- Buyer's Guide
Like a Custom Briefcase? Sartolane Drive By Review
Aaahh…the leather briefcase. The iconic item for every self-respecting businessman. We here at Carryology love timeless classics. We love great leather, we love great zippers and hardware and we love great craftmanship. Yet leatherwork is a profession that is slowly disappearing in the modern world.
These days there are mediocre briefcases from mediocre leather with mediocre sewing, mediocre hardware and (thank heavens) limited markup. Then there are mediocre briefcases from mediocre leather with mediocre sewing, mediocre hardware and a big markup because of a brand name. And then there are great briefcases from great leather with great sewing, great details and fantastic hardware but of course there’s a huge markup: brands like Louis Vuitton, Mulberry and so on.
So what if there would be great, timeless briefcases from great leather with great sewing, fantastic hardware, limited markup and the ability to customize? Enter Sartolane, a Polish company dedicated to making high-quality leather products that can be customized.
We were contacted a while ago by Sartolane and they offered to send us one of their made-to-order briefcases for a review. We gladly jumped on the opportunity and dragged the briefcase from and to work for a couple of months.
About 3 years ago co-founder Matt was looking for a classic leather bag for men. The quality he was looking for was always overpriced. He started doing some research and found out it is possible to offer bags with good value for money which met his expectations. Sartolane was born. The first products were introduced on a crowdfunding basis – showing products on the website and sewing only those products that customers paid for. In the meantime, thanks to feedback from clients, the products were modified a bit. Over time it appeared that almost everyone wanted to customize their bags somehow – choose another interior, change the color of the lining or the leather. Sartolane would often sew those individual models but they realized they were able to offer different bag configurations for everyone, so it was quite natural that customizable bags appeared on the website. Since the very beginning, Sartolane operates as a direct-to-customer brand.
Sartolane cooperates with producers that meet their quality expectations and offer reasonable prices. These days the zippers are supplied by Raccagni (model Simmetrica) (which also happens to produce for the likes of Tom Ford and Dolce & Gabbana), hardware comes from ABC Morini, and the leather is from different Italian tanneries. Three types of leather are used, all are full-grain: aniline (nappa), vegetable-tanned, and leather with visible grains. The company also makes weekenders, wallets and belts and is planning on introducing new products.
Keep in mind Poland has plenty of leather workshops producing for the major labels and Poland isn’t bad in design either. Some of the people working there go on to create their own labels leading to some pretty original stuff! So here’s how the bags are made:
Who It Suits
Anyone looking for a leather briefcase with timeless design and high quality.
Who It Doesn’t
Label whores and people looking for cheap briefcases.
The good things in the Sartolane bags start with the service: I was promptly contacted after ordering, and properly informed the bag was on its way. The bag came in a nice box, wrapped in a separate cotton sleeve bag, all fitting a bag of high quality. Sartolane does its own fulfilment, and for a reason.
More importantly, there’s the materials: the leather is great, the zippers are great, the hardware is great and the bag is well sewn together. Oh man, the Raccagni zippers, they are polished and smoother than R. Kelly in his better years. The bags are made in a leather workshop in Poland.
Next the handles and the shoulder strap are comfortable, even with heavier loads.
Then the custom element is nice: you can choose the color of the lining, the colour of the leather and the layout of pockets on both sides. I chose a black briefcase with grey lining because, well, black. But there’s all kinds of patinas and lining colors you can choose from to create the craziest outfits ever. I like the fact that you can choose the layout of pockets because I’m a control freak in that way: every item must be placed carefully in my bags. I chose a laptop pocket on one side and some pockets for cables and business cards on the other side, but there are six variations to choose from. The custom service means an extra 80 euros though, so you have to consider if it’s worth it. The model I chose goes for €479 (custom version) or €399 (standard version).
Finally, Sartolane is also working on providing premium service: the bags have a five-year guarantee and lately they have introduced a new service for new buyers to “refresh” a bag. Which, for me, if you consider what I do to my bags, is probably a good idea…
The Not So Good
I did find some aspects that could be improved.
First, the padding for the laptop section should be thicker and could be more stylish. A 13-inch laptop will fit easily but there’s no padding, just fabric. A 15-inch laptop will fit in the main compartment. Since my laptop is considerably more expensive than the briefcase, to me that’s an important point. I have to mention here that Sartolane is working on a new laptop section (see the pic at the bottom of the post).
The design of the bags is classic and timeless, but it’s simple. What I think the bag could benefit from is an “iconic detail”, which would fit in developing the brand’s own style. The customization aspect could be taken even further, for example in zipper pulls, various straps or monogramming.
Finally, I’m wrestling a bit with Sartolane’s positioning. It seems to me that if, as a customer, you can’t appreciate the European-made, made-to-order and custom element, it’s hard to cough up €400 – €500 if you can also buy a pretty stylish bag from one of the mainstream brands for around €300 – €400. This is not for me to judge of course and it depends on what you compare it to. It’s obviously a lot cheaper than a Burberry or Mulberry. But if you’re into those brands, you might be willing to spend the extra money to get “the real thing”. Time will tell.
Others to Consider
There are a gazillion leather briefcases on the market, but let’s consider some that come close to Sartolane’s specs.
Shinola computer briefcase (€741 / $795)
La Portegna Carter briefcase (€471 / $505)
Linjer Soft briefcase (€455 / $489)
Castelijn & Beerens laptop bag (€250 / $268)
Mulberry Single Document Holder (€795 / $852)
And of course you can rock a Valextra classic briefcase for €2350 /$2520.
A timeless briefcase made with high-quality materials and premium service.
[new laptop pocket]