Introducing: The leather envelope folio

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Monday, February 25th 2019
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Writing about this leather folio feels like a release more than anything else.

It is the result of two years of work, back and forth, with the aim to produce a simple but beautiful hand-sewn envelope - in which to carry a phone, wallet, keys, headphones and notebook.

I can carry a phone and wallet in my jacket, but it’s keys that push me over the edge. They definitely shouldn’t be in your jacket.

One of the most satisfying things about this design is the fact you can fit so much in there, because it is so soft and unstructured - almost more pouch than folio.

Its lengthy gestation was due to two failed prototypes and two failed collaborators.

Last year, fortunately, I started working with Charlie from Equus Leather, and things went smoothly from that point on.

I’ve covered Charlie’s work several times in recent years. He designs, cuts and hand-stitches leather goods in County Durham, England, and has done particularly well as a result of videos made covering his process.

[See wallet-making video here]

Charlie immediately understood the concept for the folio: something unfussy, easy to use, and in the finest materials.

So no fancy hardware, entirely hand sewn, and showing off leathers that the owner appreciates every time they hold it and use it.

The simple, soft construction means the folio can expand easily when things are added to it. And yet empty, it returns to a flat envelope that slips inside a drawer or suitcase.

I’ll post more images and video of using it in the future. But the current video below gives a good sense of it in use, I think.

 

 

It also shows how easily the folio can be held, opened and closed.

Getting that right was the hardest technical part. The flap had to have sufficient size to flop down cleanly, while the bottom had to have an opening at the right angle (and be sufficiently large) to make the flap easy to slip in.

Like a good brass lock, the resulting mechanics are quite satisfying.

I should say at this point that Charlie will be selling the folios, rather than me, and that they will be made to order - like most things on the Equus website.

There might be a little stock when Charlie gets ahead of himself, but the assumption should be that they are all MTO.

Each should take four weeks to make, largely depending on leather supply.

He is offering it in three leathers:

The baranil is a fine, soft calf from Tannerie Degermann in France. It will gain a patina noticeably - as you can already see on the close-ups of mine.

The cuir de russie is stronger but no less supple. Readers might recognise the texture, as it’s a recreation of the Meta Catherina leather that I had my Cleverley shoes made out of.

Tanned by J&FJ Baker and developed with a French expert in the original Russian calf, it has a similar texture and smell (largely birch oil) to the original, though less variegation of colour.

In all three cases, the lining is a lambskin with a lovely depth of colour. It not only provides a soft protective surface for the contents, but develops a patina of its own too.

I’ve moved this post forward a couple of weeks as I just received the sample in the cuir de russie - and so will have it and the fawn baranil in the pop-up shop next week, for anyone to try for themselves.

Charlie also tells me he now has stock of every leather except the fawn, and that should arrive in a few weeks.

Apologies that a lot of coverage at the moment is about new products or brands in the pop-up - a necessary part of informing everyone that's appearing Normal service will resume next week.

For some, I can see how this folio might feel too feminine. But I find it too squashy and practical in use for that to be an issue. It’s just so functional - something at the root of all good menswear.

Details:

  • Folio designed by me but sold only on the Equus website (like the suit-carrier holdall)
  • Entirely hand sewn, in beige linen thread, in England
  • Made to order, in three leathers
  • Price £550 + VAT (Baranil) and £600 + VAT (Cuir de Russie), with embossed initials available
  • Size approximately 267mm x 190mm when closed
  • Sized to hold an A5 notebook, but with space to hold several other things alongside it
  • Cuir de Russie available here, and Baranil here

Photography: Jamie Ferguson (me and barinil carried by me), Equus Leather (making shots and cuir de russie)

Video: Itch Media

UPDATE: 

Thanks for all those that have placed an order in the past month.

Interesting to see some going for A4 rather than A5, which is better for documents and more masculine. Also interesting to see one order for navy, with a navy lining.

Below is the sample promised above in the espresso-colour calf. Quite striking against the thread and lining.

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A.

Will car keys led to a bulky folio?

A.

Does the folio provide “2 internal pockets”? I mean is it splitted into 2 inside, so that keys and phone are in 2 separates area?

William

It’s nice to look at, Simon, and looks well made. But PS is becoming too sales focused

James

I understand the comment William makes, but I do think it’s worth bearing in mind that this is now Simon’s full time job, and is how he supports his family. He provides us with free, well written and well researched content, occasionally interspersed with posts highlighting products he offers for sale. He does this while maintaining transparency with his readers regards advertising and promotion. This no doubt makes the commercial side of the business more challenging.

He doesn’t need me to defend him, but could we maybe avoid the slew of “Simon, you’re selling out” type comments whenever he tries to make a living?

