Tea with The Cambridge Satchel Company

15/02/2012 § 7 Comments

In the midst of the hustle and bustle that is New York Fashion Week, I was fortunate to spend a few hours over tea and scones at Alice’s Tea Cup on the Upper East Side with the lovely folks behind the ubiquitous Cambridge Satchel to learn a little more about the story behind the brand and their plans for the coming season.

Founder Julie Deane.

Probably like you, I initially noticed the Cambridge Satchel as it started appearing on the arms of celebrities and making the rounds on style blogs.  As a girl who has a thing for businesslike bags, I was immediately intrigued, but when I realized the amazing range of colors that were available, I fell in love. When I had the chance to chat with Julie Deane, co-founder of the company, that love was sealed.

With just £600 of Deane’s money, and headquartered in the kitchen of the Deane family home, the Cambridge Satchel Company was founded so that the family could have supplemental income to send the children, Emily and Max, to a pricey private school because Emily was being bullied at school and was unhappy.  With no background in how to run a leather goods company, what started out as 3 bags a week in 2008 has since grown to an outfit of almost 50 people in 2012, but has managed to retain the feeling of family at the foundation. Case in point: at tea I was very pleased to meet the entire family!

Mr. and Mrs. Deane, Emily and Max.

Domestic production is also very important to Deane.  She initially started with a local British manufacturer, but after production difficulties surfaced, Deane decided that she could do it better.  So she opened up her own factory.  Done!  Similarly, when her embosser got backed up with embossing orders for last Christmas, she found an identical antique machine and pitched in herself.

I’m reasonably convinced that there isn’t anything Deane can’t do.  She is simply a wonderful lady: ambitious, gracious, optimistic and charming.  As we spoke, the word “unsinkable” kept leaping to mind, as she talked about obstacles she had encountered and how she had worked hard to overcome them.  She is truly an inspiration for entrepreneurs and businesswomen everywhere.

It was especially lovely to meet Max, Deane’s son, who sported his own personalized satchel, which carried his mother’s business cards and some sort of portable video game system…which he used to show pictures of all of the different bags.  He even had his grandmother’s favorite satchel memorized.  It was like the second coming of Alex P. Keaton, but way better.

Max’s bag. Which I need desperately (with my own initials, natch).

But aside from the color discussions and cups of tea, the best part of the evening was simply spending a few hours with a completely lovely bunch of people who were excited to share their story and be in New York for Fashion Week.  It almost felt like we had all been magically transported back to Deane’s own kitchen.

Be sure to visit the Cambridge Satchel Company.

I’ve got my eye on the music bags to use as a briefcase.
What color should I get?

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 8 — Your Family Jewels

08/02/2012 § 3 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

The fabulous Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Image via the Smithsonian.
More on Gertrude here.

Editor’s Note:  I’m very pleased to introduce our third guest speaker!  Christine Mitchell is an amazingly talented artist and the founder of the blog N’East Style, where she explores an aesthetic that is modern, yet rustic, with a deep admiration of all things New England, independent and handmade.  I came to know Christine initially through her artwork — it’s everywhere!  Her drawings and logo work appears all over the interwebs, recently graced a lovely set of stationery for Tory Burch and even the handmade card she sent me for Christmas.

But aside from all the cool stuff Christine introduces me to on her blog, and her amazing talent as an artist, the main reason I asked her to participate is because she is honestly one of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure to meet.  I knew whatever she chose to share would be heartfelt and charming, just like she is, and I was right.  If you are not yet familiar with Christine or N’East Style, it is my pleasure to introduce you.

Without any further ado, Christine’s tip for a charmed life.

