Road Tests :: Seventy Eight Percent Gustav
It’s no secret, I am a huge Seventy Eight Percent fan, so when the opportunity to put one through its paces came up, I jumped on it, fast. Having appreciated the bags from afar, I needed to get my hands on one and see if the look was paired with intuitive design that could stand the test of time. For a primer, check out the interview with Seventy Eight Percent’s Shai Levy.
Removing the Japanese cotton canvas and Italian leather bag from its natural colored cotton slip the care in construction is immediately obvious. If I’ve never lusted after what most people would consider a “luxury” item before, why the change of heart? Was it the form? Simple in design, rich in well thought out details. This could easily explain it. Was it the material? Long have I searched for this quality of waxed-cotton canvas, one that combines a tight weave without looking like burlap; a canvas that is strong yet comfortable. Waxed, yet not waxy looking. A fabric that inspires confidence in its longevity without seeming heavy-handed, the veritable Goldilocks of materials. Not too stiff, not too thin – just right.
This bag is cut from that very cloth.
Taking a closer look, I searched for visible sewing defects, misplaced stitches and uneven hems. To my surprise, I found nothing. I passed over it once more, this time looking for minor flaws only someone in the industry would discover or notice, inside back-tacks, stitch evenness, finishing. Still nothing. Row upon row of quality stitches only a life of sewing can reproduce. Unwavering. Unyielding. Could it be sewn perfection?
There are simply no signs of human error. My Gustav is perfect in this regard. This product benchmarks quality in manufacturing. The Wabi-sabi enthusiast will be stumped, as even the leather is consistent, unmarred, exact. This begs the question: Without the hallmarks of human interaction, can an item thus be “too well” made? Sewn too consistently? Are the slight idiosyncrasies of manufacturing what breathes life into our carry? I struggle to understand but venture beyond, I have work to do. All this pondering while carrying will result in me walking out into traffic too deep in thought to see the taxicab bearing down on me.
Carrying the Gustav is the only way to reveal its weaknesses – a task I am happy to report was mine. I planned on using it the way the designer intended, adhering to compartmentalization, putting pens into their respective pockets and the like. I cleaned up my carry, my stalwart 1989 Timbuk2 emptied and stored in the bag room. I forged ahead into this “organization” concept I have heard so much about. And yes, I have a bag room.
Visually, the design is understated. My version is chocolate canvas with similarly dyed brown leather. All of the colors and materials are equally unpretentious and classy. Check their site, and see for yourself.
A zippered pocket lays flush to your body while wearing it, keeping flat items secure. This is a great place to store a passport, small folded papers or mail. On the outside, under the bag’s main flap, are two open pockets. One will hold a pen or two; the other around 9″ wide contains a pair of small pockets for organizing phone, keys, or wallet. In rainy Seattle, the material held out all torrents with ease. In a city where so many people are carrying PVC and rubber bags to keep the rain out, a natural waterproof material is a welcome sight.
The main compartment features a standard document pocket secured with a snap. This one will hold a 13″ MacBook Pro without a case famously, but is better suited to house documents, magazines, an iPad or the like. The pocket is not quite tall enough to snap closed when carrying some items, but I enjoyed the snap detail since the ability to cordon off the empty pocket when not in use was welcome.
Opposite the computer pocket are two 3D pockets – these pockets are edged with leather giving each one enough structure to make pushing in bulky items like a computer cord a one-handed operation. Lastly, there is a zippered mesh pocket in the flap that stores items you would like to have handy while wearing the bag.
A great bag slips into the gaps in your life that you may not know are there. They work tirelessly, your valuables entrusted to their construction, day in and day out. They ask nothing of you, they simply provide, and that is why we buy them. Every bag we buy is supposed to solve a problem; the designer reaches into your life this way, eliminating searching for the lost item in the abyss you carry your personal items in. Organization needs to be smart. Millions of pockets make things worse, each one filled with trash, receipts and business cards. Cumulatively useless, an excess of pockets stains functionality. Everything remains lost, as nothing can be found.
A perceptive designer thinks not only of what to add to a project to complete a concept, but what to remove. Seventy Eight Percent clearly spent time sorting this out with the Gustav. Everything in this bag is thoughtfully present, or not. Every detail is considered. While it is touted as a leisure bag, I feel it is perfectly at home in a business meeting or professional environment. The user looking to simplify their carry and upgrade to top quality natural materials, cut and sewn fastidiously by caring and able hands, will find a solution here.