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Is it possible to find an elegant/professional backpack?

Is it possible to find an elegant/professional backpack?

Old Jun 29, 18, 8:04 am
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Is it possible to find an elegant/professional backpack?

In recent years I have transitioned into a lighter (for me) packer so that I travel, on trips of all lengths, with a rolling bag and a carry-on personal item. I continue to search for the lightest rolling bag as I prefer not to lift excess weight into the overhead bin. I am currently searching, however, for the perfect personal item/carry on. For many years, my carry on personal item was a zippered tote. Last year on a vacation in Europe, however, I discovered the joys of a backpack for functionality and practicality. When traveling alone, which I do often, I now much prefer the hands-free convenience of a backpack over a tote and the distribution of weight onto both shoulders. It is so much easier to get on and off of planes and trains, buy a cup of coffee, easily keep track of all of my gear, etc. The challenge for me is to find a backpack that looks decent and is also functional-I don't want to look like a college student.

Here is some context: I am a 50-something professional woman. As an educator, my attire is not formal but I my style is pared down and pulled together. Think aspiring-to-look-like-a- French-woman That rules out a bag that looks too casual or outdoorsy. I am not a label person but I do like quality and style and have a bit of a bag obsession. At the same time, I prefer an organized and functional bag with a place for everything so that I can find what I need on a long or overnight flight, when I check in, etc. I use pouches for organization but I am looking for something with pockets and practical features that is lightweight and durable. For example, my favorite bag strictly for function is a Tom Bihn messenger that I used years ago when I went back to school. I also bought one of their backpacks for a trip a couple of years ago. Both Tom Bihn bags have great organization and features (key fob, exterior water bottle slot, interior zippered compartment, comfortable straps, top handle, multiple exterior and interior pockets, etc) and are well made but the look was wrong and I passed the backpack to my college age daughter who is now completely attached. I don't need a backpack for city travel as I always pack a small, lightweight cross body but I use the backpack for planes, trains and automobiles.

I have looked at the luggage makers and a couple of Tumi backpacks come close but I have yet to see one in person. I also looked for something in nylon from one of the high end handbag makers (Prada, etc.) but they often lack padded straps and/or organizational efficiency and I don't want an obvious label/name brand. The closest that I have come in the handbag market is the Metro by MZ Wallace https://www.mzwallace.com/shop/produ...&cgid=backpack. The MZ Wallace bags are lightweight which I like but I wonder if the backpack would loose all of its structure after a few uses?

Have any of you used a great backpack for travel that is practical and also looks tailored and neat? Your thoughts are appreciated.
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Old Jun 29, 18, 8:48 am
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I'm not a backpack user but friends swear that Rebecca Minkoff make the best. They don't look collegiate so you might want to check them out.

https://www.rebeccaminkoff.com/collections/backpacks-1
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Old Jun 30, 18, 3:20 pm
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Rebecca Minkoff Julian backpack's style versability

Rebecca Minkoff's Julian backpack straddles the handbag/backpack style divide. I have the Julian in the largest size, in nylon with leather trim. LIke you, travelmom4, I aspire to a pared down and pulled together look for work. LIke you, I love the comfort and convenience of a backpack. I also wanted something that, when slung over one shoulder by one strap, could simulate a handbag. Worn this way, the Julian looks dressier than most convertible backpacks. This is key for me.

Disadvantages of the nylon Rebecca Minkoff Julian include lack of organizational features, limited space, and a shape that can't come close to accommodating a file folder. A #10 envelope only fits upright in the very front and bottom of the main space. The side pockets are small and roughly circular. I can accommodate lipsticks, but no regular size lip glosses, in one side pocket. The other side holds an emergency scarf.

I use Julian as my everyday purse because I'm willing to compromise on capacity and organization to obtain maximum style versatility. When I travel for work, I take Julian and a Lipault 18" two wheeled suitcase. They're both navy. In this color, the Julian looks upscale enough to cancel out college student backpack vibes. Unlike the Tumi backpacks I've seen, Julian looks casual enough for my industry and for my off hours. It looks good with a denim skirt and acceptable, I feel with a wool pencil skirt.

Julian lacks padded straps. This is not a big deal to me because padded straps would add weight and bulk while making it look more casual.

In most colors, the Julian backpack has nearly invisible branding. There is a tonal leather patch sewn to one of the side pockets. The brand name is embossed but not printed. The whole patch is the same color as the rest of the backpack. The zippers as well as the fabric the zipper teeth are set into are the same color as the main body and straps. These are expensive features, as ordering trims in exactly matching colors requires huge minimum orders. Only a large company like Rebecca Minkoff can afford to do this.

At full price, the nylon Julian costs only $145. This is less expensive than nylon handbags or backpacks from Prada or even Tumi. I just got another nylon Julian in a lighter, bright blue called Blue Iris from the Rebecca Minkoff website because it went down to $97. This color will coordinate with my light and bright summer clothing when I'm not in the mood for navy.

