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If you've outgrown the simple nylon bags of your college years or just looking to replace an older, well-worn favorite, our Premium Leather Duffle Bag is for you. Perfectly scaled and detailed, it's the weekender you've been looking for. Use it as a day use or overnight bag, the design never dictates its purpose to you. Whether used for business travel or a weekend getaway, the timeless design is at home in every environment.
This is the latest in a series of interviews about the story behind the design of MacCase products. For this interview, we are speaking to MacCase President and Chief Creative Officer Michael Santoro about the MacCase Premium Leather Duffle Bag.
JKD- You've been making laptop cases for over 20 years. Why this style now?
MS - As you know we've made our leather messengers for over 10 years. It's a large form factor relative to our other models, but it was never really designed to be a traveler. Customers may use it for that. I have. It will work as an overnight bag if you're packing light. But what if you're not? What if it's a long weekend?
A lot of our customers are travelers. Whether it's for business or pleasure, meeting a client or friends at the lake house, they're on the move. If you want a MacCase for that weekend getaway, there really wasn't one. Now there are two.
JKD - The overall design is very classic and different from the typical MacCase vocabulary. Was it a conscious choice to not make them look like other MacCase models?
MS - Yes and no. I will explain. When I started the design process I wanted to build the best leather duffle bag. What does that mean? Ask 10 people what the best duffle bag consists of and you might get 10 answers. But you also might get 5 that are the same. People have a preconceived notion of what a ubiquitous product like this looks and functions like.
If you stray too far from that, you lose them. Especially if you are a brand like ours that is new to the space. Yes, you might make an initial impression and cause a stir with something radical. There is a place for that. At this point in my career, I know who our customers are. I have a pretty good understanding of their needs.
I know if you asked 10 people what features the best leather duffel bag should have and got 5 of the same answers, those 5 answers are here. Not one would be "radical design". I focused on what I felt was going to be most important to our customers and how they were going to use the product.
JKD - Can you give us an example of what those features are that make this such a quality piece overall?
MS - The first thing any designer looks at is size and proportion. If the bag is too small, it doesn't work for a broad range of people or situations. If it's too big, it can be awkward to carry and can get too heavy.
Finding the sweet spot is critical for a product like this. It's like a pair of shoes that feel just right when you put them on. Our leather duffel bag just has to feel right when you pick it up. We worked hard on that.
Once you have the overall shape, it then gets divided up. I try to take as many things away as I need to add.
JKD - Why? What's going on there? Can you explain that?
MS - Designs that functions at the level of essence, of only including what is essential, are the most satisfying to me. They tend to remain visually engaging the longest and take on a timeless quality.
For a program like this, once you have the basic length and width, you know you need a handle of some sort, an opening, the details start coming fast. If you're not sharp you can end up with a real mess on your hands very quickly.
So I like to take things away at the same time. When you said this design lacks the typical MacCase vocabulary, I would agree. It does because all those panels we typically use were tried and removed. The design was too busy, too noisy. It looks like you're trying too hard and in a way you are.
MacCase Design is not about always using a curved panel here or a type of detail there. It's about designs that endure, that look professional, elegant, and timeless. That's what we do. There are "MacCase" details all over these bags. Just in a different way.
JKD - So you agree on the overall size, then what?
MS - You start to bring in the functional aspect of the design and that creates the proportions. How and where you add things that make the piece work, the visual weight they bring, the scale, all these things affect the overall proportion.
They also greatly affect the functionality. Many times the proportion is determined by the function. Or you find a way around that to get the proportion you want but the functionality the customer or the product itself needs. It can be tricky.
Once you have everything working correctly, once you have the functionality in place, you can start thinking about the details.
JKD - Tell us about the materials. This is one area where you are doing something new.
MS - The first thing I would say and the first thing the customer is going to notice are the hides. The leather duffle features new, high emboss black satin hides combined with a glossier, smooth black hide.
Juxtaposing the satin finish, textured hide against the near patent leather gloss, smooth hide takes the product to another level. Combining that with our trademark white stitching, and you have a piece of kit that, as our friends in the UK say, "looks the business".
JKD - You mentioned adding the details. What are some of the details that make this duffel stand out?
MS - We're using top-of-the-line YKK metal zippers. I don't think we've ever used metal zippers before. They take a bit of time to break in but they are tough as nails.
The chrome on our hardware is gleaming like you'd find on a Concours show car. The coupler that joins the two sides of the handle is a nice detail that feels good to hold.
We're using much heavier fabrics in the interiors including leather trimming on the pockets. A weekend bag like this will see much heavier use than one of our laptop cases. The heavier fabrics will last a long time under the added duress.
One other thing I'd like to point out is the feet on the bottom panel. I don't really understand why someone would buy a duffel like this without them. They're going to quadruple the life of the product. Our leather duffel bag has five.
In the end, it's how all elements combine that make the product special and unique. That's really the essence of the art of design. When you're done, you want the end result to be greater than the sum of its parts.
JKD - Seeing the duffels in the flesh, each color has a very distinct personality. How did you manage to craft two completely different expressions from the same design?
MS - I wasn't easy (laughing). I knew we were going to have a black duffle bag and a vintage brown duffle bag. With most other MacCase products there is a striking visual difference between the two colors on the same product. They appeal to different customers as well.
But nothing in the 10 plus years of designing and manufacturing the MacCase Premium Leather Collection prepared me for how different the two versions of this duffel look.
Each is unique and will find its audience. They just are so very different in a very good way.
JKD - Do you see one color appealing more to men and another appealing more to women? Is there a men's duffle bag and a women's duffle bag here?
MS - I don't believe so. We don't see that with our other models. Women buy black and women buy brown. Same on the men's side. We try to make our products gender-neutral.
The women's fashion accessory industry does a pretty good job of supplying woman with plenty of traditional options. But if you're a women who wants something different, that's where we can step in the offer something unique.
JKD - That sounds great. Thank you for your time.
MS - Thank you, Jody.
How do you store a leather duffle bag?
The best method of storing your leather bag depends on the type of leather. Sealed hides can be wiped clean, filled with blankets (to retain shape), and placed on a shelf. If you have an unfinished hide, follow the same steps except be sure to keep it away from moisture to prevent mold.
How do you clean a leather duffle bag?
How you clean your leather duffle bag depends on how the hide is finished. Sealed hides can be cleaned with any quality automotive leather cleaner / conditioner. Unfinished hides should be oiled and left to sit. Dirt will be pushed to the surface where it can be lightly brushed away.
How do you hold a duffle bag?
Most duffle bags have handles attached to the main body of the bag. These handles typically fold down and away for easy access. To hold or carry the bag, simply pick each handle up and grab them both with the same hand. The handles should fit comfortably in one hand.
Are duffle bags allowed as a personal item?
Duffle bags vary in size. Most will fit in the overhead bin and be considered by the airline as a personal item. As long as your duffle bag fits within the personal item dimensions set by the airlines, you should have no problem carrying it on. Check the size to be sure.
The MacCase Premium Leather Duffle Bag easily fits in the overhead bin and is considered a personal item by most airlines.