I spend a lot of time around bags, thinking about bags and searching bags. I even once asked someone across a plane aisle what bag they had. That was kinda awkward.
The point is, after a while this thing turns into a bit of an obsession. (Minaal founder Jimmy Hayes once admitted to me he’d often check out a girl’s bag before he’d check out the girl. That’s how deep this thing runs.)
But there's a lot of stuff out there. And sometimes I've got to pick and choose how much I really want to look at something. That doesn't mean I've covered everything: There are some people doing some really cool shit out there. It's pretty much impossible to cover everything!
So even if I don’t check out every single bag ever made, there are a couple of occasional standouts that have made us pause and go, hmm. Move over Herschel and Tumi, there are some new kids in town. And I can't wait to see what they've got in store.
This stylish French brand (of course) whose name literally translate into “coast and sky” is inspired by… the coast and sky. Clean, modern lines these bags definitely aren't. Instead, if bags were art, this is the closest you'd get. Its iconic Isar Rucksack, which the brand is best known for, depicts the natural ebb and flow of the natural working world. Prices are on par for what you'd expect for this design caliber, though aren't extortionate.
Kanye West, is that you?
Mad Rabbit Kicking Tiger (MRKT)
There’s probably no less distinctive-looking manufacturer on this list than Mad Rabbit Kicking Tiger. MRKT was originally founded by an architect and it should come as no surprise because this company likes to focus on geometry, structure and clean lines. There’s also a tiny splash of color to complement it all.
Most bags are made using a mix of vegan leather, suede and FELT, out of all things. (I’m not entirely too sure how water-resistant felt is, though the manufacturer seems to suggest they hold up just fine. But it sure is fun!) Most bags are moderately priced. The one thing these bags definitely aren’t are boring.
Lo & Sons
Best known for its ridiculously stylish (and practical) handbags, Lo & Sons has virtually cornered the market with its do-it-all bag. And there's even a luggage strap for those mega-crazy road warriors! Part of Lo & Sons’ success is that Helen Lo and her sons understand a couple of things: One, every purse is a virtual black hole and two, it needs to be easy to clean and last a long time. Besides looking good.
The brand has recently branched into bags for the less fairer sex though it’s a bit too early to tell if they'll strike a nerve with dudes. The marriage of functionality and style can come at a price with this brand, though the manufacturer usually holds enough sales to make it a justifiable bargain.
Frank & Oak
Never fear, guys. This Montreal-based mens’ brand makes some sweet-looking bags all across price ranges depending on what you're looking for. Its curated look—with just a hint of edge—are perfect for transitioning seamlessly to any situation. They made their way onto my radar when I spotted their Canvas Roll Backpack on the Q train heading into the heart of Brooklyn. Figures.
For ultimate European hipster chic, look no further than Braasi. (I couldn't make a list of the coolest bag brands you've probably never heard of without one for that category.) This mom-and-pop Czech brand has a rugged urban sensibility that will appeal to the hipsters in all of us. Perhaps the best thing about Braasi? The Euro is low, low and it's buy low, sell high, if there was ever a time to do it.
Remember what Timbuk2 used to do back in the day, which was sell really cool urban, cycling bags? (They're still cool, I guess, but it's time to let some of the other kids have their turn.) And Braasi is still one of the manufacturers doing it with a vengeance.
The main downside is that these do really ship straight in from Europe so that can be an issue. But if two bags get ordered, that's probably enough to qualify for the free worldwide shipping available.