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Day 8: Your Family Jewels
In general, I’m not a huge accessorizer. It’s very likely that is due to the fact that in the mornings before work, instead of contemplating what I’m going to wear I find myself cleaning, writing note cards, catching up on emails, or sleeping past my alarm. As my work land personal lives continued to get more frenzied (and exciting!) in the past years, I decided to ditch the heaps of slightly chintzy jewelry options in exchange for a finely edited selection of beautiful pieces that are very dear to me and that I wear day in and day out. For me, it was akin to one of the final stages of becoming a woman. Now, I wear jewelry with history; a few turquoise and silvers Navajo pieces given to me by my mother, a necklace and pair of earrings made by a dear friend and talented jewelry designer Kate Jones (both of which my wonderful boyfriend gave me), a necklace my sister brought back from Bali, and a couple simple silver and gold pieces made by local designers that were the first big presents I ever gave to myself. I feel sophisticated and completely myself when I wear these pieces, every single day. And even better still, I look forward to the day that I’ll be able to pass some of these pieces down to my daughter(s) and share with them the stories of each treasured piece.

by Christine Mitchell, of N’East Style.

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 6 – Be Fashionably Punctual

06/02/2012 § 1 Comment

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

New York’s old Pennsylvania Station. Taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt for LIFE.

Editor’s Note: I’m very happy to introduce our second guest speaker! Lizzie Garrett Mettler is a journalist, writer and the founder of the amazing blog Tomboy Style, and this spring she’ll be adding “published author” to the list of her awesomeness, as the book Tomboy Style will be released by Rizzoli on April 10 (pre-order your copy here).  I met Lizzie virtually when she asked me to do a Q&A for her blog back in May of last year and I had the opportunity to hang out with her in LA in the fall.  She is one of the coolest ladies I’ve ever met and I definitely wish we lived closer to each other.

Tomboy Style is one of my absolute favorite places on the internet.  A compendium of all things adventurous, rebellious, fashionable and female, the blog is an expertly researched and magnificently cross-referenced guide to embracing your inner Françoise Hardy or Diane Keaton.  I especially love the old photographs that Lizzie finds, but you probably guessed that already.  If you are not yet familiar with Lizzie and Tomboy Style, it is my pleasure to introduce you.  It is a daily read for me and I bet it will be for you as well.

Without any further ado, Lizzie’s tip for a charmed life.

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Day 6: Be Fashionably Punctual
Arriving twenty minutes late to a party is a given, but when it comes to other appointments, being habitually late is as un-classy as driving a yellow Hummer. It seems lately, everyone has a story about a friend they had to ditch because their flake factor got in the way. Have you noticed the phenomenon of re-conforming meetings, appointments and lunches? The re-confirm has evolved into daily American life, but In England, the re-confirm is barely in the British lexicon—perhaps because by culture, they are punctual, and when they say they will arrive at a certain time, they usually do. The habitual late-arriver may blame himself or herself, but allowing them to repeatedly disregard or hold your time to a lesser value than theirs is something you should do without as well.

Help your friend have (or treat yourself to) a fashionably punctual life with a vintage watch! There are some great online retailers for 1940s-1980s watches like Park & Bond and Matt Singer, but if you want a real deal, do the research and hunt for your timepiece on eBay (online forums are a great way to spot fakes!). Lately I’ve been loving a round face from the 1940s, a time when, just maybe…people were more on time.

Column 1: Military (top: 1940s Waltham, 1940s Elgin A-11)
Column 2: Pilot (top: 1940s Breitling, 1940s Gotham Gothameter)
Column 3: Dress (top: 1950s IWC, 1940s Omega)

by Lizzie Garrett Mettler, of Tomboy Style

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The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Wants: Spectacles by RockOptika

03/02/2012 § Leave a comment

New spectacles maker, RockOptika, caught my eye with a rather well-executed campaign that immediately had me wanting to know more.  I happily discovered that designer Tom Herrington is set to debut 10 designs, 5 for women and 5 for men, that are designed in England, handmade in France by craftsmen and display the kind classic style that I always look for when selecting my own frames.  When you are very good at “conscientiously balancing well proportioned models against bold lines and an indulgent splattering of Great British eccentricity,” you’re assured to have my full attention.  I didn’t see a US stockist on the list, but with a collection this strong, it’s only a matter of time.  I was hoping to make a trip across the pond anyway…

Found here via here.

