interview by Clementine Darby, 8 October 2014
Samuel Bail, Co-founder of Troubadour Goods
One half of the design duo behind quality travel brand Troubadour Goods, Samuel Bail, talks taking the leap from finance to fashionable holdalls and going global.
QH finds out the man behind the bag...
Tell us a bit about Troubadour Goods, where did the idea come from?
We decided to create Troubadour because we could not find the bag that we wanted for ourselves. Working in finance, we needed something that was functional for our lives and looked good.
Our ideal bag was one that was not too flashy, so we could take it on a business trip, and not too formal, so we could take the same bag on a weekend trip. After failing to find this ‘perfect’ bag, we set out on an adventure to create our own.
A big driver behind creating the brand itself was that we were interested in sharing the things we learned and the stories behind the people we met. This is why we chose the name Troubadour – inspired by the travelling storytellers of days gone by, it pays homage to craftspeople’s stories, as well as the stories we hope our products will witness in our customers’ life journeys.
How does your partnership work – who feeds in what?
Both of us are involved in all parts of the business, from the design of every product, to business strtegy, to speaking with customers. Today, for example, I flew in from Montreal where I was meetng some great stores and reviewed samples at various stages of being released in June 2015. Abel was working with one of our partners on growth opportunities in Asia and also speaking with several US customers about their product feedback.
What are both of your business backgrounds? Does your previous experience affect the roles you have at Troubadour Goods?
We both used to work in corporate finance, which is how we met, but we’ve always had a passion for great design and spent a lot of our free time studying design within fashion, architecture and art.
For us, our previous finance experience has definitely been a positive because to make Troubadour a success we need both the business and the design to be aligned. We are excited about commercialising great design, so bringing the two together is particularly exciting and is something we strive do well.
Who are your target buyers?
We make products for men who believe that less is more and want a few great pieces rather than a plethora of mediocre ones. That said, our products are really for anyone who appreciates quality and good design, regardless of gender.
Where do you source your materials from?
Everything is made in Italy. We visited 100 tanneries and 30 leather goods manufacturers in four different countries in Europe, but that’s where we found the inspiring passion, craftsmanship, and quality we were looking for.
How have your collections transformed since launching?
Our collection has evolved rather than transformed. We set out making a small family of products that a guy uses in his day-to-day life – from a wallet to a weekender. We have added a couple of colours and a few additional products that we feel make the line even stronger. Everything is made with vegetable-tanned leather and consistent signature functional design features.
Are you looking to distribute your pieces in shops as well as online?
Absolutely - as well as selling our products on our own website, they can also be bought in stores we respect around the world. Our list and location of stockists is constantly growing and expanding. In the UK, you can find us in Harrods and Harvey Nichols, amongst other places, and internationally our products can be bought in shops in Sydney, Paris, Tokyo, and New York.
You are about to release a collaboration with Thom Sweeney, would you be able to tell Quel Homme more about that?
The best collaborations are founded on mutual respect and admiration. Thom Sweeney suits have long held a special place in our closets, which makes this partnership particularly special. Thom Sweeney shares our vision for functional, understated craftsmanship and pieces that are built to last. Together, we’re proud to bring travellers two seriously sharp staples for overnight business trips and weekend getaways – a beautiful suede day bag and a brilliant leather suit carrier. We spent a long time designing and creating these, so we are thrilled to finally share them with everyone!
Are there any other business ideas in the pipeline?
Of course! As well as designing new products, we’re continuing to develop our bespoke service, TroubadourFor, and we have another exciting collaboration on the cards. Stay tuned!
What does the future hold for Troubadour?
We want to continue to create products that will last for decades. Our focus is on building trust with our customers in order to do that. In terms of expanding our reach geographically, we've had a lot of demand from the US and Asia, which are both becoming important geographies for our team. From a product side, we can assure you we’re still hard at work creating products we love and want to share!