Civilian x Troubadour


We have never found The Perfect Bag – until now. Everything has always been too small, too heavy, too fussy… a black hole in which passport, wallet, keys and chargers disappear, resurfacing some time later alongside aged Tic Tacs that we never even remember buying. So we got into bed with Troubadour Goods, and co-designed what we think is the ultimate travel bag

Civilian x Troubadour: The Perfect Bag

Civilian x Troubadour: The Perfect Bag

When we first met the Troubadour team of Abel Samet and Samuel Bail earlier this year, we were taken by the modernity of what they were doing. Here was a fresh kind of prosaic luxury. Their luggage was beautifully made, modern and boldface.

There are thousands of bags on the market, but the bulk of them are designed principally to promote a brand rather than provide a simple, meticulously crafted product. Troubadour struck us as a very different proposition – their product had no superfluous detail or flourishes. It was designed with functionality to the fore, to last a lifetime.

Civilian is a magazine that’s largely in the first person. We are about telling stories with humour, edge and emotion rather than “travel writing”. Troubadour are, as their name suggests, telling their own kind of story, and creating products that are intended to become part of someone’s life experience. We came up with the idea of working together.

We asked our writers and editors – whose travel itineraries can vary from weekends at palace hotels in Paris to a week on the Trans-Siberian Railway – what they most wanted from a bag.  It would have to pass the most rigorous hand luggage restrictions, and every aspect of the design would have to take into account the way in which it would be used. Our writers and editors specified certain things: the straps and handles shouldn’t lacerate shoulder or hands when the bag is heavy – as is the way with so much luggage.  The internal pockets should be high enough on the inside to give easy and quick access to documents. The main zip had to be lockable. A list was also made of items that needed to be compartmentalised – different chargers and cables; laptops and slates; laundry… And our team wanted a second, internal bag, which could hold essentials for a flight, so that it could be swiftly removed and kept on the lap after storing the larger bag in an overhead locker.

Here seemed to be a fresh kind of prosaic luxury. Their luggage was beautifully made, modern and boldface

Troubadour took their Weekender design as a starting point, and reworked it to create what we think is The Perfect Bag. Only three concept bags were produced from the finished design: this was a creative experiment rather than a commercial collaboration. We were interested in the dialogue rather than a full-on product launch. And when we held a small gathering to unveil the bag the team from The Spirits Bureau mixed whisky cocktails using  Tamdhu 10 year old single malt, and negronis (our favourite cocktail of all time), using Chase Gin, Martini Bitter and bitters that they’d spent six weeks crafting themselves, using the same Troubadour leather that had gone into the bags construction.

During the consultation process, members of the Civilian team talked about bags they’d travelled with over the years, and how they defined certain experiences – what they’d carried, and where they’d carried them. Some of our writers who work primarily in the realm of fiction had woven stories about bags that they’d imagined, and the people around them. We decided that alongside the Civilian x Troubadour bag, we’d tell a few of their stories, which were also exhibited on…

Portofino, a lunch table by the harbour. The gal at the next table admired my bag, the most expensive I’ve ever owned.

“Is it Marni?”

I was basking in my brief daytrip into the jetset life. We got talking and ordered up another bottle of local rose. Then another. Then… I lost my camera, my purse, and all my bearings. I blame that bag.

Marina O’Loughlin, Restaurant Critic, The Guardian

A green rubber children’s welly, with eyes rising above a smiling toe that made it look like a happy frog.

That bag got more attention than I did. It was highly impractical but those sort of bags are the most coveted of all.

I’m on the lookout for a small toy cash register that chimes.

Donald Urquhart, Artist

Contents of bag, 25/10/13

1 x box of Sainsbury’s Paracetamol, 500 mg caplets, x 16. Half full

1 x disposable red lighter

1 x 12.5g packet of Original Blend American Spirit 100% Additive-Free Natural Tobacco

1 x packet of small size red Rizla

1 x A4 spiral bound 120-page Europa Notemaker. Falling apart

1 x portable black umbrella. Found on a number 59 bus

1 x Comme des Garcons black leather wallet. Old

1 x pair of reading glasses in Tortoiseshell frames. Not especially fashionable

1 x empty tube of Smarties. Must throw away

1 x Rymans A4 Black Ring Binder file. Full of work shit

1 x bottle of un-opened Highland Spring still mineral water. 500ml

1 x red and black striped STAEDTLER pencil, 110 HB

1 x pile of loose change to the sum of £13,58p

1 x small amount of dust

1 x small amount of fluff

James Anderson, Fashion Features Editor, i-D; Another Man, Arena Homme Plus

I’ve spent my grown-up life in the obsessive magazine culture of It-bags but nothing compares with the satchel worn proudly on my first day at proper school. I can still remember the deep earthy smell and the touch of unyielding nut-brown leather. It was a badge of honour, my entry into the mysterious club that had swallowed up my older cousins. I slipped my arms into the shoulder straps, checked my pencil case and was ready to take on the world. The satchel lasted for years, carefully polished in the first few months, softening with use and neglect, but always treasured like a threadbare but much-loved Teddy. No ironic hipster revival can touch my memory of a childhood landmark that was practical, beautiful and as resonant as a madeleine.

Jennifer Sharp, Journalist

“What’s in the bag?” “MY LIFE!”

I watched as they shoved him; he swung the bag at them; they intercepted it, grabbed it from him. One last blow knocked his skull against the wall and they fled, the open bag haemorrhaging its contents.

