When Will Halbert of Essential Journal dropped in to see LPOL Founders Katy & John in their former Kings Cross studio, the designers' ethos shone through in every little thing they do. Read below for the full article or read it here
Designed through a minimalist lens and handmade in London, LPOL’s Cubitt Briefcase offers up a masterclass in traditional saddlery with a contemporary twist
Words by Will Halbert
In a world increasingly dictated by the picture perfect and the painstakingly polished, raw authenticity is an increasingly rare commodity in a brand. For the most part, emerging brands are so infallible in their prefab, professional- from-the-get-go images that there’s little room for adlib.
Which is a crying shame, as it’s often those ad-hoc moments of challenge, adversity and improvisation that allow a brand’s personality to shine.
In their 11 years at the helm of Independent London brand, LPOL, Katy and John Maskell Bell have seen their fair share of adversity. If you think that the challenges of responsible material sourcing and zero-waste production are tough now, just imagine what it was like trying to tackle those subjects over a decade ago. You know, when the topics of sustainability and slow fashion weren’t so du jour.
As a result though, the LPOL’s brand and its offerings exude friendly, self-assured and quietly-confident vibrancy that can only come from slowly, deftly and honestly navigating the tides, trials and tribulations of the fashion industry. As much in design as in philosophy, LPOL’s leather wares are solidly-crafted goods to the core. They’re robust and heartfelt products brought to you by like-minded makers and creators. In the interest of this edition’s love affair with Coal Drops Yard, we’ll focus on one of the brand’s core offerings, the Cubitt briefcase.
Now, Katy and John sum it up pretty well when they describe Cubitt as a true celebration of ‘natural materials, bold simplicity, industrious spirit and robust local craftsmanship.’ That said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that it’s pretty as all hell. Seriously, a briefcase has no business looking this elegant. The soft, pebble grain, vegetable tanned leather makes for a bag that’s as supple as it is sturdy, while two exterior pockets, an interior zip pocket and an adjustable shoulder strap account for the Cubitt’s more utilitarian, though no less elegant, trimmings.
The Cubitt takes its name from the late, great Lewis Cubitt, the mind behind the Granary Building that now forms part of the ever-impressive Coal Drops Yard. This, if you think about it, goes a long way in explaining the briefcases’ stripped back and well-studied sophistication. In a wondrous feat of minimal, functional design, the Cubitt briefcase offers up everything you need in a day-to-day carry, and dispenses with everything you don’t. In this way and in many others, the Cubitt Briefcase is a fitting visual metaphor of what LPOL is all about: craft without compromise, luxury without excess, and passion without pretense.
Complementing the duo’s penchant for timeless, fussless design is their low-impact, locally-minded attitude towards production. Every offcut, every scrap of leather or fabric is retained and reused in some way, right down to the slithers of skived leather that go on to serve as tags for products. Refreshingly, there’s no control-group-sanctioned agenda here, no shallow attempt to vie for the affections of a more conscientious consumer. Katy and John have, quite simply, always done things this way.
As the industry continues to populate itself with shouty-but-shallow brands looking for mile-a-minute growth and exposure, there’s an awful lot to be said for brands, like LPOL, that have found a way to drown out the noise, find their own stride, and continue to do what they do in an honest and heartfelt way.