Designer Mark McNeill Discusses New Fall Bags From Allen Edmonds
Looking for a bag for work, play or both? Our men's leather bag designer Mark McNeill can help.
Allen Edmonds: When buying a bag what are the main things someone should look for?
Mark McNeill: First and foremost is the appearance of the leather. You have to like the look of it. Everyone has their own taste. If you don't like it, forget it and move on to the next one. Second is the feel of the leather. Hold it in your hands, feel the quality and thickness of the leather. Third is the quality of the zipper and the zipper pulls. Make sure they feel substantial. For example, our hardware is solid brass. It has a bit of weight to it and is built to stand the test of time. Fourth is the interior. Open the bag and carefully study the interior pockets, flaps and dividers. Make sure they fit your needs and that there is space and a place for everything you need. Fifth is the overall weight of the bag. Lift it up, compare it to others. If it has the quality of one of our bags, you will be carrying it for a long time so you want to make sure it is comfortable.
Allen Edmonds: How can a person match a bag to their personality and lifestyle?
Mark McNeill: Determine the kind of leather that best fits your personality. Casual, dressy, high tech, vintage? Then determine how many compartments you really need and how much you really need to carry with you. It's a little like buying a house. If you buy a big house, you will fill it up with things. The same is true with a bag. Buy a big bag and you will fill it up, so determine your needs before you start looking for your bag.
Allen Edmonds: Bags come in many different styles and leather types. If I am going to carry more than one bag, can I mix them up?
Mark McNeill: We have some bag collections that combine perfectly with one another. I like to call that a mixed media presentation. For example our Tan Saddle Collection mixes perfectly with our Canvas Leather Collection especially since the canvas bags also use the same tan saddle leather in the handles, trim, etc.
Allen Edmonds: This year the Galleria Collection is new. What do you like most about these bags?
Mark McNeill: The Galleria Collection is made of top grain leather, this means the tannery works to preserve the natural grain of each hide. No two hides are exactly alike, so each piece has its own special character. The result is a very impressive, distinguished leather bag. These are great statement pieces that will surely turn heads in the airport or at the office.
Allen Edmonds: The bags of the American Grain Collection have great texture. How do you achieve the pebbled look of the leather?
Mark McNeill: We use American hides which are tumbled naturally during the tanning process to create a grain that is different on every bag. Then, each piece is vegetable dyed and the final result is a skin with a natural luster that improves with age. This type of leather creates a bag that has a more relaxed, casual appeal that is great for the young at heart.
Allen Edmonds: Tan Saddle Collection, where does the name come from?
Mark McNeill: Our Tan Saddle Collection is made from Texas steer hides that are vegetable tanned. Personally, they remind me of the leather used for riding saddles. And thanks to that natural tan color, the aging of this leather will add character and patina that is unmatched by any other leather bag. Trust me this bag will look even better a few years from now.
Allen Edmonds: Is a canvas bag only used for very casual occasions?
Mark McNeill: Our canvas bags are made from the same tent fabric that was used to produce tents for the military during the Spanish American War, WWI and WWII. It will abrade naturally with time, as will the tan saddle leather we used for the handles and all the trim. I view this collection as a cross-over of a high tech look with an aged classic combination of colors. Yes canvas is the most casual of bag materials we use but that doesn't mean it won't be taken seriously because these bags look great in any situation.
Allen Edmonds: The Tech backpack in one of your most popular bags. What makes it so popular?
Mark McNeill: The technical backpack speaks to what I said earlier. If our customer determines how much they really need to carry in their bag each day, I think this is the size most people really need. There are so many built in compartments, zippers, straps and handles and you can carry it like a briefcase with the top handle, or as a backpack, or as a cross body bag. It's so beautiful and versatile that in some stores it sold out the first day it was first put on display. I knew it would to appeal to a very young customer, but it has crossed over many generations.