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A couple weeks before heading off on my first real vacation in a long time, I got an email about a new weekender from Italic that, according to the brand, “puts the Prada version to shame!” The bag they’re calling out is a black nylon duffel with leather accents that’ll set you back a little under $2,000. I got my hands on one and took it on my longer-than-a-weekend trip to Mexico to test it out.
The carry in question is the Miles Weekender Duffel Bag, which was just released this week. If you’ve never heard of Italic before, they’ve taken the direct-to-consumer trend and applied it to designer goods. Instead of simply “cutting out the middleman,” Italic’s sales pitch is that they use the same exact factories as luxury brands, but they forego the luxury labels and thus knock off what most people would call exorbitant markups that come along with them.
In doing so, Italic actually feels more trustworthy than other D2C brands. Take Everlane for example — they just unveiled a new sneaker for $98, but the first thing a potential buyer sees on the product page is a “traditional retail” value of $175. Does that mean you’re getting a $77 discount? No. The company is simply using that mostly arbitrary figure to make you feel like you’re getting a deal, and get you to click “Add to Cart.” A lot of brands do this, including Italic — but instead of offering a definitive price for what a competitor would offer, Italic shows a range (for the Miles, it’s $800 to $1,000, versus their price of $295).
More importantly though, the most prominent factor Italic cites is which company’s factory they make the specific product in. For the Miles bag, Italic doesn’t use one of Prada’s factories, so that initial comparison is a little overzealous. But they do use the same manufacturer as Tumi and Longchamp, both of which certainly aren’t known for their affordability.
So how did the bag hold up against these luxury competitors, and in the various overhead compartments and taxi trunks during my international trip? Read my full report below.
What we liked:
- Italic is taking men’s goods seriously: For the most part, Italic seems to have been focusing its efforts on its women’s line, offering covetable pieces like activewear from Stella McCartney’s factory and leather clutches from Celine and Prada’s manufacturers. With the Miles weekender, they’re beginning to expand their offerings for the discerning gent, and that alone is worth a salute from us.
- The little things make all the difference: Needless to say, most people who buy luxury bags don’t shell out because the quality of the product is worth the price. They buy them for the brand name (and other intangible things, like service). That said, the Guccis of the world do know how to do the little things right, and apparently so does Italic. In the Miles, the six metal feet on the bottom are essential in keeping the bag in shipshape whether your travels include sand or snow. Also, while brands can tout top-notch leather and sturdy hardware all they want, it’s hard to judge the veracity of those claims when ordering online; but here, the leather straps are thick and comfortable, the zinc alloy buckles and zippers are brawny (but not so much that they’d compromise the lightweight nylon), and the included lock is a nice touch.
- The quality matches the promise: We find ourselves in the Wild West of ecommerce, where new companies have no qualms about attaching superlatives to their dubious products, whether it’s a blanket that can cure serious medical conditions or a travel sneaker that raises millions on Kickstarter. As a consumer, you should be always on your guard. But at least in this particular bag, Italic delivers on the affordable luxury front, a promise that, for people who have spent years buying into upscale brands, might seem too good to be true.
What you might not like:
- Nylon isn’t for everyone: OK, this is less of a critique than a personal preference. But nylon is definitely not my first choice in a weekender bag as I normally gravitate towards something with a little more heft. I want a bag that’ll last decades, at least, and ideally last forever as long as there are craftspeople who can patch it, reinforce it and give it a new lease on life if it sees some serious shit. Nylon isn’t that material. Nylon is, however, much, much lighter and the Miles won’t be a burden if you have to make a mad dash for a connecting flight.
- It’s for duffel purists: Speaking of mad airport dashes, the Miles isn’t built for the lackadaisical traveler. It’s a pure duffel — and that means no slip-through slot for attaching to your roller bag, and definitely no extendable handle or wheels. You’ll have to use the shoulder strap or the handles, and while that is how I like to travel, you might be looking for something that a little more carefree. Also, it’s spartan in terms of pockets; there are no exterior pockets for stashing a passport for easy access, and inside there are two zip pockets on one side and one larger zip pocket on the other.
As we find ourselves in the golden age of direct-to-consumer companies offering supposed luxury quality at affordable prices, we’re also in the golden age of over-designing. I can’t tell you how many bags I’ve either owned or tested that fall into at least one of these categories: an absurd number of pockets but I only use a couple; three or more ways to carry but I only carry it one way; mil-spec materials when I just need civilian-spec, thanks. If you crave a return to sensible design, and luxe materials, the Italic Miles Weekender is for you. It’s light, minimal and timeless, just don’t expect a lifetime warranty.
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