In this series of interviews we talk to like-minded individuals who are motivated by perfection. Whether it be an overlooked product, service or skill, it’s about giving something the respect it deserves. People who have set out to challenge the norms and strive for the best.
Here we catch up with Sam and Abel, co-founders of Troubadour Goods who set out to make the best leather bags on the market.
Q Talk us through how Troubadour came about?
A We both spent a few years in finance, working in positions that required a good deal of travel. In addition, we were regularly taking off on weekend jaunts with friends. We realised early on how important the right overnight bag is to this type of lifestyle, something we’d never really given much thought to previously.
We set out to find a great leather bag that could transition seamlessly between business travel and casual getaways – we basically became obsessed with the hunt – and continuously came up with nothing. Almost everything we found was too flashy, covered in logos or just generally inappropriate for the workplace. Without consciously realising it, we’d embarked on the journey that would eventually lead us to create Troubadour.
We wanted to produce a classic, durable bag that married performance and style – one you’d happily carry with you for years, one that would age beautifully. We spent the first year and a half of Troubadour’s ‘official’ life working on our materials and design. Luckily for us, that meant travelling across Europe to visit world-renowned leather tanneries, bag makers, product trade shows and so much more. We allowed ourselves the time to secure the best partners, procure the finest materials and continually refine the design of our inaugural line. For us, it was essential to get it right from the start.
Q You work with a number of small craftspeople and artisans, how important are they to the quality of your product?
A We visited 100 tanneries and 30 leather goods manufacturers in four different countries in Europe, and Italy is where we found the inspiring passion, craftsmanship, and quality we were looking for.
We work with small family businesses where skills are passed from one generation to the next. Each leather product is handcrafted by artisans – it’s an honour to work with highly skilled people who share our obsession for detail. While making things this way takes more time than mass production, we believe it is well worth the wait.
Q The quality of materials is clearly of the utmost importance to the brand. For example your leather goes through a very complex tanning process, can you tell us a bit about that?
A All Troubadour leather is created in Italy in an all-natural vegetable tanning process at one of two tanneries in Santa Croce, Tuscany. This is the birthplace of natural-vegetable tanning, and the village of Santa Croce has served as a leather-making hub since the Middle Ages.
Our vegetable-tanned hides are immersed in a blend of ingredients, including bark powders – such as quebracho from Argentina, mimosa from Australia and Brazil, and chestnut powder from southern Europe – natural oils, and water. This process takes several weeks and the tanneries we work with create their own unique tanning recipes, which are jealously guarded secrets! We’re delighted that the result is soft, smooth, durable leather that looks and feels better with age.
Q Can you talk us through some of the inspirations behind the latest collection?
A Performance and style always drive our product design. We spend a lot of time as a team discussing how we want each of our products to perform, and then design each piece to meet those needs.
For our latest collection, the concept of bringing performance to the fore was partly inspired by Todd McLellan’s photographic project, “Things Come Apart”, which explores everyday items by presenting their components as deconstructed elements, laid out in the style of assembly diagrams.
Minimalist architecture – such as the National Theatre in London – also serves as a key inspiration, especially in terms of fabrication. This led to new, elegant silhouettes based on clean design and the guiding vision that less achieves more. A consistent, modern aesthetic extends throughout our line.
Q An overnight ‘escape’ bag was the starting point for the brand, what are the ways you like to escape work and find some downtime?
A We both like getting away to the outdoors whenever possible. Whether it is hiking, biking, swimming, or running, something active in the outdoors is the best way to relax and find some headspace. Specific destinations of choice include the Lake District and Scottish Highlands in the UK, and the Berkshires and White Mountains in New England in the US, particularly in the autumn. A good book is a must too, a recent favourite is "Shoe Dog" by Nike founder Phil Knight, and a pen and notebook for moments of reflection.