If you get the Julian, I caution you not to carry it by the leather loop at the top of the bag. My first Julian's leather loop stretched and cracked because I kept holding my daily seven pound carry at that point. The nylon straps are strong enough to bear the weight of seven or eight pounds; the little leather loop at the top is not.
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Last edited by try2cook; Jun 30, 18 at 3:29 pm Reason: grammar
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Old Jun 30, 18, 11:24 pm
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Originally Posted by travelmom4 View Post
Here is some context: I am a 50-something professional woman. As an educator, my attire is not formal but I my style is pared down and pulled together. Think aspiring-to-look-like-a- French-woman That rules out a bag that looks too casual or outdoorsy. I am not a label person but I do like quality and style and have a bit of a bag obsession. At the same time, I prefer an organized and functional bag with a place for everything so that I can find what I need on a long or overnight flight, when I check in, etc. I use pouches for organization but I am looking for something with pockets and practical features that is lightweight and durable.
When you put the above with "elegant/professional backpack" I see only one thing: black leather, preferably Italian. I pay no attention to upscale designer labels but I do recognize style and quality, and the Italian leather bags I've had are leagues ahead of most pricy designer items (was going to say designer tat, but tastes differ ) in style and durability. I've got a leather bag that I bought in Florence in 1980 and it still looks new.

Where to find one? eBags has a bunch, can't vouch for all of them, but several look quite nice. Not sure where you're based, are you near a Nordstrom? I've found some excellent leather bags there.
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Old Jul 1, 18, 8:50 am
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As someone who is ...not well versed in many designer bags (aside from the blatantly obvious) I've been enjoying browsing TheRealReal to see what styles exist. I'm still searching for my"holy grail" larger crossbody for travel, so I definitely feel your pain! Have gotten some lovely ideas - but as most sales are final, and I can't see any of these bags in person (even new versions - I live in the middle of nowhere and the Nordstroms that is 70 miles away is small) I still hesitate to buy....

All that to say - go to a consolidator site of some sort and see what "backpacks" are available and if any look like what you want. I find for myself that the "sleeker" something looks, the less useful it is to me. Apparently I am not a "sleek" person ;-)
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Old Jul 2, 18, 8:58 am
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Thanks for everyone for the suggestions and tips. Try2cook, I appreciate the detailed review of how the Julien backpack actually carries on a daily basis. There is no substitute for your real world experience. You are on target that the price is right, the bag functional and good looking. I really like the look you are describing in your original bag of the nylon with leather trim. I am going to do some in-person investigation.

CD Traveler, thanks for the point toward Italy. I am with you on the labels-I simply want quality! It seems there are many relatively small European bag makers who just do great work as opposed to the big labels where you pay top dollar for an advertisement. I really don't want my bag to scream about where I got it or who made it! Two years ago when I was traveling near the beaches of Normandy I stumbled into a small shop on a side street that was run by local woman who makes simple, hand crafted leather purses and small goods to order. Just beautiful work and I know there are artists like that all over the small towns of Italy, too. I am just itching for an excuse to go back!

Hoyaheel, I am with you in the seeming conflict between "sleek" and "practical". I find those two at odds often when it comes to bags in general and it really makes finding "just the right one" challenging. I, too, have browsed the RealReal. I also like Tradesy-have you looked there as well for your crossbody? I have only purchased from tradesy once when I bought a Briggs & Riley bag for my husband but I liked that there was a return window (albeit short). The bag was new and the seller was a luggage dealer. It was only about 20% off of retail but I was happy b/c B & R is one of those manufacturers that rarely offers any discount.
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Old Jul 2, 18, 11:50 am
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Ooh, I'll check out Tradesy - thanks!

I was looking through my emails yesterday and found the name of the company I bought a bag from last fall - Umbrella Collective. Minimalist, made in southern CA, gorgeous colors. They do make a couple of backpacks but I don't know if they'd fit your needs. I have the day bag and I adore it. Am considering a hobo.....

https://www.theumbrellacollective.com/
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Old Jul 2, 18, 1:57 pm
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Love the look of the umbrella collective-thanks for the lead!
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Old Jul 2, 18, 4:25 pm
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Cuyana do their leather backpack in two sizes.

MZ Wallace have backpacks besides the Metro (which I have and love), and styles like the Madelyn can slip over a suitcase handle.
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Old Aug 21, 18, 4:17 am
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Go take a look at the leather Tumi bags. I think you may find something you like. They last forever and are quite sleek
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Old Sep 2, 18, 7:12 am
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Kate Spade

I have NO experience with this, but it popped into my inbox, as these things tend to do nowadays and I remembered this thread.

https://www.katespade.com/products/cameron-street-hartley/098687219457.html?cm_mmc=ExactTarget-_-09022018_SOSRem_B-_-09022018_SOSRem_B-_-SHOP+NOW&utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_cam paign=09022018_SOSRem_B&utm_content=SHOP+NOW&extgi d=extg_09022018_SOSRem_B&cvosrc=email.exacttarget. 09022018_SOSRem_B&CP=1012608862&utm_term=12ME6MOC

Last edited by gretchendz; Sep 3, 18 at 9:28 pm
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Old Sep 2, 18, 7:53 am
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Originally Posted by gretchendz View Post
I have NO experience with this, but it popped into my inbox, as these things tend to do nowadays and I rembered this thread.

https://www.katespade.com/products/c..._term=12ME6MOC
Great looking, thanks for sharing.
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Old Sep 4, 18, 12:31 pm
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Originally Posted by gretchendz View Post
I have NO experience with this, but it popped into my inbox, as these things tend to do nowadays and I remembered this thread.

https://www.katespade.com/products/c..._term=12ME6MOC
I love kate spade products, and this bag is super durable!
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Old Sep 6, 18, 1:47 pm
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https://mattandnat.com/shop/handbags/backpacks
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Old Sep 10, 18, 6:48 pm
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This might be a little too outdoorsy for the OP's needs, but I saw this Sherpani tote at REI yesterday. I liked that it can be used as a backpack, cross body, or tote.

Backpacks.com has several Sherpani bags. The FIXX might be a little more professional?
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