Creating Rugged Luxury

by Rachel Chang

Rugged luxury goods are those rare items whose quintessential beauty improves with age and wear.  These items have intrinsic value from their authenticity and craftsmanship but appreciating rugged luxury requires a discerning level of sophistication, taste, and class. 

Rugged luxury is linked to the artisanal movement; things that are handcrafted or authentically imperfect appeal to patrons who shun cookie-cutter, mass-commodity driven goods and seek treasures that offer something special.

Wellington & Cromwell created rugged luxury though the exclusive use of natural materials and vintage inspired designs. When we think about rugged luxury, our patrons want things that are pure and to understand where raw materials come from and anything that we can do to build on that such as using natural materials is how we will build the brand.

We've created a brand identity that is rooted in a nostalgic past but pointed toward an adventurous future.  Wellington & Cromwell is committed to high quality hand craftsmanship and authentic design where form follows function.  The purest example of rugged luxury is our Professor Jones Duffel.

Leather bags are unique among men’s accessories. A good one will last a lifetime and, if treated well, look better at the end than the beginning of your life together. Only leather has this attribute, gaining an individual patina from the way it is used and cared for, and a bag provides the largest canvas on which that rich beauty can be displayed.

The quality of leather bags varies hugely. But unlike tailored suits or mechanical watches, the quality is on the outside.

The three main areas to watch are leather, hardware and stitching.

Good leather is the most tactile area. Pick up a soft example, like a holdall, and feel how supple it is in your hand. Try bending it inwards, towards the centre of the bag, and watch for sharp creases on the surface that show whether there is some kind of coating on the top. Good leather will wrinkle naturally like skin – like the creases on your knuckles. The skin that comes from the cow is around three quarters of an inch thick. That is split into two or three layers and only the top has a grain, and inherent strength. The mid-layer might be used on cheaper bags, but painted with something to give it a new surface. That will peel off pretty quickly.

When it comes to hardware, zippers are pretty easy to test. Try zipping them up and down; the smoothest are the best. Checking the D-rings that join handles or shoulder straps to the bag is also quite straightforward: all hardware is either a cast fitting or pressed metal. The latter is lighter, cheaper and weaker. You can spot pressed metal because there will be a faint seam somewhere on it, usually running around the edge. We use cast brass on all our bags. Cheaper hardware is usually zamak – a zinc alloy – and it will often be the first thing to go on a bag. That’s incredibly frustrating, when a good bag is undermined by poor fittings.

To stitch our bags we use an extra-thick spun nylon that should never snap or fray, and all of our craftsmen ensure that each and every piece is stitched to our exacting standards. A careful review of any two parts of a Wellington & Cromwell piece will reveal exactly the same number of stitches per inch, a requirement for anything that leaves our workshop. The placement of these stitches is equally exact, precisely laid out to the millimeter to ensure that every bit of leather is assembled to last a lifetime.

In the end, price normally reflects much of the quality of a bag. But there are also many bags from luxury brands that look cheap – with shiny, artificial finishes or printed patterns – and plenty of expensive looking bags that skimp with cheap hardware and polyester lining. If you want a bag that will last a lifetime, it’s worth checking for the aforementioned signs of quality. All a person really needs in life is a work bag and a weekend holdall. Invest in Rugged Luxury from Wellington & Cromwell and you’re set for life.

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