I’ve been travelling for the past two weeks, and while I fold my suits very assiduously (inside out, shoulder into shoulder, around a pair of trousers), they clearly suffered over the multiple journeys.
I have no solution for such long periods of travel – other than carrying a separate garment bag – but I do now have one for shorter trips. I recently bought a VBC 1663 Bellagio Rolling Bag.
VBC stands for Vitale Barberis Canonico, who are of course much better known as a weaving company. But a couple of years ago a chance encounter with some local leather workers led to a project to create a range of luggage.
The quality of the construction, as you’d expect from Barberis, is very good. The stress points are all hand-tacked, including the backs of the handles and the ends of the zips. The long zip, that runs the whole length of the rolling section, is finished with a separate leather guard that is itself hand-tacked. The hardware is all individually cast and the inking is thick – although the seam you can see along the middle of it betrays the fact that each side was done separately.
(For more detail on how to assess the quality of a leather bag, see my column in How to Spend It.)
The most interesting thing about this model in the VBC 1663 series, however, is that it is effectively a suit bag rolled up. As you can see from the image at the top of this post, the bag unzips entirely until you are left with a long section sufficient for two suits – plus pockets on either end for shoes. That section has a hanger built in, like regular suit carriers, and a protective cover. But unlike a suit carrier it rolls up rather than folding, making it far more portable.
The idea for the design came from a desire to avoid taking both a bag and a suit carrier on a plane, Galliano Campana of Vitale Barberis told me: “For short trips, say three or four days, I found it was very uncomfortable to bring both bags. Plus some airlines will only let you take one bag onto the plane.”
“The bags are entirely made in Italy, and we added some little Barberis touches. The linen lining that encases the suit is waterproof and stain-resistant, for example,” adds Galliano.
I have used the bag three times so far and the suits have done very well for being rolled up. There were a few creases when the main compartment of the bag was completely filled, but still fewer than I get with folding them into a hard case. The only disadvantage of the system is that that main compartment has no internal pockets, and of course you have to unpack everything before you can take the suits out.
VBC bags are distributed in the US by cloth merchant Gladson, and are sold by various places online (usually around $1900). They are also sold by Sartoria Vergallo.