- Buyer's Guide
Mismo M/S Soft Work Briefcase: Road Test
The Mismo brand needs little introduction. Stalwarts in the luxury space with a reputation for durable goods and an ever-changing catalogue of fabric options, the brand has solidified itself as a true industry leader. We took one of their most successful designs, the M/S Soft Work briefcase out for a spin and here are the results.
Mismo is deeply embedded in the luxury soft goods space, but what is luxury? As co-founding designer Adam Bach would say, it’s all about choice: The choice of material, what to leave in and what to take out, and the functional choices that either make a bag functional, or render it a simple showpiece. Mismo strikes that delicate balance between material, function and beauty as well as anyone and though their bags certainly come in at a ‘luxury’ price point, all those choices add up to a more versatile and practical product than you might expect.
This is a good-looking bag. It's casual, strong, masculine but not garish by any means. The M/S Soft Work can be dressed down and works well enough with jeans, and while the golden brass hardware hints at a certain pedigree, it can be made to look casual and almost utilitarian thanks to the understated fabrics and some of the design elements like the outside pocket and the rolled closure.
The khaki colorway goes with basically everything, from black to dark navy and of course green-hued items will really pull out the bag's verdant undertones.
In the end, the spectrum of use for this bag is broad. You can absolutely dress this bag down and wander around the city with it; it's understated and the intuitive pocketing and capacity keep it functional with minimal flash. But this bag also wants to be the finishing touch on your perfect interview outfit or your daily driver to and from the office. That sort of versatility increases the value for money born of good design.
- Name: M/S Soft Work
- Brand: Mismo
- Format: Briefcase / Shoulder bag
- Measurement: Length: 41cm, Height: 30 to 44cm, Width: 11 cm
- Zippers: Hand-polished YKK Excella
- Material: Tight-woven cotton canvas, custom-developed vegetable-tanned full-grain bridle leather
Who It Suits
The bag's sartorial versatility can be either the cornerstone or the capstone to a closet full of work-friendly clothes, so all you dapper gents on the office grind will find good use for it. It's an expensive bag, but a well-made one and it should last a long time so heritage hounds should feel good pulling the trigger on a piece like this. It will handle your basic EDC well and wouldn't be out of place on excursions around town, even with casual attire.
Who It Doesn't
Bike messengers, EMT’s, spelunking archaeological expedition leaders, penny pinchers; there are bags for you, but this ain’t it. There are limits to the space and access that this bag offers and while for casual daily use it's plenty durable, you’re not going to win your local Alley Cat with the Mismo M/S Soft Work slung on your back.
Materials and Hardware
What was it Charles Eames said about the details…
Mismo selects their materials carefully, with a nod to both contemporary style and historical significance. This bag is definitely the sum of its parts and no discussion of its better points would be complete without diving into the raw materials.
"You can absolutely dress this bag down and wander around the city with it; it's understated and the intuitive pocketing and capacity keep it functional with minimal flash. But this bag also wants to be the finishing touch on your perfect interview outfit or your daily driver to and from the office."
Mismo uses a custom-made, raven-black vegetable-tanned bridle leather, developed in partnership with a Turkish tannery and this is some thick, juicy stuff. The leather has great hand feel, it's smooth and totally unmottled. The shoulder strap and bag handles are made of it and they feel great to use. Maybe most importantly, for you patina-heads out there, this leather will mark up and age beautifully. Mismo has made a point to place leather finishing at key stress points, specifically on the bottom of the bag at the corners. This contributes a ton to the bag's overall structure and ensures that when you set it down on the grimy wet subway floor, the fabric won't immediately wear or take on water and other nastiness.
Since their inception, Mismo has been sourcing their textiles from world-famous Limonta, in Italy. The relationship that Mismo has built with this world-class supplier not only speaks to a dedication to their craft but it gives the brand more freedom to play with material, which promises that each bag that comes off the line is meticulously considered from stitch one.
The body fabric is a soft but durable interwoven textile made of nylon and canvas. The khaki colorway I tested is a crisp, classic khaki but, in a certain light, there are subtle, pleasing greenish undertones. The fabric lives very comfortably in between nylon and canvas in both feel and function by drawing on the lighter weight of a nylon fabric and the textured hand feel of a more rugged canvas.