Wants: Maslin & Co. Towel and Holster

24/01/2012 § Leave a comment

Who isn’t in need a zebra skin-patterned beach towel, complete with a lovely leather holster?  This beach essential has just the right amount of exoticism for your next poolside safari, without having all the attendant guilt that a real zebra skin might give some — and I also bet the towel is a good deal more absorbent.  Available in navy, beige and coral, it is the initial product offering of Maslin & Co., a new Australian-based label specializing in “well-crafted resort particulars.”  Now, just think how perfectly striking you would be, perched atop this lovely towel.  The cabana boys wouldn’t know what to do with themselves.

To purchase, head here.

The Travel Kit: A Great Bag

03/01/2012 § 2 Comments

“Hello! I need a suggestion for a great travel bag. It needs to fit my 15″ Macbookpro, my Ipad, a book, a notebook, Canon camera, make-up/face essentials and wallet. Any suggestions will be appreciated! Thank you!”

Of course, always happy to help!  But before I launch into my suggestions, I want to first mention a few of my guiding principles/basic assumptions.  First, I like my luggage like I like my men — handsome, sturdy and dependable; rugged, yet gentlemanly.  In my picks you’ll see a predominance of canvas and leather and not a lot of fussy patterns and shiny thingamajigs — but I’m guessing that’s why you asked me.  Second, you won’t find any backpacks here* — I haven’t been able to bring myself to wear one since the seventh grade, so I’m definitely not traveling with one — but I guessed with all of this stuff you’re going to be carrying, you’d want to keep your hands free sometimes, so I looked for bags you could carry on your shoulder.  Third, I assumed that your camera is a DSLR and requires more space than a small point and shoot.  Fourth, I assumed you wanted something in a carry-on size, so most of these will have a little space for extra items, like a change of clothes or a pair of shoes.  Lastly, since you didn’t give me a price guideline I had a little fun and tried to give you options in a few different price ranges.

Hope this helps!  And let me know where you end up taking your new bag!

Osa Johnson and luggage, in Vanuatu.

Introductory ~ $300 or less
Perfect if you’re just starting your own travel kit, or were looking for something that won’t break the bank.  While these options are lower in price, I sought out brands that have proven their durability.
Filson Sportsman’s Bag
With lots of pockets and two snap-out dividers in the main compartment, the Filson Sportsman’s Bag has room to spare and lots of little nooks and crannies to exploit.  As it was originally designed for huntsmen in the field, I’m sure this durable bag would be able to handle whatever you threw at it.  Also check it out in otter green.

The Filson Sportsman’s Bag is made in the USA.

Bean’s Vacation Bag
An L.L. Bean Signature reissue of a bag that originally appeared in their 1933 catalog, this handsome leather bag is guaranteed to age beautifully.  With the unconstructed interior, you really have the freedom to pack whatever might fit.

The San Fernando Valley Mercantile Co. 20″ Tool Bag
While I was in Argentina, I posted about how much I loved my new 16″ tool bag from the San Fernando Valley Mercantile Co. and Warren has since informed me that it is completely sold out.  If you had your heart set on it, fear not, you can pick up this slightly larger version.

The San Fernando Valley Mercantile Co. tool bag is made in the USA.

Land’s End Canvas 1963 Trip Bag
I first heard about this great bag from my good friend Jen, who also writes the great mommy travel site Parenture.  When she touted the 1963 Trip Bag as a great to a alternative diaper bag for dudes, but I couldn’t help but think it would also be a perfect carry-on for me.  The pricetag is definitely easy on the wallet as well.

Archival Clothing Duffel
This clean and simple duffel by Archival Clothing really appeals to me.  The two pockets on either end are perfect for your boarding pass and passport or perhaps a slim novella, a map or two and your phone.

The Archival duffel is made in the USA.

Intermediate ~ $900 or less
Were you are ready to make a more substantial investment, these would be my first look.

