SHIP'S LOG: A presents an in-depth guide to the top satchel makers from the United Kingdom and the Philippines. Of two (or three) minds when it comes choosing between School of Satchel and Cambridge Satchel Company? Let A Plus B in the Sea help you decide! A's pick: The Leather Satchel Co.!
Ever since I was a kid, I loved the beat-up brown leather school bags that the Railway Children and the Famous Five carried around as they went on adventures up and down the countryside, but I had thought that purveyors of the school satchel had died out in the 60s. Then I saw Keiko Lynn's yellow Cambridge satchel back in 2009 . . .
Alas, a hefty price tag and a fear of Philippine custom tax kept me far away from online order forms.
After two years of slyly dropping hints into the ears of ancient relatives and bringing bagged lunches to save up, I suddenly unexpectedly got my hands on satchels from four bag makers, the Leather Satchel Company
, Cambridge Satchel Company
, School of Satchel
, and Zatchels
. Joy joy joy!
Though the satchel has become an IT bag and sadly ubiquitous on the fashion and blog scene, I'm really glad I got one (two!) at last, so I thought my fellow dreamers would like to hear about the similarities and differences between the satchel makers, so here's my first product review!Caveat.—
the photographs come straight from my camera because I don't trust my Pixelmator editing skills enough to capture an accurate depiction of the leather material's colour consistently from photo to photo.Design
The school satchel is such a British classic (The Leather Satchel Co. has been using the same traditional design since 1966!) that it is almost impossible to tell the difference among bags made by the Leather Satchel Co., Cambridge Satchel Co., and Zatchels. They all have silver buckles, a front pocket, and an ID holder. I've read that the Leather Satchel Co. makes bags for other fashion houses and brands (they remain nameless) so it is possible that all the UK-based satchels are actually made by a single manufacturer!
Zatchels has its embroidered logo sewn on the right hand side of the front pocket while the others have their logos blind embossed at the back of the bag. Zatchels also stitches all around the top flap while the others do not.
School of Satchel is a little different because its bags do not have the ID holder nor silver buckles. Its buckles are made of a brassy metal that has a more vintage stamp. I also noticed that the front pockets are larger and the gussets are deeper compared to the other brands, which means that School of Satchel bags have the most space to put your things in.
All companies offer initial embossing and handles. The Leather Satchel Co. and School of Satchel offer optional Magnetic closures whilst only The Leather Satchel Co. also offer longer straps, deeper gussets, shoulder pads and what they also call a Tallboy design (a taller satchel with a longer top flap) for people who want to use their satchel as a laptop bag.
Cambridge Satchel Co. and School of Satchel have backpacks while Zatchels also sells barrel bags. The former also sells music cases and steamer trunks, which are awfully cute.
My mother bought the Zatchel so I have nothing good or bad to offer about customer service with respect to that brand, but I can say that Leather Satchel Co. and School of Satchel offer TERRIFIC service. They both have an active online presence on Twitter and Facebook, and it is so
easy to order bags from them. The owner of School of Satchel, Chi Donato, goes out of her way to get the bag you want to your door as soon as possible while I had a super time ordering from the Leather Satchel Company who kindly changed the colour from red to blue when I asked, and even offered to ship leather samples to me for free!
The Leather Satchel Company also delivers its satchels wrapped up in brown paper packages tied up in string ;P with a handwritten note addressed to the buyer! I think it is so sweet and old school of them. If you'd like to see pictures of the unwrapping of my Loch Blue satchel, check this out
This may be hearsay, but I've read on other blogs and forums that Cambridge Satchel Company has slow and unresponsive customer service. I've heard of three-month long delays (just check their Twitter stream) that have even induced people to cancel orders. Again, I have NOT experienced ordering from the company, so I can't say with certainty that their service is less than impeccable.Size
Truth be told, the satchel is rather useless for a school bag. If you have a lot of textbooks, a padded backpack is still your best bet. But if you all you need is an iPad, a netbook, or an e-reader and perhaps a two-inch pile of A4 papers then the old school satchel is perfect for you. A 14.5-inch Zatchel is what I use for days when I have only one class, while I always grab my 12.5-inch (size sweet spot!) Leather Satchel Co. for running errands or shopping. The purple satchel shown in the photos is an 11-inch School of Satchel that is the perfect size to use as a clutch.
