They don’t make them like they used to. At least that’s what the good people over at Past Vintage would argue – and it seems they’re right. Founded in 2014, the brand sprang to life when founder Jordan Kirby bought a vintage postal bag whose design was unfit for modern use but which had come through decades of hard use intact. Affording instant inspiration, Kirby immediately set about creating a contemporary version of the bag that retained its heritage quality.
The challenges were evident from the start but that wasn’t going to deter Kirby. Determined to remain true to the Made in Britain ethos that had stood the original bag in such good stead, Kirby soon discovered that leather manufacturing in Britain is not the powerhouse it once was. Where once more than 330 tanneries had operated in the UK, competition from the Far East means there are now just four remaining.
Fate, however, was on Kirby’s side and, after thorough research, he found he lived just one city over from Walsall, home of the J E Sedgwick & Co leather finishers and a former hub of British leather manufacturing.
Founded in 1900, J E Sedgwick & Co specialises in treating and finishing raw hides using the same processes and techniques it did over a century ago. The finished product is some of the highest quality bridle leather to be found anywhere in the world. A rigorous regime of vegetable tanning, and hand sprayed waxing results in a beautiful high shine finish leather with a cutting efficiency of up to 90%. This means that, at the end of assembling a briefcase and despite an incredibly thorough inspection process, only 10% of the leather is deemed unsuitable for use. This is far more sustainable and environmentally friendly than the methods used to produce leather for the mass market.
Kirby’s next hurdle was to find a factory capable of creating the bag to his exacting standards – and this would prove to be the biggest challenge of all. Having found a manufacturer with roots in Walsall, first meetings took place in December 2016 but it would not be until February 2019 that a bag would roll off the production line that met Kirby’s exacting standard. Despite having nearly a century’s worth of expertise in hand and machine craftsmanship, the very qualities that made J E Sedgwick & Co’s bridle leather so fine – its strength, durability and faultless finish – also made it extremely hard to work with. However, with much perseverance, and finishing touches in the form of elegant brass buckles from a local metalworker, Kirby’s vision finally became reality.
Which is all well and good – but how does it look? The answer is rather impressive, actually. Available in four colours – London Tan, Hazel, Australian Nut and Black, the smart satchel-style briefcase has a distinctly mid-century modern feel about it. Practical touches like proportions perfect for a 15″ laptop or tablet, a removable shoulder strap, internal separator and straps to the back in which to store a newspaper or umbrella make it ideal for busy lives while the quality in its construction and materials are self-evident. This is bag which promises to only get better with age; consider us sold.
Past Vintage Leather Briefcase