Stories

Troubadour x Sunspel: An interview with Samuel Bail

Based in London, Troubadour specialise in minimalist bags and accessories made for modern life on the move. With their clean aesthetic, attention to detail and love of quality materials, Troubadour were a natural fit for a collaboration with Sunspel.

Samuel (left) with Troubadour co-founder Abel and creative director Sam

The Troubadour x Sunspel collection includes a briefcase, tote and rucksack. We spoke to Troubadour co-founder Samuel Bail about the collaboration, his approach to making bags, and what ‘luxury travel’ means in the 2020s…

  

How did you come to start making bags?

My co-founder Abel Samet and I spent a few years in finance jobs that required a lot of travel. We were also regularly going away on weekend trips with friends and realised how important it is to have the right overnight bag. We wanted something that wasn’t too flashy, so we could use it for business travel, yet not too formal, so we could take the same bag on a weekend trip. When we couldn’t find this ‘perfect’ bag, we set out to create our own.

We spent a year and a half looking for the right people to work with, the best leather and materials. Luckily for us, that meant travelling across Europe to visit world-renowned tanneries, artisan makers, and trade shows. To say we learnt a lot would be an understatement!

Troubadour and Sunspel have a very similar ethos, emphasising quality materials, craftsmanship and attention to detail. Can you tell us something about what goes into making a Troubadour bag?

The performance of our products depends on the design, materials, and quality of construction. During our research trips to Italy, we discovered bag-makers and tanneries constantly seeking to improve their products and innovate their processes. We always seek out highly skilled people who share our passion for quality and obsession with detail. That technical expertise – such as construction techniques that ensure a product will last for many years – helps to make our bags exceptionally comfortable and durable.

Troubadour x Sunspel Adventure Pathfinder Briefcase

Troubadour x Sunspel Adventure Pathfinder Briefcase (detail)

How does the design process for a new product work?

Our product design is driven by a combination of performance and style. The process starts with a lot of discussion about how we want a new product to perform. Once we have a proper understanding of what we want a product to do, we move to 3D development pretty quickly. This hands-on approach helps us improve the design and practicality of whatever we’re working on.

We go to great lengths to identify the specific materials and construction techniques that will help us create the finest quality product. In terms of style, minimalism is a key inspiration. “Less is more” is a good approach, and it means we strive to achieve clean lines and elegant silhouettes.

What steps do you take to make Troubadour products environmentally sustainable?

Sustainability is a multifaceted issue, so we address it in multiple ways. In terms of product design, we create bags that are made to last, and can be repaired rather than replaced.

On the materials side, we use fabrics made from recycled plastics and Bluesign-approved materials, which means a textile’s path is tracked all the way through the manufacturing process, for enhanced transparency.

For our leather products, we only use hides that are a natural byproduct of farming, and are transformed into leather by vegetable-tanning. This is a chemical-free process that uses a mix of tree bark, water, and other natural ingredients to create beautifully soft and durable leather.

All our packaging is made from recycled materials, and we’re always looking for new ways to minimise our use of energy, water, and raw materials.

Last but not least, we want to be there whenever our customers need help. We know that with extensive use over time, materials will wear and sometimes things break. So we offer a repair service for the life of every product. This is free for the first five years, and charged at cost after that, helping to keep Troubadour bags in use year after year.

Troubadour x Sunspel Slipstream rucksack

Troubadour x Sunspel Slipstream rucksack

For the collaboration with Sunspel you’ve created the Adventure Pathfinder briefcase, Adventure Tote and Adventure Slipstream Rucksack. What makes these products special?

These bags are made from a new technical canvas, inspired by Sunspel’s long heritage of producing beautiful natural cotton fabrics and the technical performance of Troubadour bags. This means the fabric has a natural look and feel, while also being waterproof and extremely hard-wearing.

Our design philosophy of refined performance is all about striking the right balance between performance and modern refinement. Clean lines and minimal stitching, contemporary silhouettes and understated simplicity.

The Pathfinder Briefcase is an evolution of traditional briefcase design into a style that suits today’s lifestyle. It’s softer and subtle, with outstanding functionality. Hence its super-smooth zippers, plenty of pockets (including a padded pocket that holds a 16-inch laptop), and very comfy shoulder strap.

The tote combines practicality, modern design and comfort. It’s ideal for a day at the beach, your regular gym trip, or just shopping for groceries.

There are a lot of rucksacks on the market, but it’s rare to find one that has the perfect balance of performance and style. The feedback we’ve had from customers and the press about the Slipstream is that we’ve achieved this, which means a lot.

Troubadour x Sunspel Adventure Tote

Troubadour x Sunspel Adventure Tote

What does ‘luxury’ travel mean in 2020?

Rather than thinking in terms of traditional five-star treatment – which can be rather stuffy – I would say it’s about making travel easy, with no reason to worry or get stressed.

For me, luxury travel is about enjoying quality time with family and friends in a beautiful place, experiencing the amazing natural scenery of our planet. Having travel gear you can rely on – bags you can beat up and not worry about – is a big part of this!

What’s next for Troubadour?

We always want to push the performance of our designs further, while maintaining our products’ refined look and clean aesthetic. Sustainability is a key aspect of the way our bags are designed, made and used, so we’re constantly working on innovative approaches to enhance this. We want to create products that will last for decades, and we hope people enjoy using our bags as much as we enjoy making them.

Troubadour x Sunspel Adventure Tote