We spoke to co-founder of Troubadour, Samuel Bail, who tells us the story of the brand and we delve deep into their ongoing sustainability journey. We discuss what goes into crafting bags that are durable, sustainable and still stylish which was all done through months of travel across Europe sourcing the best artists, leather tanners, fabric weavers, zip makers.
Whilst their products are constructed to the highest standards, sometimes wear and tear is inevitable, so the team at Troubadour have vowed they will repair your items, should they need it, to ensure they can be loved for as long as possible.
How did Troubadour come to fruition?
My co-founder Abel Samet and I spent a few years in finance, working in positions that required a lot of travel. We were also regularly going away on weekend jaunts with friends, and realised the importance of the right overnight bag. We wanted something that was not too flashy, so we could take it on a business trip, and not too formal, so we could take the same bag on a weekend trip. After failing to find this ‘perfect’ bag, we set out to create our own.
We spent a year and a half looking for the best leather and the right people to work with. Luckily for us, that meant travelling across Europe to world-renowned tanneries, artisan manufacturers, and product trade shows.
What is the craft behind the comfort of the bags?
The performance of each product depends on the design, materials, and build-quality. During our research trips to Italy, we discovered tanneries and bag-makers constantly seeking to improve their products and innovate their processes. That technical expertise – such as secret recipes for vegetable-tanned leather, and the construction techniques that ensure a product will last for many years – helps to make our bags exceptionally comfortable.
What is the process like when sourcing durable and sustainable materials?
We are obsessively selective. Our materials are developed with a strong performance aspect – waterproof leathers and fabrics – as well as with sustainability in mind. For example, all our fabrics are Bluesign approved. This is a system that provides safer and more sustainable environments for people to work in and everyone to live in. The Bluesign process also traces each textile’s path through the manufacturing process, for enhanced transparency.
We only use hides that are a natural byproduct of farming. All our leather is vegetable-tanned, an all-natural process, sourced from tanneries in Italy that we trust implicitly. Using veg-tanned leather means our products wear beautifully, last for years, and look better with age.
Tell us about the vegetable-tanning process.
Vegetable tanning transforms animal hides into soft, smooth, durable leather of the highest quality. This involves immersing leather hides in a blend of all-natural ingredients. These typically include natural oils, water, and bark powders such as quebracho from Argentina, mimosa from Australia and Brazil, and chestnut powder from southern Europe.
The vegetable-tanning process is more environmentally friendly than “chrome” tanning – a cheaper, chemically intensive alternative. While chrome tanning produces a similar look for leather in the short term, over time only vegetable-tanned leather develops the rich patinas, soft hand-feel and unique fragrance for which it is so prized.
What are the benefits of using veg-tanned leather?
The natural oils within veg-tanned leather create a wonderful patina, strength and suppleness, not to mention an exquisite scent. Time and use help to enhance the beauty of the leather, without compromising on performance. Each piece acquires its own unique character and a distinctive, gentle feel as it ages. Unlike chrome-tanned leather, vegetable-tanned leather is exceptionally durable – with the right care, it can last a lifetime.
How did you craft Troubadour DryFibre leather?
We wanted to develop a new generation of leather that would be lightweight and waterproof – and 100% natural. That meant a lot of experimentation. It took time to fine-tune the process and we are delighted with the result – a vegetable-tanned leather that performs like a waterproof fabric.
To create Troubadour DryFibre leather, we add a special wax to our tanning solution of water and vegetable extracts. The wax attaches to the leather fibres throughout the entire hide, creating highly durable waterproof layers, and giving the leather a rounded, subtle and beautifully soft feel. This breakthrough means DryFibre leather will stay waterproof over the years, unlike leathers that only have a temporary waterproof coating applied to the surface.
How do you manage to combine practicality with great design so seamlessly?
Our design process starts with a lot of discussion about how we want a new product to perform. With a clear understanding of exactly what we want a product to do, we quickly move to 3D development. This hands-on approach helps us to improve the design and practicality of whatever we’re working on.
To make sure that every product achieves our objectives, it’s important to identify the ideal materials and construction techniques. Minimalism is a key inspiration. This led to elegant silhouettes based on clean design and the guiding vision that less achieves more.
What is one Troubadour item you can’t live without?
It’s tricky to pick only one because each product is designed for a different purpose. That said, I use the Slipstream Rucksack every day – a product that perfectly balances performance and style.