As many of you know, this blog rarely focuses on the most expensive or least expensive items out there. There are other sites that write about the polar ends of the menswear spectrum; instead, I try to find products that provide the best value, and that is rarely present on the extreme ends of what is available. So when my friends Roman and Jenn wanted to meet up and discuss their new leather goods company that provided items at very aggressive prices, I was excited to hear more.
Roman and Jenn have recently founded Linjer (pronounced “lin-yer,” Norwegian for “lines”), a company that strives to make high-quality leather goods without the luxury markup. I’ve grown a bit tired of the catchphrase “it’s like Warby Parker for [X],” but in this case, it applies well; Linjer has done a great job of finding a market saturated with expensive items and offers an extremely competitive alternative. Finding leather goods that are both well-made and reasonably priced is tough, so their concept seems like a good one.
The two behind Linjer are currently located in San Francisco, so I was able to give one of their products a test drive for a couple of days. The item above is their soft briefcase in navy (note that their current lineup is only cognac and black, but that navy and mocha brown are “reach colors” if they hit certain fundraising milestones – which it looks likely that they will).
Now, if you are looking for an old-school, British-American style briefcase, you will not find that here. Linjer’s products are a bit more minimalistic and muted, more like a product from, say, Mismo or Delvaux (either of which would be several times more expensive than a Linjer product). The stye of the brief is a simple zip top with a few inner pockets and a laptop sleeve (comfortably fits up to a 15″ macbook – I checked). All told, I think the design is simple and attractive. I also appreciate that there are no obvious logos on Linjer bags, an unfortunate trend on many high-end leather goods.
The leather is an earthy-smelling vegetable tanned leather from Turkey; the hue is deep and rich, and I have no doubts that it will hold up well over time. The brass hardware and YKK excella zippers are also quite sturdy as well. Linjer’s goods are assembled in China at an American owned and operated factory, but for what it’s worth I don’t think the factory was chosen for purely monetary reasons. I know that Roman and Jenn spent a lot of time checking out European factories as well and did a lot of research before moving forward with their current location. I know that the two of them are obsessed with minutiae like myself and hold their products to a high level, and I’m confident that the construction is solid.
Granted, I don’t think this bag is quite at the level of the big dogs in the industry, but the price is so much more competitive than the other names that come to mind. For instance, the machine stitching is solid, but not as nice as Chester Mox’s handstiching (not that I would expect it at this price). The finishing and detailing are good, but aren’t as clean as, say, Frank Clegg products. That said, the product is still miles above the unattractive chrome-tanned (or corrected grain) bags we normally see at this price. Dollar for dollar I don’t think you could do any better. As far as I know, the only option for a solid leather bag even close to the price of Linjer is Saddleback leather goods, and frankly I don’t like the aesthetic of their bags at all (or the fact that they act like their bags are made in the USA when they aren’t).
Currently, most of Linjer’s goods are available in black and cognac; if the launch is successful, they’ll add more colors and styles. Since the above style isn’t currently available, here’s a nice picture of their cognac color:
I also had a brief look (no pun intended) at Linjer’s portfolio case, and was impressed by it as well. I don’t have as much use for something like that, but it is no less well made. There are some other goods in Linjer’s first collection, namely a messenger and satchel bag, but I’m not as much of a fan of the design of these (or the milled leather, from what i can tell from the pictures). To me, the all-star items are the soft brief and the portfolio. Linjer’s goods are currently available on their Indiegogo page, which reached the first funding goal yesterday.
A good friend of mine runs his own startup and was recently explaining to me what a disruptive innovation is; he said that a disruptive company’s product is rarely better than the original – in fact, it’s usually a bit below – but it offers something at a never-seen-before price. This is what Warby Parker has done for glasses, what Gustin has done for denim, and what I think Linjer is poised to do for leather goods. It may not be a perfect substitute for the best of the best, but it provides a significantly better value. If you’re like me and look for value more than name brands, keep a close eye on Linjer.