- Cambridge Satchel Company.—11/13/14/15
- Leather Satchel Company.—11/12.5/14/15/15 Tallboy/bespoke sizes
- School of Satchel.—11/13/15
The Leather Satchel Co. also offer a bespoke sizing service that allows you to have a satchel made to any size or dimensions you require, so if you want a 20-inch satchel, then for a price they'll craft it for you. As far as we are aware they're the only company in the world to offer a this bespoke sizing service. Just send master craftsman Barry Hanshaw an email at email@example.com
if the bespoke service interests you.
Leather Material & Colour
Zatchels (14.5 inch black)* Cambridge Satchel Company (14-inch red)
The leather material and colour selection best differentiates the satchels. School of Satchel has a matte finish, very textured, and the leather is stiff and thick, which is perfect if you are someone who throws her bag around a lot (like me!) and wants extra protection for gadgets contained inside. Zatchels and Cambridge Satchel Co. have a smooth finish, halfway between matte and glossy while the Leather Satchel Co. has a very glossy, polished surface and the softest leather of the lot.
- Cambridge Satchel Company.—9 colours (vintage brown, dark brown, navy, black, red, purple, yellow, pink, green) and seasonal or designer colours (fluoros and two-tones)
- Leather Satchel Company.—27 colours (Charcoal Black, Chocolate Brown, Chestnut Brown, Autumn Tan, Pillarbox Red, Racing Green, Loch Blue, Deep Purple, Double Yellow, Baby Pink, Baby Blue, Snow White, Burnt Orange, Vintage Champagne, Sherwood Green, Oxford Blue, Dayglow Pink, Dayglow Yellow, Dayglow Green, Dayglow Orange, Mirrored Chrome, Mirrored Copper, Patent Black, Patent French Lilac, Patent Moss Green, Patent Cambridge Yellow and Patent Fuchsia Petal)
- School of Satchel.—6 colours (oxblood, navy, tan, black, distressed grey, and purple) and two-tone epi-leather satchels in baby pink and line green
- Zatchels.—A LOT. All the basic colours and metallic, animal print, floral, distressed, polka dot, pastel, star, Union Jack patterns, you name it they have it.
If you want to stand out, I'd definitely recommend Zatchels since they have a crazy amount of leather colours and patterns (their pastel collection is absolutely lovely) but if you want a classy satchel then your best bet is the Leather Satchel Co. Not only do I love the names they give their colours (snow white! double yellow!), the leather has a beautiful shiny finish.
The most important factor to consider for people without trust funds! Price varies according to size, seasonal or designer collections, and the extras previously mentioned. Shipping is generally free for those who live in the UK and £15-£20 for international delivery. The range I've mentioned is for the basic colours and without any extras or shipping fees
- Cambridge Satchel Company.—£74-84
- Leather Satchel Company.—£74-156
- School of Satchel.—£50-71 or PhP 3,500-5,100
School of Satchel is definitely the most affordable! I should also note that the Leather Satchel Co. usually sells the bags for £20 pounds less during sales and if you are a Facebook friend. ;P
The Leather Satchel Company (12.5-inch loch blue)
The decision is a highly personal one. If you care for the cachet of owning an IT bag then it's the Cambridge
satchel. If you want a bag that screams personality then Zatchels
is your company. Want to impress your boss or teachers? Then the professional elegance of a School of Satchel
is what you need. But if it's tradition and heritage (even if it's not your own ;P) you like, go no further than the Leather Satchel Company
For me, I like the Leather Satchel Company
best (in fact, I'm thinking of selling off the Cambridge to get another). Why? First, I love
the leather finish, smooth, glossy, and practically water resistant. Second, it has the softest leather, so it's much easier to unbuckle (straps are thin but solid and crack-free**) and expands to fit in my iPad, codals, and cases. I also really like that the length of the strap is perfect,
unlike the others, I didn't need to readjust or have a lot of excess strap. Third, it is the only
company that offers a five year international warranty. Stitching unravelling or buckles tarnishing? Have no fear, just send in your satchel through the post and the Leather Satchel Company will fix it up tout suite
I also highly recommend School of Satchel
because, with each satchel you purchase, a bag will be donated to public school children who need things to carry their workbooks too! Chi offers the best prices for students and yuppies without stinting on that lovingly handmade quality. For fellow Filipinos, it is also the easiest bag to get your hands on and you'll be supporting our local leather industry.
*The workmanship of my Zatchel is a little iffy—the bag doesn't stand up straight because the base is uneven. It needs to lie on its back, otherwise it will
topple off tables.
**After a month of using the bags, only the Leather Satchel Company
's straps and buckles are as pristine as the day the bag arrived. I've noticed flaking and cracking on the straps of the other bags.Do you already own a satchel? Share us your views or favourite shops to find old school satchels, whether retro inspired or vintage, in the comments below! :D