The pleasing cool grey interior cotton lining has a slightly coarse texture which isn’t unappealing, but I wouldn't call it soft. This liner fabric feels strong enough but not invincible and does not offer anything in the way of additional weather protection, though it really rounds out the bag visually.
The strengths the bag draws from its blended nylon/canvas material isn't without compromise however, namely in weatherproofing. The nylon, woven in with the canvas, certainly beefs up the canvas's ability to shed water and adds a nice tensile strength to the overall weave. But said another way, the canvas, woven in with the nylon, mutes some of that synthetic fabric's ability to repel moisture. Ultimately this is a strong fabric with good but not truly great weather resistance; a dash from the bus to your front door in a storm won't be an issue but this isn't necessarily a bag that wants to go out and get really soaked.
Rugged, strong, relatively light but still hefty enough to give the bag some gravitas. Mismo uses a varnish protected brass so if you like the golden sheen of new brass in particular, great, because it will stay that way for a long time. I would have personally preferred a more muted, matte color here...if only to push the bag ever so slightly closer towards ‘casual’ on the spectrum, but it isn’t overpowering.
Space and Access
The pocketing is smart and efficient with some charming details. There's a total of five pockets: two on the outside, three on the inside.
The zippered interior pocket at the back of the bag is sealed with a hand-polished brass YKK Excella zip and bordered in a thick black bridle leather binding which extends about an inch past the zipper length on both sides. Those extra lengths of leather serve as counter pull tabs when opening and closing the pocket. Without those counter pull tabs, the cotton lining would be too loose to resist pulling away along with the zipper and thus making it much harder to unzip. The counter pulls are a smart choice and a good example of Mismo's focused approach to designing at the intersection of form and function.
The two interior slip pockets at the front are easily accessible when the bag is open as they sit away from the body while it’s being worn. Trimmed with leather and spacious enough for cables and flatter items, they serve their purpose simply and well.
The outside pocket is spacious and adds enormous character and extended functionality to the bag. This is, to me, where the utility vibe really picks up and that's a quality that feels earned or earnest, rather than like an affectation. The pocket is large and it's a perfect place to stow a snack, keys, your giant oversized phone or a small notebook and a few pens. I’ve even been able to stuff an average-sized novel in there. Aesthetically it's the feature that makes this bag less a traditional hard-edged briefcase and something much more versatile and interesting. Mismo calls this the "grocery pocket", taking its larger inspiration from "old-fashioned grocery bags" so there is a soft heritage whisper to the pocket's bellowing form.
Behind the “grocery” pocket there is a less obvious slip pocket that accommodates flat items well and feels unexpected and almost playful. It isn't protected from the elements, as it opens up without a button or a zipper, but it is virtually hidden and makes a fairly secure stash pocket for things that you might want to stow quickly and keep at the ready.
The “Soft Work” is aptly named here because, while the leather finishing helps the bag retain its shape, digging your hand inside and engaging with the pocket array can be a lot like fishing around for your phone charger in a laundry basket full of t-shirts. The lining is essentially floating and because of that, it can pull away and sort of gum up the works.
It feels like there's a lot of fabric in there and it can be occasionally frustrating when you're going in for a laser-straight pocket dive and end up having to finagle around some of the folds that the inner liner produces. A small gripe but a recurring one.
The main compartment of the M/S Soft Work opens and closes via two brass latch hooks and two brass buttons that seal the upper lip of the bag. Similarly the outside “grocery pocket” requires three button clicks to seal it fully. Opening and closing this bag is not a process built for speed and it would be fair to say this bag is relatively button-heavy.
"The lining is essentially floating and because of that, it can pull away and sort of gum up the works."
The advantages of a "true roll top", namely extra weather protection and the ability to over-stuff, are lost somewhat in this incarnation. There is only the option to fold the opening over once and over-stuffing requires that the opening lip of the bag be oriented upwards with only two buttons to seal it closed, thus exposing the interior to the elements. This isn’t hugely limiting however, and aesthetically it still really works; the bag drapes nicely and the rolled closure really tones down the rigidity and presence of the black bridle leather and brass hardware.
