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7 September 2012 No comments
Made in EnglandSaddles, Bags, Etc. Style & Fashion Stories
A close-up of the debossing plate used for our leather bag production in Manchester. Most readers will be aware that Brooks has once again started producing all sorts of bags for the Discerning Cyclist. Given their varied materials, styles and technical details, it may not come as a surprise to learn that the provenance of our range of satchels, rucksacks, holdalls and panniers has also been necessarily varied. The process has been a long and challenging one, but in the past year or so, things have stabilized greatly. We now have a completed line of fine looking, tough-wearing bags developed by and for cyclists. When we began looking for a partner with whom to work on Brooks bag prototypes in 2007, we were dismayed that our initial searches threw up no single person or firm close to home prepared to oversee and deliver Brooks-standard work in the relatively high volumes we requested. The same grade of leather we take for our saddles is used for our bags. So we took the next step of making enquiries in the Far East, where we ultimately placed orders for a number of Conversation Starters, as it were, and thus were born the first incarnations of our Brooks Barbican, for example. Satisfied with the quality of the materials and workmanship, we nevertheless continued to scour Europe. Of course, countless high-end Western brand names nowadays operate Asian production lines. Customer reaction tends to run the gamut from equanimity via disappointment all the way through to open animosity. We are sensitive to these attitudes, yet fully aware of the global market forces which sometimes dictate such moves. But in our case, for example, it would be clearly unthinkable for our saddle production to up sticks for somewhere terribly far away from Smethwick. So even with the first consignments arriving at Headquarters in 2008 for our perusal, an active and ongoing search for capable hands a little closer to home still seemed like the only reasonable position to hold on the matter. At any rate, we had long since given up hope of finding a single local leatherworker to produce the entire range, but after a time we managed to locate some candidates who could each do a few. Perhaps a couple of extra logistical and organizational headaches for us, but nothing insurmountable. And their work was really excellent. At a discreetly tucked-away pair of railway arches in Manchester we found an operation capable of taking its time with our selection of rigid leather bags, such as the Soho and Barbican Leather, as well our tool rolls and cases. And somewhat further down the road from Smethwick, while on a trip to Tuscany for L'Eroica in 2008 we happened upon a local saddler there, to whom we ultimately handed responsibility for our canvas range of bags, among them the Islington and Hampstead. Occasionally, pieces from our initial Asian production run still surface in supplier rotation. We also have a couple of pieces from the same run still for sale in our online shop. Usually they are from the lines of our bags that were initially made there (and sold) in small numbers. They carry the Brooks name, which is guarantee enough for most people, and are qualitatively identical to our current Continental and English made pieces. As well as which, come to think of it, they can now also be correctly regarded as "Collectible"!