Jack Spade Waxed 18oz Canvas Pocket Duffle
I’ve long been a fan of Jack Spade, and actually carried one of their flap messenger bags around when I went to Egypt a few years ago.  What struck me at the time were the smartly placed compartments and how easy everything was to get to when on the go.  While I was traveling much lighter at that time than you will be, this petite duffle looks like a great alternative.

Saddleback Classic Briefcase (Large)

Saddleback founder and world traveler Dave Munson prides himself on making some of the most — if not the most — durable leather bags available, backing them with a 100 year warranty, bragging that “they’ll fight over them when you’re dead,” and posting photos of crocodiles trying to eat them.  Made of luxuriously large pieces of high-quality leather, what I love best about them is they don’t sacrifice style for function.  (See Dave Munson talk about the construction of the bag here.)  With all the straps and D-rings, I can perfectly see Dr. Henry “…we named the dog Indiana!” Jones strapping on one for an adventuresome archeological dig.  I can see one on safari with Osa Johnson in the 1920s, and yet it also looks right toting around your Macbook and iPad.  Get the large size, and you’ll be good to go.

*Okay, I slightly lied about the “no backpacks” thing, because you can, in fact, convert this handsome leather briefcase into a backpack (Which I suppose is the best of both worlds if you like the backpack world, yes?)

Col. Littleton No. 1 Grip

The folks at Col. Littleton, Tennessean purveyors of fine leather goods, clothing, knives and other such good stuff have a knack for designing the kind of bags I want before I even know it.  Perfectly achieving the kind of genteel adventurer aesthetic I love, I can see Col. Littleton’s bags in the hands of Teddy Roosevelt or Amelia Earhart, packed with the warmest cashmere, a flask of the finest whiskey, a book of short stories by Rudyard Kipling and an ivory-handled knife.

This gorgeous bag, the No. 1 Grip, takes its name from what used to be the common term for a carry-on from 1870 to 1940.  “Grips” were not checked bags, were not given to porters, and were only to be handled by the owners.  This bag opens wide to accommodate all of your treasured items and tightens securely with several lovely straps and clasp — and please do note the plate above the clasp, just waiting for your monogram.  With handles for carrying it either on your shoulder or in your hand, this bag will see you around the world and back.

If you didn’t have quite so much stuff, I would be recommending the No. 3 Grip, as I’m a sucker for umbrella straps, you see…

Both the No. 1 and the No. 3 Col. Littleton Grips are made in the USA.

JW Hulme Co. Classic Duffle – Small

Are you noticing a trend?  Can you not tell that I am a girl with a special place in her heart for rich, burnished leather that will only get better with age, especially when it is paired with hardy straps and buckles and maybe a place for my initials?  This duffle from JW Hulme hits that sweet spot and offers a bit more space than the previous two options, owing to its slightly more boxy shape.  If you are a traveller like me, you’re always apt to return home with a few new small treasures and this bag would definitely have room to stow them away — perhaps even in the secret interior pocket, perhaps?

I see myself grabbing this bag and heading out on hardy, rugged adventures in the American west.  Possibly by stagecoach, but more likely on horseback or in a classic pickup or 4×4 — but this bag isn’t merely rough and tumble, it’s much too luxurious to be considered such. I especially love how the closure flap is a bit reminiscent of a saddle and that JW Hulme will emboss your initials into this gorgeous leather for free.  Quite classy indeed.  Throw this over your shoulder using the detachable strap and you’re ready for just about anything.

The JW Hulme Co. Classic Duffle is made in the USA.

Investment ~ $1000 and up
Time to dream of big budgets and the trips you could take.  These pieces are the kinds of investments that conscientious travellers have been making for many years.  If you are joining their ranks, I salute you.  One day I shall see you there.

Ghurka Express bag in khaki twill

The Ghurka Express bag makes me think of journeys in the style of Abercrombie and Kent or perhaps the Cunard Line or the Orient Express.  A bit more refined than the previous options, I agree, but it is exactly the kind of luggage I would love to pass down to my own plucky, adventuresome daughter on the day she graduates from school and sets off to conquer the world.  She’d do it too.

