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5 minutes with Hard Graft

by , August 21, 2012

5 minutes with Hard Graft

Our ‘5 Minutes With…’ series aims to get to the good stuff, quickly. With that aim in mind, we’ve highlighted five questions that commonly crop up during our interviews and this week we’re getting some insight from hard graft co-founder James…

5 minutes with Hard Graft

1 – What key insights drive your products?

The main key to our products is quality and craftsmanship. We take our production very seriously and develop each product personally with our Italian workshop. They are made to last. Our artisans put as much passion into every single product as we the designers do.

5 minutes with Hard Graft

2 – Who else is doing rad things in the world of carry and why do you think they’re important?

I was thinking about this question for a long time and I’m afraid I have to pass on it. Although you find one or another nice-looking bags out there, most of them seem to be either cutting corners with the execution (cheaply made in China) or they are just a copy of someone else’s. I think the best-looking bags are vintage army bags – durable, long-lasting and functional.

5 minutes with Hard Graft

3 – Are there any things other brands do that you think are great or could be improved?

Like I said above – badly made in China products.

5 minutes with Hard Graft

4 – What’s next for you guys?

We have been working really hard in the last months and have quite a few tricks up our sleeves. Unfortunately I’m not able to spill the beans here and now.

5 minutes with Hard Graft

5 – What do you carry daily and how?

I try to carry all hard graft products and change them daily. It’s really important for us
to test our products in the real life, day in day out. Here is a shot of me and my Back2Back:

5 minutes with Hard Graft

33 thoughts on “5 minutes with Hard Graft

  1. samuel hadrian says:

    I wish I’d never read this. I used to be a fan of Hard Graft but a guy who has no respect for other brands is the worst kind (“cutting corners or copying”). James, ever heard of Killspencer? Makr?

    Their designs have always been mediocre at best (from the days of the working class heroes), but at least you knew what you were getting. His comments about made in China are uninformed and over the top – it seems he has a real chip on his shoulder.

    The big kicker is that the hard graft stuff is all machine made – yet the label says “handmade in Italy” This from the same guy who judges others. Lame!

    1. + 1 Samuel. I’m a big fan of Hard Graft, I have 5 products from them and I wish I’d never read this either… I think they made great stuff, all product I have are awesome and with a huge quality,BUT, say that nothing else is good?!?! C’on, there are a lot of people like them doing great job!!! I agree a lot of well known brands are producing in china cheap crap stuff, BUT, what about Ally Capellino, HAN Kjobenhavn, Mismo, Marni… When you think the stuff you make is the one and the only it means you’ve turned blind eye to what’s happening out there

      Again… I wish I’d never read this…

      BTW, my key fold has already a hole…

    2. jj says:

      Really? Killspencer or Makr are not even close. Yes, the Hardgraft guy might be arrogant but if you are trying to prove a point please bring something on par with that.

  2. John Sloat says:

    +1 Samuel, he comes off as very petty and uninformed. Would have been more excusable if he hadn’t clearly deliberated before answering (“I was thinking about this question for a long time…”) :/

    I’ll add to your list Goruck, Chrome and Mission Workshop, all (I believe) US-crafted, high quality and unique in appearance.

    There’s so much innovation happening in terms of design and materials (perhaps James should follow Carryology?), it’s a shame he’s apparently turned a blind eye to it all.

    1. Hate to say it but a lot of Chrome’s gear is made in China.

      Honestly though I think that’s a cheap shot. iPhones are made in China.

      1. To clarify:

        What I’m saying is “Made in China” is not the same as “cheap crap.”

        1. jj says:

          Chrome is badly designed and tasteless really. All those brand he mentioned are simply not quite at the same level as Hardgraft.

          I do not think Hardgraft made the best bag, I just can’t agree with almost any of the stuff these two guys mentioned to be comparable with it.

  3. Chris says:

    I second Samuel’s comments. There are too many great products out there to limit yourself to myopic, insulting comments from a petty designer.

    I make purchasing decisions based on many factors, including goodwill and belief in the ethics of the designer. I buy from both “made in USA” (e.g. Filson) and made elsewhere (Property Of, based in Singapore). First rule of retail/business: don’t bad mouth the competition.

