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If ever I'm going away for one or two nights, I've always struggled to know what to use for luggage. In the past I've had rucksacks and sport bags, but they're not terribly hard-wearing and I don't find them particularly easy to carry either. Indeed, I always feel as though I have just robbed someone or am on my way back from the gym - and if you're going somewhere 'special' you want to feel 'special' - not sweaty.
In order to maintain a sense of occasion, I therefore decided to invest in an 'overnight bag'. This particular type of bag is often quite expensive; it's really a luxury item, as far as I'm concerned. It's one of those items where practicality comes a low second on the priority over looks and status. Having wandered around the delights of Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, I quickly concluded I could spend an absolute fortune here and opted, instead, to go for something mid-range, in terms of budget.
Paul Smith is a renowned British designer, with a small army of boutiques in London (and selected UK cities) and various concessions in department stores around the country. Paul Smith's designs are aimed at slightly older guys, probably in their 30s, who have formed something of their own identity but still want something quirky and unusual. I particularly like Paul Smith accessories. The rush of colours on his wallets, bags, hats and socks are outstanding and whilst relatively expensive, they're not ridiculously over-priced.
I bought this holdall from Harvey Nichols in London but have seen it (or similar versions) in House of Fraser and Selfridges. It seems to be available in two colour schemes, both based in black, but one with a supporting purple colour scheme and one in red. It's a simple, but bold design and very eye catching too and friends and colleagues have admired the quality of this bag and the unusual design. The design uses colour to great effect, with purple leather used for the handles, and to support all the seams and zips. For me, the red is slightly less eye-catching than the purple but still bold and exciting.
The build quality on this bag is excellent. It's extremely sturdy and holds its shape very well, regardless of how much you have in it. The PVC is soft to the touch but very strong and durable, and after a year's usage (albeit careful usage) my bag is virtually as new. The soft PVC works particularly well for the handles, which are extremely comfortable to carry for even the longest periods of time and don't twist or change shape at all. The zip is very strong and chunky and the black fabric on the underside cannot get caught in the mechanism (as you sometimes find on zip fasteners.
I worry slightly about the bottom of the holdall. There are no studs to protect it, meaning that the whole PVC surface comes in contact with the ground when you put it down. I'm generally careful about this, but would have preferred some metallic studs to protect it. Thus far, it is holding up well.
The capacity of the bag is good. You can easily fit enough stuff in for two or three days, including a pair of shoes or boots, jeans, a couple of T-shirts and a wash bag. It's not the kind of bag that you stuff things into, and you do need to pack it reasonably careful, or items will protrude into the leather sides, making it unsightly and more awkward to carry. It's well lined inside but to the extent that if you spilt anything in it, you'd probably ruin the look and feel of the fabric. It only has one small zip compartment, on the inside, which is perfect for a passport and travel tickets (for example) but nothing any bulkier than this. Some travellers would find the lack of compartments rather limiting, but this is really intended just to carry clothes and toiletries. This isn't a bag/holdall into which you might expect to keep dipping to get things.
Due to the thick PVC build, the bag isn't the lightest that you could find. Even when empty, it's comparably heavy to other bags and holdall but then you wouldn't get the look if you didn't have that PVC finish. There is no shoulder strap as the bag is intended to be carried by hand at the side and I guess some travellers would find this a little cumbersome. I'm not a fan of carrying even remotely heavy bags over my shoulder or on my back, but I would agree that this bag can be quite bad for your posture if it's got a lot in it.
The other problem is that the black PVC marks relatively easily. Although I carry this on The Tube and on trains, I'm religious about not throwing it around and carefully handling it. It has, however, still picked up a couple of light scuffmarks and one horrible white 'scratch'. The PVC cleans up nicely but the harder scuffmarks just won't come off. The fact that the PVC is black doesn't help, but this does mean that if you want to keep the bag in pristine condition, it needs to be handled with care. You wouldn't, for example, allow this bag to go through baggage handling on a flight as it would get shredded (it also has no lock or security mechanism). This is hand luggage only.
I paid £120 for this and haven't regretted a penny of it. This holdall is exactly what I wanted. It's smart, stylish and mature, but still a little bit quirky with it and it's generally very durable too.