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New designer in store: Troubadour
By Julien Gauthier
Founded in London in 2011 by two former financiers, Troubadour is the result of a relentless search for the perfect bag. “A high-quality overnight bag that could transition seamlessly from situation to situation, be it a quick business trip or a casual weekend away with friends”: this is what the two founders, Abel Samet and Samuel Bail, desperately tried to find back then. The inconclusive outcome of their search motivated them to start developing their own leather goods collection, in pursuit of the ideal bag. A project that soon became their main occupation.
The undertaking in which the two friends embarked brought them to travel Europe, looking for artisans with whom they could join forces. From tanneries in Northern Europe to leather workshops in Florence, including zipper factories in Italy, the two business partners encountered the women and men who shape the high-end leather goods industry. It is, among other things, these encounters as well as the story of these artisans who persist to keep traditional techniques alive that inspired Samet and Bail to name their brand “Troubadour”. In a way, it is a tribute to these storytellers, these passionate people and all the inspired travellers they met while travelling Europe.
We contacted the founders to find out more about their brand. Here is the report of our interview with M. Samuel Bail, co-founder of this inspiring British company.
INTERVIEW WITH SAMUEL BAIL, CO-FOUNDER
Julien Gauthier: Can you tell us more about what motivated you and your partner to create Troubadour?
Samuel Bail: We decided to create Troubadour because we could not find the bag that we wanted for ourselves. Working in finance, we needed something that was functional for our lives, as well as aesthetically appealing.
Our ideal bag was one that was not too flashy, so we could take it on a business trip, and not too formal, so we could take the same bag on a weekend trip. After failing to find this ‘perfect’ bag, we set out on an adventure to create our own.
A big driver behind creating the business was that we were interested in sharing the things we learned and the stories behind the people we met. It is our desire to share these stories and to also acknowledge the stories that our bags will witness over their owner’s lifetime and adventures that the Troubadour name pays homage to - as Troubadours were storytellers in days gone by.
JG: Who or what inspires you when you design your products? Is there any designers, artists or historical figures in particular who influence you?
SB: We really try to take inspiration from everything around us. That being said, we have deep appreciation for the likes of Georg Jensen and Jonathan Ive, or an architect like John Pawson. We so admire the simplicity and functional purpose they bring to their designs.
We try to adhere to Dieter Rams ten principles of good design. According to him, a good design is:
• Thought to the last detail
• Environmentally friendly
• As little design as possible
JG: Almost every single high-end fashion house has its own leather goods collection. How does your brand manage to distinguish itself in such a competitive market?
• In regard to the product itself, how does it stand out among the leather goods industry?
SB: We are unique in our combination of functional design for men with a more modern aesthetic and incredible level of craftsmanship that is intended to last for decades. Our products are designed for life, and only get more beautiful with age. That being said, to face the competition, be it direct or indirect, we think it’s important to highlight the signature features of our bags that make them so unique, such as the vegetable-tanned leather or the straps, which are secured with a hidden rivet.
• JG: Do you have a particular approach toward your clients that helps to compete with other high-end brands?
SB: As a brand, we strongly believe in honesty, openness, and authenticity. Unlike other brands that tend to be secretive about where and how their products are made, we're proud of these things and love to share them with our customers. The people we work with really inspire us. An important part of Troubadour’s DNA is driven by their stories and passion.
JG: Tell us more about your products. Where are they manufactured? What kind of materials do you use?
SB: Everything is made in Italy. We visited 100 tanneries and 30 leather goods manufacturers in four different countries in Europe, but that’s where we found the inspiring passion, craftsmanship, and quality we were looking for. We are a British brand and our products are designed in London, but our leather is tanned in Santa Croce, the zippers are manufactured in Brescia and the products are handcrafted in Florence.
There are several signature elements to our products. Vegetable-tanned leather is the first and most noticeable signature feature – we love that it’s natural and ages beautifully. Since there is no finish on it and no spray to cover up imperfections, the natural oils of the leather can come up to the surface and develop a very nice patina over time. To be able to offer flawless vegetable-tanned leather, we have to work only with the top 4% of hides in terms of quality. Those that are perfectly clean and that can be used without any sort of finish on them. Some of our products are fully made of leather, while others are made from a combination of both leather and technical nylon canvas. The Fabric + Leather collection is aesthetically more approachable and perhaps a little more casual. The bags are lighter as well, so they’re perfect for everyday use and the quality of the fabric ensures they will last as long as our full leather bags.
The second most important feature is undoubtedly the way our straps connect securely to our bags with hidden rivets and leather tabs. This construction provides a level of sturdiness that matches the leather’s durability, without even compromising the clean aesthetic of the pieces.
Third is the folded pocket element, which exists in every product, with the grey stitching in the corner for additional strength. It is a simple and clean detail that also makes the products more functional.
JG: What are the next challenges to overcome? What is the future of the brand?
SB: We want to continue to create products that will last for over 30 years. We are always working to improve our products and every season is a new occasion to get feedback from our customers, which is very helpful in determining what they really want. Therefore, our focus is on building trust with our customers and remaining attentive to their needs.
In terms of expanding our reach geographically, we've had a lot of demand from the U.S. and Asia, which we’re keen to explore. The U.S. market already represents almost half of our business and it continues to grow quickly for us.
Troubadour will celebrate its 5th anniversary this year. To this day, 35 retailers in 15 countries distribute the brand. The constantly evolving collection is composed of 25 different styles, from bags to wallets, including tech accessories. Since early 2015, the brand even offers a bespoke program, allowing the customers to create their own fully customized bag. We can already say that the young brand has a lot of stories to tell, as its name seems to imply.
PIECES AVAILABLE AT MICHEL BRISSON
Made from vegetable-tanned calf leather, this exquisite Troubadour messenger bag is ideal for carrying your documents, your laptop and all your office essentials. The exceptional quality of the leather and the flawless construction ensure peerless durability and add to the luxurious look of the bag. As for its minimal design, it has a clean aesthetic thanks to its sleek lines, which allows it to harmonize with any outfit, whether it is formal or casual. This combination of high quality materials and simple design results in a highly versatile city bag that will age beautifully and that you will be able to easily adapt to any trends.
One of the key pieces of the Troubadour collection, this briefcase, made from the same mix of materials as the weekender described above, will follow you anywhere you go. This everyday bag is amazingly versatile, thanks to its minimal design and its slim profile. It is chic and looks professional enough for the office, without being too formal to be used on more casual occasions. Even though it is quite compact, the Troubadour briefcase is provided with multiple internal and external pockets, including a padded compartment meant to store a 15’’ laptop. The functional aspect proper to the brand is at the forefront as much as the sleek design, which results in a perfect balance between convenience and elegance.