you knowing a bit about history, construction, design, etc, helps you be an educated consumer and a little more effective with your purchases so you don't waste money on bad items as often, but we're still human, we're still social creatures and there's some sort of validation we all seek that having something coveted or respected gives us. We may be more selective in the types of brands or the types of people we're trying to impress, but it's still the same feeling we're trying to achieve.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2016


  14. ParkerPierpont

    ParkerPierpont Senior Member

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    yeah yeah, I hear you - you're right! I didn't really know what to tell you over the past few posts, but I think you're kind of asking what my clientele look like, on average. I mean, you've accurately described kind of the opposite of my average client, tbh. And, most of the time, my clients don't even have an account here - they're lurkers that end up sending me an email later. Usually, I'd imagine they're looking for nice wallet or something, and they stumble across my thread or my instagram.

    In my experience, these people don't really have problems with their self-esteem, or need validation of what an excellent bag looks like. Also, they tend to know a lot about my craft (idk why.)

    Additionally, they don't want to have to walk around the airport with a bag that says Prada or Louis Vuitton on it. I'd guess, on average, they'd pay extra to not have a brand on almost any item that they buy. I think they view this type of purchase as a type of 'luxury' (hate that word) that they're allowed to use discerningly and without calling too much attention to themselves. I think if you told them that a brand was more important to you than the aesthetic/quality of your bag, they'd look at you as if you were standing in your own way. Discreet branding, high quality materials, and solid design is what sells to a certain crowd - and that's the crowd I serve. Though it sounds so completely different than the post that precedes me, I think that this type of consumer exists, and will follow my work as long as it's good. It's been the case so far.

    I'd venture to guess that it's the case for a lot of other craftsmen that do good work in other fields as well.



    In the bigger world, though - you're totally right. You've accurately described someone who will do what others tell them to do, aka, average consumer. Average consumer will buy average product. Excellent clientele expect excellent product, and seek it out.

    I serve the latter.
     


  15. cyc wid it

    cyc wid it Stylish Dinosaur

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    Linjer is a decent value prop that I've handled in person for more traditional use. I have a pebbled MMM bag for work as needed. I didn't pay retail and I'm under no illusions about its construction. If I wore a suit everyday I'd probably spring for one it the nicer briefcases either custom or branded. Hell I may still commission something as is. YMMV.
     


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