Engaging with the M/S Soft Work takes a bit of focus….but that focus, or the time it takes to interact with the bag, somehow seems like part of its charm and that's something that draws me to it. The material, the craftsmanship, and the story all ask that you linger a moment longer to appreciate the cohesiveness of the finished product. And in having to engage with it so tactilely, so often, you grow to appreciate all the disparate components that come together to make the bag feel harmonious.
All things considered, this bag wasn't designed to haul your frozen turkey home for Thanksgiving on top of your laptop and some gym shoes. It's a casual bag and to that end, it will stand up to a fair amount of casual abuse so you won’t likely feel the constraints of the design. Rather, you'll enjoy how cohesive the bag feels for what it is.
The real test of a bag's durability comes in everyday use and by that metric the M/S Soft Work has performed admirably. There is no denying the quality feel of the canvas/nylon blended exterior fabric or the impressively thick black bridle leather that supports the bag at critical wear points and hand holds…and just try to break that brass hardware that keeps it closed off from the elements.
I used the Soft Work every day on my commute to the office and back. The outside pocketing was helpful for dumping things quickly and the bag didn’t flinch at carrying my office essentials, which are admittedly limited; a notebook, a novel, a small toiletry kit and an umbrella, a rain jacket, and the occasional bottle of wine on the way to a pal's place. For this, the bag is exceptional; it handles the basics with ease and has just enough organization to promote versatility without going all Marie Kondo on you.
I never felt fully comfortable pushing the M/S Soft Work to carry beyond those basics however, and I deploy a stowable tote for short, unexpected grocery trips. I think when interacting with a bag that knows its place well, accepting its limitations in some ways ensures a more complete user experience. I didn’t ask this bag to do more than it could, but what I did ask of it was done admirably.
A good bag, especially at this price point, should inspire care-free confidence in its user and by and large, the Mismo M/S Soft Work does that. There is really only one thing that I feel slightly less enthusiastic about. Namely, the interior cotton liner.
Because the interior fabric feels somewhat loosely woven, it seems that if you were to experience any kind of failure in the product's lifetime, it would happen at the outer edges of the two front slit pockets where they join the bag. They are only stitched on once and you’ve seen this before with loose cotton fabrics; the hole made in the fabric by the stitching is visible and can and will grow larger as the pocket wants to pull away from where it is attached when filled. Mismo has done an otherwise great job of limiting any seams and visible attachment points on the interior which greatly reduces snag and tear-away risks, but these particular attachment points seem less than inspiring.
I think that having seen so many other brands, especially those with a lower price point, double, triple stitch, or even bartack stress points on interior pocketing, this is one place where I wish Mismo had been more blatant about durability.
Alternatives to Consider
The Bleu de Chauffe Gaston Musette is slightly smaller, with less organization but perhaps more rugged material with a decidedly more utilitarian vibe.
The Atelier de l'Armée Worker Briefcase offers luxe leather and canvas in a tight, cohesive and work-friendly package.
QWSTION has a range of office-appropriate bags with textured fabrics and sleek understated, focused design at a slightly lower price point.
Mismo: If you’re digging the Mismo vibe but less so the Soft Work, the brand offers quite a few office-friendly carry options in a wide range of fabrics and finishes.
The Mismo M/S Soft Work doesn't feel "overbuilt"; you won't hear any comparison to "mil-spec" anything on this bag, either in look or function. Rather, Mismo seems to speak a design language of economy; every piece of fabric and leather and metal is refined down to an entirely purpose-built application. These are very durable materials, sure, but it feels much more like each placement of each piece has been calculated for maximum efficacy rather than relying on unbreakable materials slathered all over a pack to mitigate mediocre design sense. Mismo's durability is truly written deep within its DNA rather than scrawled across its face in bold marker. If you’re looking for a durable, stylish, and versatile bag for the office and jaunts around town, the M/S Soft Work will serve you well, and likely for a long time to come.
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Space & Access
Look & Feel
Build, Materials & Hardware
Warranty & Support