- Buyer's Guide
1733 is a creative, soft goods studio founded in 2014 based in Chicago, IL. The studio develops more than just in-house products; they also provide soft goods design and manufacturing services for other brands. Their portfolio contains a range of collaborations with the likes of menswear company Meridian. And their ever-evolving range of in-house gear provides the straightforward practicality you would expect from a designer with an engineering background, while retaining a human touch and connection that gives it real character.
Founder Phil Schade was working in IT building databases when he realized he wanted to get back to working with his hands and creating physical products. What started out as dabbling with upholstery eventually evolved into a passion for soft goods and carry products. “I definitely didn’t consider myself a bag person. If it didn’t fit in my pockets, I didn’t want to carry it. When I did start experimenting with bags, I didn’t think it would end there but I settled into a nice spot where I felt like there was some interesting problem-solving going on, some interesting sculptural things you could do.”
This spirit of experimentation runs through every aspect of 1733, and the business itself is an ever-evolving concept. Schade’s mentality has been to let the studio grow organically in whatever direction feels right. “I don’t try to force it. I’m not bashing my head on the wall. I’m just trying to make a living doing this thing I’m doing.” That attitude seems to be working. Over time improvements to functionality and experimentation with new materials have honed the brand’s unique aesthetic by following Schade’s instincts for what he finds most interesting.
New, high-tech materials and material manipulations keep signature products like the Daily Tote and Side Pack feeling fresh but true to the brand. Each release brings something new to the table, but the underlying design sense demonstrates a consistent combination of traditional and technical, familiar and hi-tech. Sometimes updates can come very quickly, other times he’ll test prototypes for years before a new release.
Schade has managed to set up a small production center in the studio with the help of a team of sewers. This gives them an incredible level of agility, since they make runs of 20-200 bags at a time. Product updates can be handled much quicker and more efficiently than if they were using a factory to produce thousands. In-house production is not without its challenges, however; in the beginning, there was a bit of a learning curve. Schade remembers, “I figured out that the cutting was the real bottleneck for production so I started researching stack cutters and assembly line sewing.”
Today production runs like a well-oiled machine and they drop new inventory the second Friday of every month. Demand is so high that this week, for the first time, they’ve opened pre-orders for some of their best-selling bags.
I stopped by the new studio space to chat with Phil earlier this year. Housed in a renovated factory in western Chicago with large steel windows and lots of natural light, it feels like a blank canvas set up for all sorts of soft good hijinks. Stacks of fabrics, webbing, prototypes, and bins of new gear ready to go out all surround the maker space with a row of industrial machines and large cutting tables.
We looked through some of his old bags and prototypes and I got a glimpse into his development process. Phil’s problem-solving approach is very practical, but he is always exploring, searching for something new. This, mixed with his high level of craft and attention to detail all combine to create a refreshing aesthetic. One of the most exciting things I got to take a look at while I was there was some recent work bleaching and dyeing X-Pac for the Meridian brand collaboration. The tie-dye effect on a highly technical fabric like X-Pac was pretty awesome and made some of the coolest bags I’ve ever seen.
Other things I really loved were some packs and Side Packs being built with 500D Gridstop, which combines 500D Cordura nylon yarns with UHMWPE ripstop grid. These are live on his site now with a restock coming soon.
Chatting with Phil about bags, business, our obsessions with sneakers and technical jackets was a cool experience and I’m glad I was able to stop by. Expect a lot of 1733’s stuff to continue to sell out, and keep your eyes peeled for pre-order opportunities on 1733’s website. It’s a brand to watch for ’21 and beyond.
This article was written by new contributor, Aaron Puglisi, professional designer and maker behind Denier Lab, an experimental carry design space on Instagram.