The Best MacBook Pro & iPad Pro Cases Turns 10
Happy Anniversary MacCase Premium Leather Collection!
2017 marks the 10 year anniversary of the launch of the Premium Leather Collection by MacCase. The Collection represents the best MacBook Pro cases and iPad Pro cases available. The Collection was ground breaking in that it reinvented the Apple-specific case market MacCase created nearly 10 years earlier.
Today we are once again speaking with Michael Santoro, Chief Creative Officer of MacCase, the architect of the premium leather concept. In this post we'll take a look back at the history of the line that represents the best MacBook Pro and iPad Pro cases.
JDK - Take us back 10 years. What was life like at MacCase in 2007?
MS - You have to go back later than that. The leather line launched in 2007 but the impetus to create something that the world had never seen before goes back to around 2005. We were the number one selling Apple specific case line at CompUSA for 3 years. CompUSA folds and we loose half of our revenue overnight. This kind of loss tends to make you very creative, very quickly.
JDK - So you are saying the leather line was born from necessity?
MS - That is part of the story. When I created the first ever Apple specific case, there wasn't much competition. This changed quickly. After nearly a decade, the market was crowded. Even though we were still doing very well, I was itching for that same excitement of when we had the place to ourselves. This combined with the loss of CompUSA pushed me to start thinking about a second act for MacCase.
The Genesis of the New Leather Line
JKD - So what lead you to leather? Did you look at any other options?
MS - That is a good question because along with going upmarket, I also looked at going down market. I thought there would be a opportunity to bring high end design to ultra low price pieces. We even had the name for the line picked out, the branding, everything. I walked around with the ideas for the products in my head for a long time never putting pen to paper to get them out.
JKD - Why?
MS - I don't know. That happens sometimes. I sure songwriters have the same experience. You'll walk around with a melody or some lyrics in your head for a week and if you don't get them out they evaporate back into the ether from which they came. For this low cost models, they just never got out. It happens.
JKD - Did you have the ideas for the leather line in your head at the same time?
MS - Yes.
JKD - Wow, never a dull moment in that brain of your's huh?
MS - You have no idea, Jody (laughing).
JKD - So the low cost line never saw the light of day?
MS - No, but if you look at amazon and eBay, the Chinese manufactures pretty much did exactly what I envisioned. When we started, a basic nylon sleeve for a MacBook Pro was about $40. Now it's a lot less. I cannot speak to the quality of the stuff that is out there now at those super low price points, but that was the idea. My thinking about the direction of the market at that time was spot on.
JKD - So somewhere at this time the idea for the leather line springs forth. What was the difference in that idea vs. the low cost idea that made you take action?
Being First Again
MS - Because I was going to get to so something first again. There was no premium, up market leather case line specifically for Apple in 2006. The disposability of nylon always bothered me. If you make a good quality leather piece it can last for decades.
Doing products that were more substantial had meaning to me. Doing upmarket, beautifully designed, beautifully crafted products that the world had not seen before is what designers live for. Knowing these products were going to be the best MacBook Pro cases available brought a resurgent sense of confidence and pride to our work.
JKD - How did you choose which forms factors or styles to include in the new leather line?
MS - That was probably the easiest part because we knew what was selling well on the nylon side. So we just took the styles that were hits for us in nylon and copied them in leather. Well, we didn't just copy them. We fused the new leather aesthetic with the form factors we knew were top sellers.
JKD - Yes, tell us about the visual vocabulary you developed that became the hallmark of the new leather line.
MS - Well, if you are going to make the best of something, you want people to be able to see that. In our case, we wanted to make the best leather MacBook Pro cases. How do you use design to get that message across? I needed a way to have the products speak for themselves. I wanted the vocabulary to be timeless. Our nylon models were never trendy so there was no way our leather line was going to be.
The New Look for the New Line
JKD - What did you ultimately come up with?
MS - Arcs. Whenever you bring curves into a design it tends to make the design more complex and interesting. They can get away from you so you have to be careful. But curves did 2 things for us: It showed the world we could cut leather, and when we used contrasting white thread to sew the curved panels, it showed the world we were serious about quality. It showed everyone we could sew.
It's really hard to do this stuff. You can't make the leather MacBook Pro cases or iPad Pro cases at the quality we do on a speed line. And you can't put a white thread through a black leather curved panel unless every stitch is perfect. This was the unspoken, visual language that was developed to let the world know that these were in fact the best leather MacBook Pro cases anyone had ever seen.
JKD - When the line launched you had 7 colors. Was that a bit ambitious?
MS - Of course. Making Apple laptop cases from really expensive leather for a market no one knew was there was ambitious too. It's all ambitious. That's the point. As an entrepreneur, ambition is the gas that keeps the engine running. Doing this line was as exciting as doing the first MacCase for the old iBook. It had the same kind of energy. That's the time to try stuff. 7 colors was over the top. So what?
JKD - Were there any colors of the original seven that you look back on now and thing, "What was I thinking?
MS - No, not at all. You have to try things. You never know how the market will react. We sold a lot of red, a lot of pink and a lot of chocolate that first year. Don't forget, we only had a few styles back in 2007. Nothing like all the styles we have today. Cream never did well but it was a cool color to have in the line. So was tan.
Tan looks great in photos. So even though some of the colors were not great sellers, they presented a new idea, the idea of upmarket, premium leather quality products for Apple portables to a world that had never seen that before. A beautiful tan of red will do that a lot more effectively than a black case will in a photo.
The Best MacBook Pro Cases
JKD - When did you realize the line was going to be a success? That your huge risk was paying off?
MS - Probably by the end of the first year. Sales we good and the interest was picking up. I was motivated to create more form factors, more styles and grow the line. It was the right line of products at the right time. Eventually we made up all the revenue we lost from Comp and then some. It's very rewarding to be sitting here with you now 10 years later knowing it's still going strong. From a very dark day in our history we responding in the most creative way possible and came back stronger than ever.
JKD - Looking back now these 10 years, is there anyhting you are partially proud of about the line or what you have accomplished?
MS - I am proud that so many of the leather MacBook Pro cases and now, leather iPad Pro cases that we have produced are still in use today. Some pieces of the original launch from 2007 are still in use. That is pretty good for a $100 - 250 case.
I am proud how well we have brought the iPad Pro cases into the Premium Leather Collection to the point where we are probably going to be best known for them in the not to distant future.
I am proud of all the new customers we've brought on board. Marie Osmond recently placed a nice order with us. Last week, Ralph Lauren's organization purchased our Folios for their staff. That says a lot when an iconic design brand like Ralph Lauren is purchasing your products for their staff. That meant a lot to me.
Neil Diamond's road crew uses MacCase. Wherever Neil is in the world, if someone on the tour get's a new Apple portable, Stan (Neil Diamond's road manager) calls Debbie and we ship it to them. Lastly, actor Vince Lozano recently placed and order with us. Vince is best known for his work on the Pirates of the Caribbean.
JKD - Lastly, looking back on the last 10 years and the success you've had, does this inspire you to come up with something else? A third act for MacCase?
MS - I would not say the anniversary is inspired me one way or the other. Boredom, Jody. Boredom inspires me. I get restless really easily and am always looking for the next thing.
JKD - Have you found it?
MS - Stay tuned......
"You can't make the leather MacBook Pro cases or iPad Pro cases at the quality we do on a speed line"