This handmade khaki twill bag, edged in chestnut leather, has compartments galore and the clever, yet handsome, closures ensure all of your valuable items and whatnot will travel safe and sound.  Also drawing my eye are the two external flap pockets, the umbrella straps, and the detachable shoulder strap.  Outfitted with one of their classic luggage tags and stamped at one end with their lovely crest, detailed with banners, crossed tusks and the name of the bag, the reasons the Ghurka Express Bag has remained popular since its its introduction as one of the earliest Ghurka designs is readily evident.

If you love this, but desire an all-leather bag, the Express is also available in a gorgeous chestnut leather.  And yes, when I pass down my bag to my daughter, I will of course have to replace it with that.

Swaine Adeney Brigg Oxford 19″

Hello, lover.

Quintessentially British and nothing but class, Swaine Adeney Brigg, Royal Warrant Holders to HM The Queen as whip and glove-makers and to HRH The Prince of Wales as umbrella-makers, manufactures the kind of bags my Anglophile dreams are made of.  Makers of luxury travel goods, gentlemen’s accessories and equestrian goods of the highest quality for over 250 years, Swaine Adeney Brigg also happen to have designed the hat worn by Dr. Indiana JonesSo you can see we are definitely in the right place.

This roomy bag zips completely open for easy access but cleverly placed side gussets hold its shape whilst you pack, offers a slightly boxy shape for extra room, and keeps everything safe and dry with a lovely flap — all in hand-finished traditional English bridle leather.  It is also worth mentioning that this gorgeous bag is made entirely by hand from start to finish by a single craftsman in their Cambridge workshop.  It is the kind of handmade, traditional British luxury I’d love to call my own.

While you’re at it, pick up their Whangee umbrella.  What’s good enough for The Prince of Wales is definitely good enough for you.

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If there’s anything I might be able to help you with,

feel free to drop me a line: contact@quitecontinental.net

New Addition: San Fernando Valley Mercantile Co. 16″ Tool Bag

27/11/2011 § 5 Comments


I’ve not returned from Buenos Aires just yet, but I thought I would do a brief post from the Southern Hemisphere on what’s turned out to be my favorite travelling companion from the past few weeks.  In October, I posted about my trip to the Rose Bowl Flea in California to visit The San Fernando Valley Mercantile Co. and meet founder Warren Schummer.  Aside from having a lovely visit, I also put in an order for one of their handsome 16″ tool bags.  I was very pleased to receive it before I jetted off for South America and it’s been absolutely great on the trip.

Large enough to fit a MacBook Air, several guidebooks, a Louis Vuitton Pochette, Kate Spade Lacey wallet, a Nikon D60 (and its bag and cords), a few other bits and bobs, and somehow still fit under the seat in front of me, this bag is made for travel.  With a firm board bottom and metal feet, it also keeps its shape beautifully when not quite so fully stuffed.  I especially liked the detachable shoulder strap, which I usually wore cross-body to keep my hands free.  It definitely came in handy while rambling around the antiques market of San Telmo in Buenos Aires, where the photos were taken.

The leather was quite blond when I received it, but after only a few weeks it’s already aging nicely.  I’m definitely looking forward to years of use from this handsome bag — and of course, many more trips around the world with it.  If you’d like your own bag from this very limited run, all completely handmade in Southern California, head here.

You’ll notice two small alterations on my bag, courtesy of Warren: the addition of a small snap at the top to keep it securely closed and — and! — my monogram just below that.  If you ask him very very nicely, he might be able to fix yours up as well.

Don’t forget to also check out the rest of The SFV Mercantile shop here, as well as the store blog, and Warren’s awesome Vintage Workwear blog.

All photographs courtesy of Erin Rickards, who is a great photographer and even greater friend, but sadly is without a website.  She did just start Instagramming, though.  If you’d like to follow her there, her username is @ericka22.

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