  4. Anon says:

    Posting as an anonymous blog author. I’d like to add that Hard Graft has never replied to a single email that I’ve sent them over the years (about 2 or 3 emails in total since 2010). I always am courteous and professional when I approach them in hopes for a response. Generally the emails I sent were regarding the free promotion of their products or new collection.
    I understand the people who run brands can be very busy, but a simple response would suffice. I’ve interviewed brands and designers 10X , no, 100X more important and influential than the guys at Hard Graft, yet they’re much too busy and too important to give me two seconds. Even a “no thank you” would be better than nothing at all. Simply rude.

    I like the look of their products. And I’m sure they are well made. But this attitude is poor, at best.

  5. Ando says:

    Guys, I have to stick up for the Hard Graft team here…

    My understanding is that they are a really small team, and they really do get swamped with requests and interest. Juggling a growing brand can be crazy challenging at the best of times, so I can guess at the challenge of replying, keeping up with other brands, and the big shift from Austria to the UK.

    Maybe they can set up an auto response email to some similar effect 🙂

  6. szilvie says:

    i totally agree with you guys! the people at hardgraft seems to have fame gotten stuck in their head. very snobbish, stuck up team. i’ve had many much more reactive, friendly experiences from growing brands . i honestly wouldn’t bother buying anything from them anymore. i’d rather pay for something else.

    i like kickspencer, and i have loved the vintedgoods stuff i saw recently. those guys are a small team, but amazing responsive customer service.

    1. V says:

      Fame? I’ve never heard about them nor their stuff. There’s thousands of bags and wallets makers across the world — many with superior quality of design and craft.

  7. John Steel says:

    I agree, I really wanted to buy a hardgraft bag… until now.

  8. First I typed up a huge list of bagsmiths that I consider to be both high quality and original. Then I just went with a snarky comment. But I’ve finally settled on saying that I really disagree with this guy pretty hard. There’s originality AND quality coming out of tons of bag companies from every part of the globe.

  9. JC Canfield says:

    Check out Seventy Eight percent stuff. Made in China, and The finest leather and canvas bag I’ve laid hands on to date. (I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it)

  10. SP says:

    I read this and thought “five minutes, that’s more like five seconds”, there was so little apparent thought in the comments. If all that can be said is “we make good stuff, no-one else does, and I can’t be bothered to tell you anything about what we’re doing next” then it would have been easier to decline the interview.

  11. Deb says:

    Based on the reactions here, it is always best to give considered and measured responses especially in writing form, than a rushed 2 to 5 minute response.

    I admit I own a few HardGraft products, and my favourite is still the 2Unfold I bought a couple of years ago, as the leather is softer than my more recent purchases this year. I get they need to use a stiffer leather for some products such as the flat pack and suitcase, but yeah, I prefer the semi-vegetable tanned leather from yesteryears. I’ll probably put up a blog about the Flatpack in the next month or so after I’ve had more time with it (but yes there was a cut on the leather which did not look natural – might have been damaged before or during transit, I couldn’t be bothered dealing with refund and exchange and arguing about natural leather versus man-made cut, instead I used some leather conditioner to make it look less obvious). In terms of responses, I’ve never had an issue getting quick responses via email, maybe just got lucky. Admittedly my emails were all about the products I’ve purchased or about to purchase or about how their website, and not about potential reviews of their products.

    In terms of craftsmenship and other leather goods and bags, I quite like Mission Workshop all made in USA bags for non-leather bags, and I don’t have an adversion to quality goods made in China (i.e. Crumplers are still built to last despite being made in China). It is about the brand itself, and it’s quality controls that they put in place more than anything, and originality of a design is a hard one for one brand to claim over another. Frankly there are plenty of brands with outstanding quality leather goods and bags. And although carryology don’t often go down the path of mainstream fashion brands (but there was an article some time back about iconic designer bags), some of those high end brands do actually make some beautiful leather vintage shoes, classic boots and brogues and bags that are original icons that still use quality materials and workmanship. Yes you’re probably paying for the brand, but hey if you love the product and can afford it, then the value is in the eyes of the beholder.

    1. Ando says:

      Awesome thoughts Deb. From the sounds of it, there’s a few of us that would love you bag collection!
      We’re thinking of starting some posts covering people’s carry quivers/collections. Do you have a few you could tell a story or two about?

      1. Deb says:

        Thanks Ando. I’d be happy to share some stories about my small carry collection. I really enjoy reading the articles on carryology. I’ll be travelling with my HardGraft Flatpack soon. Drop me an email, and I’ll be happy to help out.