Civilian x Troubadour: The Perfect Bag

Civilian x Troubadour: The Perfect Bag

Sprang from it his life, atomised, a doppelgänger made of artefacts and histories: the travel card that showed his history across the city, his money (domestic and foreign and, flung from the lining’s deepest involutions, coins in currencies that no longer existed) and the receipts that told where he’d been; the inhaler and the headache pill just in case. His phone and his camera, and the book he’d been reading – out flew the bookmark from the place between chapters. The notepad and pen he carried, as I did, for noting down remarkable things observed in the day – “a man in a brown suit left for dead on Emerald Place”.

Collecting up the data, I approached the fallen man. I shuffled and stacked the cards that had spilled from his spraddled wallet. Here was a man of advantage, loyalty, rewards, all lost. Diary without which he hadn’t chronology, keys without which he hadn’t home. Phone to filter life through, camera to screen it, music to obscure it. Without his devices, the world’s rushing clattering had assailed him, overwhelmed him, left him lifeless.

I took two obsolete coins from the ground and set them on his eyes.

Neil D.A. Stewart, Author

For a good part of my teenage years I never went anywhere without a matt black rubberised rucksack, customised with Keith Haring and BOY London patches, a Chanel No.5 badge from Tokyo Boogie Beat and a VW emblem liberated from the front of a thirdhand Beetle in Penge. One night I had my Filofax stolen from the bag while I was in the mosh pit at a Public Enemy gig at Brixton Academy. Crime doesn’t get much more 1980s.

Mark C.O’Flaherty, Editor-in-Chief, Civilian

I pine for one particularly luxurious black soft leather holdall, given to me several years ago “for weekends”. It was used dozens of times, thrown into the back of the car, slung on trains, occasionally squeezed into an overhead luggage compartment. It held everything I needed for two days of fun on the coast, in the Highlands, in Paris. Its very smell defines a luxury I’ve lost. Of playful Saturdays and Sundays, when work was a distant, receding cloud. 

Civilian x Troubadour: The Perfect Bag

Civilian x Troubadour: The Perfect Bag

Now travel is work. Airlines are functional. Airports are hell.  At the outset of every trip I pack the absolute minimum required. I’ve never been any place on the planet that doesn’t have shops and I don’t check luggage on flights. Ever. Just then, I will catch a familiar whiff of leather from the back of the closet, triggering a fleeting, sensuous nostalgia for the thrill of unadulterated fun, and I’m tempted to start filling that bag. Then I come to my senses and realise I’ve only 35 minutes to get to the airport. 

Derek Guthrie, Journalist and TV producer

I don’t like looking worse for wear after a long trip, but the more battered and bruised it leaves my bag the better. My go-to is a brown leather holdall, which I spotted, lying suffocated among frayed carpets and dusty crockery in a Moroccan medina. Fully liberated and a seasoned traveller, it has taken care of my essentials when we trekked in India; gone shopping in Stockholm; and received unexpected compliments in Miami. Each wrinkle creased into its weathered body stands as an enduring reminder of those shared journeys.

John O’Ceallaigh, Editor, Luxury Travel,

Bags and shoes to buy were pretty thin on the ground when I was growing up in Bristol. So I had to be resourceful. Back in the 1980s buying vintage was a necessity as was rifling through your family’s belongings.

That “bag” came with me everywhere filled with coins, lipstick, Zippo lighter and copious packets of Silk Cut

I’d always get in trouble for pilfering Dad’s DJ, cummerbund or prized cashmere sweater, especially when they were secretly returned impregnated with the smell of smoke. Luckily grandmother had stacks of beautiful things and willingly provided me with what seemed like a never-ending supply. These included fancy chain bags and clutches, one of which I casually disposed of, only to realise much later on that it was by Hermès. But honestly, these lizard or black patent numbers really were too “flashy” and “lady” for my simple, utilitarian tastes back then. No, my favourite was a shapely and rather understated brown leather binocular case. Taking the case and leaving the binoculars behind in her study, for those last two formative years at home that “bag” came with me everywhere filled with coins, lipstick, Zippo lighter and copious packets of Silk Cut. There was a  problem though. Because the bag was tough and structured, whenever I hit the dance floor the contents would bounce around creating a competing beat of their own.

Elisa Anniss, Journalist, Financial Times How to Spend it and WWD

He bought me the genuine article – the kind of bag Grace Kelly carried. I adored it but also felt, somehow, it was not long for this world. And so, one day at Pret A Manger on the corner of Oxford Street and Rathbone Place, it was stolen silently from the beneath my feet. Now I carry its twin – a fake admired like the real thing especially in America but, strangely, London thieves have never bothered.

Karen Krizanovich, Author, Journalist and Broadcaster

He jostled me as he strode past. Brown corduroy suit. Unkempt, thinning hair. Muttering, “My whole world was in that bag. My whole world.”

Then was gone. Walking on, I pictured a black leather doctor’s case, battered, scuffed. And wondered if he’d maybe unstitched the bag, opened it out, written, in crabbed handwriting, on the rough nap of the flesh side, terse, but strongly evocative descriptions of some realm bred out of his imaginings. Or perhaps had allowed the bag to moulder, to spawn from the festering skin a weird ecosystem of tiny beasts, which he’d fed with pencil shavings, ink from broken Biros, apple cores.

And I thought of that strange bag perhaps buried under scraps and vegetable peelings in a large kitchen bin in an alley behind some restaurant, or maybe on a shelf in a lost property office somewhere, between a mangy stuffed peacock and a suitcase full of false teeth.

Tim Jarvis, Author

My first designer bag was a Louis Vuitton ‘Papillon‘, a Christmas gift back in 2002 from my parents-in-law and also my first real brush with the logo mania that swept the 2000s. It was teeny-tiny and completely impractical for work, but the editor at the magazine I was working on at the time was so impressed the first time I swung it into the office I stuffed it to absolute bursting and used it as my “main” bag for about six months.

Ruby Warrington, Journalist, Sunday Times Style C