In the world of messenger bag, 3 factors are ranked the most valuable : durability, utility and beauty. This review is a designer’s review of handmade LeWhisper pro version bag.
I met Limeng, co-founder of LeWhisper two years ago when we worked together in an architecture firm in Boston. We have been team mates on ambitious projects, quiet often intense competitions. From one long night of work to another, we happened to make breaks and chat. One day in late 2015, during one of these breaks, she told me about her joining friends (not architectural this time) to develop leather good designs: LeWhisper. More specifically, the project is to design bags designed for designers and creative people. I found the idea was great! As designers, there are two criteria we care about for bags: it needs to look great, and it needs to provide sufficient room for a lot of stuff in an organized fashion. Limeng explained me the idea and asked me about the bag I was carrying in the office at that time.
It was a nice-looking Marc by Marc Jacobs messenger bag made of grained and soft camel leather. With its portfolio shape, it opens four different compartments to carry notebooks and so on. It offers nice features where you can store wallet, keys, pens, glasses. Nice. The only thing is that the bag is too small, and quite fragile: not the perfect match for a designer to carry his home/life.
Not long after the chat, I changed job and moved back to Paris. I came back visiting Boston in the mid of 2016 and met Limeng for coffee. To my surprise, she was already carrying a prototype of the designer bag! It looked great and I could share Limeng’s justified excitement when she showed me the different qualities of the bag. While still in progress, the design showed great surprises: a detachable tool panel, a lot (real a lot) of large size pockets, a ruler/scale holder, room for drawing rolls, and quite hidden, a waterproof compartment to store unfolded tabloid/A3 size documents. Mentioning all above elements, people would imagine that the bag’s design might have to be extremely busy and not very satisfying, from an aesthetics stand point. However, this is where the prototype bag showed evidence of genius of gathering both practicality and a nice look! To explain this, a picture worth a thousand words.
I really liked the bag and can’t wait to see the final version. Said goodbye to Limeng and went back to France. Stayed there for three months before coming back to Boston to start a Master program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Just few days before classes started, I got one LeWhisper’s designer bag (pro version). Upon opening the box, I was acting like a kid, as I kind of knew what to expect, while also hoping for some unexpected improvements of the bag. I have NOT been disappointed in this process. Unboxed, the LeWhisper’s Designer Bag looks great. I am even tempted to say I prefer the camel/tan color, comparing to the black/grey version. The bag uses a nice combination of two shades of warm brown. The leather is strong and soft, giving a satisfying impression. The most interesting part of the opening process was to actually take a look at all details that this product features. There are a lot of them, and each of them testify that the bag was designed and crafted with great attention and passion. It is not all about the look here. It is obvious that each square inch of the bag has been carefully assembled and this creates a great feeling of quality.
The shell is made of one large piece of leather that wraps around the whole bag. This big piece is punctuated by different details showing that the bag can be carried through different way. The handle to just carry it as a briefcase, the strap holders -located on each corner of the back- to use it either as a backpack or as a messenger bag. On the bottom, two stripes of leather protect the body of the bag and just above it, in the bottom part of the front, is located the lock closure, which showcases a unique Y shape with a nice simple and efficient mechanism made of leather and metal. On the sides, darker leather is introduced and beautiful details also take place, such as zips to hold drawing rolls, and two leather straps with notches.
It is when we open the bag that we understand the uses of those later elements, which give the possibility to expand or reduce the capacity (and thus deepness) of the bag, with three different configurations possible. Digging into the inside part of the bag, the feeling of quality persists. It definitely shows the same level of craft as the outside shell. The leather is doubled with a water resistant Cordura fabric and as outside, lot of attention has been attributed to details. The main (and largest) compartment is very flexible, is thoughtful enough to provide all elements I might need for my EDC objects. On one side of the main compartment, there is a padded case for a 13-inch laptop, and a side pocket for IPad/tablet. This area can be locked with a leather strap. On the other side of this compartment locates 3 pockets for personal goods, such as smartphone, digital camera, glasses, and wallet as there is a zip pocket as well.
The Designer Bag also features a medium size space outside of the main compartment, which features two innovative elements. There, is located a detachable pad which basically handles of the key elements that you may want to carry around (let’s say for a meeting), without having to take the whole bag. On one side of the pad, spaces are allocated for bank and business cards, SD cards, pens and pencils, smartphone, small sketch book, or other miscellaneous tools. The other side can be used as a sketch pad. The pad is super easy to take off or put back on by magnetic connectors on the corners. It also means that when it’s not in need, the pad can be removed in order to have a new big pocket to place books or papers.
The second feature of this area is a playful and secret pocket. As mentioned before, the body of the bag is wrapped in one large piece of leather. Actually, this big piece of leather is doubled with a large thin pocket that allows the transportation of unfolded Tabloid or A3 size documents.
So, while I was unboxing the bag, everything looks amazingly promising and I was quite excited to test it as soon as possible, at school and elsewhere, and to see how all of those features were useful to me.
It has been one month I am using the bag now, in most cases to go to school and thus to carry my computer and student belongings. As all of this is quite fresh, I have not been able to actually test on a daily basis all of the features, which is in a sense great, as the bag still shows potential new ways of use through time. What I really like about it is the flexibility it offers. If I just need to take with me few books or notebooks, I can set the smallest size, and keep it light and thin. If I need to carry my computer, charger, mouse, hard-drive, sketchbook, everything still fits as it is so easy to expand the capacity of the bag. The only thing here is that my computer is a 15 inches MacBook. Meaning that it obviously cannot fit in the pocket allocated for 13 inches’ laptops and is thus cannibalizing the largest pocket. In my particular case of use, I will have to compromise between the different features: computer but no tracing paper or large scale plot or tracing papers, notebooks, camera and so on but no computer. It is like you can have either a tech use of the bag or a more romantic idea of a designer, still using charcoal and heavy paper to draw. Nonetheless, I still had the possibility to use the bag with a 12 inches MacBook, and in that case, everything fits perfectly and there is room for everything I need, and the large pocket completely fulfill my needs.
Then, the idea of flexibility that the bag offers seems really compelling to me. I like to know I can carry it, with the least belongings I need for my day, or pack a huge quantity of items within it, as long as there is no overlapping. Whenever I need to present tabloid documents, ArchC or ArchD rolls and want to trace over it, I can just put the first documents within the hidden pockets and open the zippers located on both sides of the largest pockets to accommodate a roll of tracing papers and the second documents. Sure, you can’t really use this when it is raining, but it still free your hands as you don’t have to carry any tube or huge rolled pieces of paper.
While using the Designer Bag for a longer period, I could compare it with the Marc Jacobs one I carried for several years. With the same character, the Marc Jacobs gives less flexibility according to its fragility and small size. The LeWhisper bag is also a good alternative to carryall backpacks, as adding to a nicer look, it also offers a nice volume of space, but also more organization and hierarchy with its several pockets. These features and the easy daily use make me confident about the quality of LeWhisper’s design.
During my first year of architecture school in Paris, I have been introduced to what are the three components of good architecture according to Virtuvius’s theory: firmatis (durability), Utilitas (utility) and Venustatis (beauty). To me, it seems that LeWhisper designed this bag through this very architectural approach. As it is still new, I don’t know yet about durability (and I am not so worried about it according to the quality), but I am quite enthusiastic about the aspects of practicability and aesthetics here. I feel like LeWhisper solved the problem of finding a bag that provides practical features without having to buy an incredibly ugly kind of computer or camera carrier luggage.
Maxime Faure. Cambridge, October 2016.
This pubilcation is aurthorised by LeWhisper in 2018.