        1. Jessica says:

          Deb,

          I’d love to hear more about the Flatpack when you use it a little more. I was thinking of getting it (I’m a PhD student) but I don’t know if it’ll fit more than the Macbook Air..need a textbook or two.

          1. Deb says:

            Hi Jess

            I’ll provide a more in depth review later on, but the Flat pack for the MacBook Air is quite slim, so it probably won’t be able to fit in a couple of textbooks. But something like the 2Unfold or the Back2Back might be better suited for a laptop and a couple of books, from Hadgraft’s product range.

  12. Taylor says:

    Mystery Ranch, Mission Workshop, Black Rainbow Project (among others mentioned). All leading the way and paving the way in carry.

    They’re not cutting a single corner, made at the extreme highest level of craftsmanship, innovating (via materials, construction, design, features, and function), and aren’t copying anyone.

    1. BAGMAN says:

      There is an ancient Red Indian proverb which says… “He who would build a beautiful castle of wood, and surround it with the deepest water, will live a life of regret when he learns there is nothing left with which to build bridges”

      I ‘might’ have made that up…but you know what I’m saying! ;]

  13. Jasper says:

    Oh, this is fun – listing some brands that are doing awesome things in carry, that Hard Graft could totally get inspired by…

    http://www.superfolk.com/web/aranbags.html

    http://shop.themadly.com/

    http://www.teddyfish.fr/

    http://entermodal.com/

    http://haerfest.us/

    Ahhh, actually, let’s just go straight to Japan!

    http://shop.roberu.com/?pid=38614831

    http://www.yoshidakaban.com/top.html?lang=en

    http://postalco.net/products.htm

    Or any number of awesome brands that Carryology cover regularly.

  14. Joe w says:

    Give it a rest guys. They make great products with great quality. Don’t judge someone or the company froma few words on the web page.

  15. chris says:

    Hello all. I just wanted to know if anyone has bought/tried on a pair of Hard Graft shoes/boots? I’m thinking about the Low Boot, but since they only come in full sizes, I’d like to know prior to purchasing if they run slightly big or slightly snug. I know that leather would stretch out with wear…but still. If anyone knows how their boots fit from experience & would care to share…I’d really appreciate it.

  16. I for one will defend James.

    It is important to focus on your own company not the competition. He proves a solid point, if not a tad abruptly. Apple to do not focus on the competition and release products in reaction. This is because there is a greater understanding than business going on. One of lack of Ego. In a fear based reaction methodology you will never succeed or find peace in what you are doing.

    I admire they dedication and lack of viewing competition and what else is out there. James has obviously not been looking and therefore knows none. Their products are unique. They have had minimal influence from outside forces and I therefore applaud them.

    Feel free to carry on bashing them but I will carry on buying from them.

    Peace for all,

    David J Cooper

    1. Patrick Amengual Hackbarth says:

      David,

      I do agree with you, but I think you cannot say “most of them seem to be cheaply made in China or they are just a copy of someone else’s”… There’re some other brands out there who made great job as well.

      And I’m a huge fan of Hard Graft, I have the wallet, back2back laptop bag, iPhone and iPad case, key fold… and I love their stuff, but when you admire a brand you expect some respect to the others from them…

      It’s just my opinion, I love the brand and I’ll continue loving it and buying almost everything they design!! 🙂

      P

  17. And by the way I have had all my responses within a single working day and they were polite and friendly.

    Chris, you should definitely just forward your message to their team – I am confident they will help you determine the correct size.

  18. Joe W says:

    I have my iPhone wallet from Hard Graft and I must say its very well bullt. I constantly get asked about when I’m out and about. I’m thinking of ordering another larger one because I like this one so much. Keep up the good work.

  19. Chris Haaker says:

    What most cheesed me was the total lack of any information or insight in the “five minutes.” Apart from Hard Graft being hugely popular right now, what was the point? Perhaps he should have interviewed Monie.ka instead. PS I own the new iPhone 5 wallet. Love it. Want a 2Unfold but not rich enough yet. Some day!

  20. James Teal says:

    I’m sorry for the confusion here. I have a huge respect for the independent companies out there in our category, who have great designs and products. These are not the companies I was referring to so I’d like to apologise that my comments came across this way.

  21. James Teal says:

    Thanks Janne W for taking time to write your feedback. We try our best to give you the best experience on our website but with that said we are always working on improving.

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