Tim

It’s sales focused, but it delves into the details of the making that few marketers do. The product is a true quality piece, and this article honestly presents it as such.

Burt

I enjoy reading PS, but agree with William. Honestly, I do not think we as consumers/readers can find very much independent writing on menswear (and certainly no blogs) on the net. That said, there are gradations. E.g. a French blog wanted to get paid in order to write a review of a SR company, the cutter told me.

Ettore

Great project, great execution!
You were a master in evitating “borsello” style appearance.
All the best,
Ettore

Bobby

Great for an A5 notebook, but keys? If the bunch is too bulky for your jacket (I know mine is), it’s too bulky for this folio. It’s sewn flat, so it has to deform in order to expand. Then the flap is likely to come untucked. Or have you field tested it?

Tim Fleming

I believe you that it works with keys. And I’d still be interested in seeing the video you mentioned to highlight this up close as I won’t be able to make it to the pop up but like the idea of this and would consider having one myself for the same reasons you sought to have it created.

Charlie Trevor

Hi Bobby,

Im Simon’s co-conspiritor in this. The design is based around being quite expandable. The sides are stitched flat, but thats the only part that is. The bottom is folded not stitched, and the side panels aren’t connected in the middle and are cut away beneath the flap. That makes it much more accommodating to bulk than a regular stitched flat rectangle. Obviously not the Tardis, but surprisingly accommodating! Charlie

Reader

Why don’t you read the review/article? It answers your own questions.

Chancellor

Interesting. I’ve been keeping my eye out for a way to carry my sunglasses (in their case), keys, and phone, particularly in summer when I don’t have an overcoat of some sort. My thinking was something along the lines of your Dunhill box would be ideal–small and easy to carry, but also structured so no damage would come to items inside.

Thoughts on your experiences using this versus your Dunhill box?

Chancellor

Thanks! My sunglasses case is a 4-5 cm hard shell case.

When a sample is available, I’d also appreciate seeing larger photos of the espresso version (either here or on Equus’s site). I’ve never liked tan leathers like the fawn here, so I’m debating between the espresso and the hatch grain. Unfortunately, there’s currently only a zoomed in photo of one edge of the espresso currently.

Charlie@equusit.co.uk

Chancellor, this is Charlie from Equus – we’ll have an Espresso version made within a week or so. If you contact me directly I can send you photos as soon as they’re ready, though Im sure Simon will post them. We can also send physical leather and thread samples to you if you’d like

Gonzague

Interesting product and hats off for leading the project to term despite the difficulties. I had a similar (larger and probably more expensive) Berluti one. The only drawbacks I found were: sometimes you miss a proper handle for a better grip (less of an issue here given the size) and the hand sweat may affect the leather (colour).

hugh

yes…

Charlie - Equus

Patina..

JB

It looks beautiful and a very nice size for just those essential items. However, wouldn’t your phone scratch terribly if kept in the same place as your keys for instance, as I take it this has no interior pockets? It does look like if having only your phone, keys and possibly reading/sunglasses in there, they’d get a bit banged against each other?

Anonymous

Do you think that carrying a folio or clutch bag could attract the attention of a snatch thief?

Scott

This is an interesting idea, particularly concerning the keys. However, I don’t want to carry something that resembles, even slightly, a woman’s clutch handbag. May I trust that this is not the case with the folio?

Charlie - Equus

We have the A4 ready for custom order. Its not on the website yet but in all other ways ready. In terms of femininity, Im very happy to carry one in A5 or A4 and I can be in no way accused of embracing my feminine side. I think the leather choice is key – Espresso Baranil or particularly Cuir de Russie if you want the most masculine look

Scott

That’s helpful, thanks.

Chancellor

Funny. I don’t get the women’s clutch vibe at all. To me, I get the vibe of someone carrying around a large manila envelope, especially in the fawn colour. Much more business-like really.

I think the envelope-like design, absence of shiny hardware (e.g. zipper) or embellishment, the lack of gloss, and even the thinness all distinguish itself greatly from a clutch bag IMO.

Not sure if my perspective helps.

Anonymous

Ohh, that sounds nice. Any idea on pricing for that?

Anonymous

I appreciate the design but I’d rather use pockets: should the one item go missing through theft or forgetfulness then wallet, phone, keys etc. all go. Its size and easy portability would make it a target. I therefore wonder about its necessity – it may also look like a man bag or clutch purse. One of the benefits of bespoke is the ability to have discrete pockets constructed to carry said items. Within the video, as you wander around Florence with overcoat (and presumably a jacket) – both with pockets, it seems odd that you would carry a pouch for the phone. However on a summer’s day, in a European setting – sans coat and jacket – it might make sense. To reduce carried weight I go through the same questions as to what to carry and how but this might be seen by some as a bit of an affectation – it reminds me of Chris Eubank and his once ubiquitous Vuitton folio.

