Completely handcrafted, with not a single machine in sight, the Horween Derby leather roll-top backpack is a true work of art. Designed with a refreshing simplicity and timeless charm, it makes a loyal and dependable companion on this adventurous journey we call life.
We’re looking at the story behind this beautiful, functional roll-top backpack, taking into account both the inspiration and leatherwork behind it. We also ask Colville Leather’s founder and master craftsman, Matthew Nesbitt, about how the backpack’s design has evolved over time.
Simplicity is key in all Colville Leather products. No fuss, no difficult fixings, no overworked leather. Just functional, honest leather accessories that boast rugged, genuine charm and faithfully fulfil their purpose.
The initial idea behind the Horween Derby leather roll-top backpack was no different - master craftsman Matt wanted to create a bag that is uncomplicated and practical in its design, but with a timeless style that will never go out of fashion. Speaking of his choice for a roll-top design, Matt said: “As I wanted simplicity, I felt that a roll-top backpack would be the best route to take, as it didn’t need complicated gussets, closures or pockets”. And so, the concept of the roll-top backpack was born!
Talking further about his initial desires for the roll-top bag, Matt had envisaged a backpack that “looked like it belonged in every environment, whether that was out in the wilderness surrounded by nature, or in an urban city”. A backpack to suit the modern man – a stylish bag to support busy working life in the city, one that could easily serve as a practical day bag on weekend jaunts in the countryside and exciting adventures overseas.
Bringing the backpack to life
With a vision in mind, Matt set about bringing his ideas to life. He crafted the body of the bag from the world-renowned Horween Derby leather, a unique waxed, vegetable-tanned side leather known for its versatility and beautiful aging. Growth marks and scars stand proud thanks to the emulsified oils that the leather is conditioned with during the production process, giving the finished products an edgy, rugged look.
We love working with Horween Derby leather, not only because it looks and feels beautiful, but because of the dedication and passion that has clearly been invested into its development by the Horween family. You can read more about the Horween Leather Company and the exquisite Derby leather they supply us with in our blog post.
The straps of the roll-top backpack are made from the highest quality J & FJ Baker Oak Bark Tanned leather, direct from a local Devon tannery. An all-natural English tanning method using only oak bark and stream water is used to turn hides into strong, lightweight and beautiful leather, perfect for bag straps. Similarly to Horween Derby leather, distinctive textures and pores of each oak bark cut strap are proudly displayed for all to see, contributing to a unique final product that boasts charisma and individuality in abundance.
Meticulously designed and crafted with strength and longevity in mind, the backpack features solid brass hardware and copper rivets, and is 100% stitched by hand using a traditional saddle stitch with a strong, waxed, rot-resistant thread.
Back in August last year, Matt chose the Horween Derby leather roll-top backpack as his trusty day bag for his and his new wife’s honeymoon trip to the West coast of Canada. It proved perfect for holding all the daily essentials whilst sightseeing and trekking, and incredibly comfy for carrying around all day. Whilst pleased with how the backpack had functioned overall, it was the extensive use on this trip that helped Matt identify a couple of minor tweaks that would further develop the design of the bag.
For instance, when he returned, Matt was eager to adjust how the straps attached to the bag. The original design featured a ‘D ring’ which the shoulder straps and closure strap all attached to. When chatting about the edits he made, Matt said: “This design worked well, however it meant that the strap which was used to close the bag was taking some of the strain. I felt that I wanted only the shoulder strap to take the weight of the bag, hence the redesign.”
Matt removed the D ring in the second design, and attached the shoulder straps and closure strap directly to the main body of the bag using copper rivets. “I still have the original prototype, so I was able to take the existing straps off, and I then attached them in the new method. This took a couple of hours to work out the placements”, described Matt. Not only did this solve the problem he’d identified, but it allowed him to attach a ‘floating pocket’ on the inside of the bag, perfect for keeping small items safe.
Reaction to the roll-top backpack
Talking about what makes the Horween Derby leather roll-top backpack special, Matt said: “Simplicity was key, and with that I was able to create a bag that just works”.
Customers-turned-owners have certainly agreed. The original-design backpack has received plenty of compliments, with one customer eagerly reporting back that they use it every day. The newly-evolved roll-top has also commanded attention, with one being snapped up as soon as it was launched.