It has been said that if you eliminate everything that is not essential you will end up with something that truly is.
Every design and production decision we make is purpose driven. Nothing about our product is done for ornamentation sake. You won’t find ornamental stitching, decorative hardware or anything done without a specific purpose of either adding strength or utility—two qualities we think truly are essential.
Simply put, we build our products to be strong and useful. It’s in this simplicity that we feel we find beauty.
Strength and longevity are the driving factors behind the construction decisions we make and the materials we choose. There are cheaper ways to make bags and cheaper materials we could use. But taking shortcuts shortens the life of the bag. When the goal is building a heirloom-quality product worth owning and worth passing on, taking shortcuts doesn’t work.
No bag is indestructible and we don’t want to give you the impression that ours is—what we will claim is that we are building a bag that is worth repairing.
The leather really is the most important part of a bag and the part that really dictates the cost, quality, strength and lifespan of a bag. We only use thick full-grain vegetable-tanned leather that is custom made for us to our specifications. Our leather is really thick—as much as two times thicker than used in comparable bags. You might initially pay less for a bag made of cheaper or thinner leather, but it won’t last and you’ll be replacing it sooner. So in the end, are you really saving anything?
What does full-grain mean? A cow’s skin can be well over ¼ inch thick. The tannery can split a hide into thin layers called splits as many as six times—but not all splits are equal.
The “grain” is the top most portion of the skin side of the hide. The grain is the best and strongest part of the hide. Full-grain leather is the very top most split that has not been sanded or resurfaced to hide or remove color variation, scars or blemishes. These marks are not imperfections in our opinion and add character to a bag. If you’re lucky your SALT Co. bag will have plenty of such marks that add character and tell the story of the cow’s life, but don’t dismay if your bag comes boringly perfect and devoid of scars—these bags will last so long you will have plenty of time to add your own marks that tell the story of your life that you can pass to the next generation.
Why We Use Vegetable-tanned Leather
The two most common leather tanning processes are chrome and vegetable. There are advantages and disadvantages to both processes.
Chrome tanning uses carcinogenic chemicals/chrome salts to preserve the leather. It is a very fast process that only takes one to two days. Before chrome-tanned leather is dyed and painted, it is an unnatural pale blue color and has a strong chemical smell that frequently persists in the final product. Over 90% of the leather produced in the world are chrome tanned. Chrome-tanned leather is softer, stretchier and a whole lot cheaper than vegetable-tanned leather.
Vegetable tanning is an ancient process using natural vegetable tannins derived from sources such as oak and mimosa barks. It takes 40 days, to as much as a year to complete the tan depending on the water temperature and strength of the tannins. The appearance of un-dyed vegetable-tanned leather is a light tan and it has a natural, woody and slightly sweet earthy smell. Vegetable-tanned leather is stiff, strong and resistant to stretching making it ideal for applications requiring strength such as belts and the only leather appropriate for horse tack and saddlery where weak or stretchy leather could cost you your life.
Everything about using vegetable-tanned leather is harder from a manufacturing standpoint, but we don’t make manufacturing decisions based on what is easy. Aside from wanting to leave an inhabitable planet for our children, we use only vegetable-tanned leather because of the way it performs, looks and ages—oh the way it ages! As the days pass into weeks and months into years your bag will take on a beautiful patina from your touch. The edges will round and polish and the very bag will mold to your body. Over time, your SALT Co. bag will become less our creation and more uniquely yours.
(Read our recommendations for conditioning and maintaining vegetable tanned leather here.)
We hate cheap hardware. We really do. Second only to the leather, nothing makes a bag look cheaper than bad hardware. The hardware we use is made for horse tack. We figure if the hardware can hold a horse back, it’s strong enough for a bag.
All of our hardware is made of corrosion-proof solid cast brass with a matte nickel finish. It’s quality you can literally feel. Our hardware is heavy and heavy duty. Our clips are rated to hold 250 lbs. each which is probably overkill, but it’s easier to use stronger hardware to begin with than to repair it later.
You may also have noticed that our bags do not have fast clips hidden behind the buckles. This is because the clips will most likely fail before the leather does. And let’s be honest, they look cheap. Yes, it’s going to take you ten seconds longer to open your bag with real buckles, but you will look very cool doing it—that’s ten more seconds of looking cool at no extra charge. You’re welcome.
The thread is the weakest link in a bag. Because of this we only sew where we have to. We use larger and thicker pieces of leather where others might sew multiple pieces together to cover the same area or obtain the same thickness to save costs. Where we do need to stitch, we use marine-grade polyester—the same type of thread used to make sails for sailboats where durability and resistance to UV and weathering is paramount.
The most difficult thing about designing a bag is making it specific enough to meet one’s daily carry needs, but general enough for when those needs change. If a bag does not perform a function it’s an accessory not a necessity and if you have read this far you will have picked up that we are not about doing things without purpose.
SALT Co. bags are designed look and feel in every way like a vintage heirloom piece. The problem with real vintage pieces is they were designed for a different era, the era of paper. Our bags are all designed around the modern need of carrying and protecting a computer or tablet. We have also designed multiple divisions and compartment to accommodate and organize cords, chargers, keys, pens, etc. and even paper.