Anonyomous

The Cuir de Russie leather in particular is wonderful. The size is an interesting choice; an A4 folder would perhaps be more practical and could be used to hold a laptop or papers. Will the folio come in different sizes in future?

Charlie - Equus

The A4 size just missed launch but is tested and ready for custom order – just get in touch if thats the size you prefer. It’ll be on the website in due course though

Fred

Hullo Simon, Very beautiful.
That said for keys I always have pockets put in my waistband for that. Like that even without a jacket I can carry them, and through habit always know where to look.
I do have something similar, but of softer leather, but use to keep small items together, then chuck it into a bag or brief case.

Bernie

Hi Simon,

Very interesting product – wish I found out about this before I bought an Aspinal of London Leather A5 Folio.

The folio on the Equus website is priced at 660 pounds – is VAT included, and therefore, will it drop to the actual price once I enter my address and payment details? I live in the United States.

Charlie - Equus

Hi Bernie,

The website shows prices including VAT untill it knows where you are – i.e. the checkout process, and then it’ll deduct it once youve entered your shipping address. You’ll pay £550 + shipping for the Baranil folio in the US

Charlie

Ben

What’s the occasion that requires you to drive and carry around your keys and a notebook for a long time but doesn’t permit a briefcase but does permit a folio? Did you 600 pounds buys 393 two-person malaria nets that last an average of two years?

Tim Davies

Each to his own, and whilst l am a huge fan of Equus products, l don’t think l’ve ever seen a more needless item.

Why put your phone in a folio when most go unnoticed in a pocket? Why the same with a pen? Or a wallet/billfold?

Then a practical point; you have two hands, you hold the thing in one and open it with the other. You take out your phone, and thus both your hands are full. How do you close it?

Beautiful to look at, wonderful craftsmanship but, my bet, is it will soon end up unused at the back of a cupboard somewhere.

Sorry

Ben

“What a silly comparison Ben. You could apply that to any consumption above subsistence.”

Yes you can, and it’s a good idea to be reminded once in a while of the moral implications of our purchasing choices. Maybe taking a few pounds off your hands isn’t the best reason to forgo making that donation. See Singer’s “Famine, Affluence, and Morality.”

Anonymous

Out of interest you commissioned something similar in 2014 from MES (https://www.permanentstyle.com/2014/04/bespoke-leather-folio-mes-leather.html)…I wondered about the new item. Did you wish to have something smaller or, having had experience of similar items, improve upon the design? What I am searching for is the superior use that the envelope might bring over previously commissioned items. Developing upon the idea, might you have, in a few of your favourite outer-wear items, a large inside pocket constructed to embrace and carry the new envelope?

att

now if it only had some way of putting on your shoulder… like a strap .. then you could use your phone without putting it down

Charlie - Equus

But then it would be a briefcase and its not, its specifically to held in the hand. Theres a million bags with straps out there, this is not one of them – it would ruin the feel and design

Michael

I just ordered one of these….why not? As is true of all Simon does, this new venture is well thought-out.

sean

where can someone purchase the leather pouch/envelop ?

Ian F

I love this beautiful simplicity of design and execution. It isn’t a piece I need or can afford (like many items on PS) but that doesn’t diminish my appreciation of its aesthetics and craftsmanship.

Jamie Berry

Sorry to be rather late in the day Simon – is it too late to view your one (or a sample) in the Pop Up, or has that finished now?

G

Seems to be a fairly controversial item. I can see how it may fit into one’s ensemble in a professional setting, but it’s not an item that particularly excites me.

Bernie

Hi Simon,

I’m very interested in the concept as I’ve always wanted an elegant way of carrying around a small A5 notepad along with my keys and wallet.

I do like the fawn color, but was leaning more towards a more formal color and look. The espresso just seems odd next to the fawn and I really can’t quite put my finger on it. The espresso shade just doesn’t do it for me and seems too dark, but not dark enough to be black if you catch my drift.

I recall that your recommendation for the most versatile briefcase was dark brown. Would your suggestion hold true for this envelope, or do you think fawn is equally versatile?

Jamie Berry

I have just ordered one in navy, and would be happy with Simon’s consent to show it to anyone in central London in 6-8 weeks time as an alternative to SC’s colour.

Bryan

Hi Simon,

If my intent is to carry a notebook along with my keys, phone, wallet, and sunglasses, which size would you recommend? Or is that too much to carry in the folio?

I am essentially aiming to carry nothing in my pockets as I feel it is ruining the silhouette of my suits.

Thanks,

Bryan

Winot

Has anyone received their folio yet? I ordered mine on 8 March and no sign of it. I have sent a chaser email to Equus.

Winot

He didn’t, but in your article it says 4 weeks. However Equus have now been in touch, apologised for the delay due to pressure of work, and indicated it should be ready towards the end of next week.

Charlie - Equus

Hi!

I imagine youve had a direct reply to your email, but if not, we’ve completed all but one ordered around that time and theyre either in the post or waiting for it. We rejected the leather for the one outstanding one, we’re waiting for the next bach of leather to arrive mid next week. If that ones yours it’ll be done in 10 days or so Id say.

Hope that helps!

Charlie

Jason

Simon,
I have bought a wallet and a belt from Equus and couldn’t be more impressed.
Their quality is off the richter scale.
I recently saw a video on their website showing the manufacturing of an attache case.
The product looks truly phenomenal and I was wondering if you had any plans to do a write up ?
Personally, I think the attache is poised to make a come back. It will always be the most masculine and elegant of cases and by the looks of this video, this bares all the hallmarks of being the definitive piece – I’m sure readers will want to know all about this one !
Jason

Anonymous

Simon — Will this folio fit an ipad protected with a zagg case?

Charlie - Equus

We can make custom sizes though if that solves the problem – send me a message, happy to help

Anonymous

Simon why is the folio now more expensive, at £660 and £720.00 for the cuir de russie? Instead of £550 + VAT (Baranil) and £600 + VAT (Cuir de Russie)

Anonymous

Is it safe to say that the envelop folio will continue? I am saving up for a few other things and would like to wait a year or two before getting the folio

Anonymous

Still trying to get a sense of types occasions the folio would be ideal for… the office? an outing? Where does it fall on the casual to formal spectrum?

Also how light/dark is the cuir de Russie? It looks a bit lighter from photos but I haven’t been able to see it in person yet. Is every hide going to slightly differ in shade?

Anonymous

Do you mind listing some examples what occasions the foilo is appropriate for? What’s the most casual setting you could tote this around?

Is the espresso more dressy than the cuir de russie?

Stefan

Hi Simon,

Tough I like the envelope folio ,at the moment can’t afford it. Could you recommend other brands who are little bit cheaper?
Thanks

Bernie Leung

Hi Simon,

I hope you are doing well. I have been thinking on how to avoid stuffing my phone, bulky keys and wallet into my jacket and trousers pockets and the folio you designed just seems like such a perfect solution. Just curious, are you finding yourself using the envelope folio daily or have you come up with an alternative?

Anonymous

Do you think the A4 cuir de russie could pass and serve well as a casual clutch bag (i.e. rather than a formal work envelope)? Something small you can tote around town in a sweater and trousers.

Ravi

Hi Simon,

I know the general rule is the smoother the more formal, but in this case, do you think there is a difference in formality between the baranil and cuir de russie, assuming both would be in black? I’m leaning towards the cuir de russie because of its longevity and scratch resistance, relative to the baranil, but will be using it for business 90% of the time and so don’t want to appear ostentatious.

Thank you.

Matt

Hi Simon, readers,
I love the concept and idea of folios and clutches for men. However, our society tends to think of these accessories as a more or less female thing, and it’s a fine line between male clutch and female purse.
Although everyone should decide for themselves what they want to wear and if some item is feminine or not, I’m wondering what you think of the attached clutch. Feminine, or masculine? Myself in poor outfit included on the picture for scale.
Thanks, Matt.

054A63C5-9C71-45C9-A315-0A38CF284FAE.jpeg
Matt

Thanks, Simon. It’s only a 3cm difference in each dimension compared to yours. Funny how that can make for such a different look. I’m still on the fence about it, and when in doubt, I probably shouldn’t.

James

Hi Simon,

I’d been looking for something similar for a several years, and was intent on also designing something myself. When this launched I was on the fence, but finally went ahead with ordering the Cuir de Russie folio in April.

I’ve now spent couple of weeks with it, and can’t tell you how pleased I am. It’s ideal for my purpose (book + small notebook and pen), and is just stunningly beautiful. It’s both impeccably elegant and wonderfully understated at the same time, and contrary to the worries of some of the earlier posters, there’s nothing remotely feminine about it. I had high expectations, and the final product far surpassed them. I’m delighted every time I pick it up.

Mostly this is a note of thanks for all the work you went to in conceiving and prototyping the design and making it available. Having initially thought to do something similar, I’m sure I wouldn’t have come close to something so perfectly functional, certainly not in the first iteration. Bravo and kudos to you!