Travel bags and accessories brand La Portegna came about because of one man’s sensibility for “slow travel”. For José Urrutia, the founder of La Portegna, it all began with his grandmother, who told him fascinating stories of long boat voyages to far away lands at a time when “slow travel” was the only type of travel. The objects that decorated her home spoke of things she had seen and people she had encountered and befriended along the way (among them Ernest Hemingway). Moved by his grandmother’s experiences, the charismatic Spanish entrepreneur set out to create the most cherished travel bags and accessories on the market.
La Portegna travel bags are produced in Ubrique, a small town in Andalusia, home to a close-knit artisan community. In the region that is already famous for its excellent leather working tradition, Ubrique stands out as the leather workshop of choice for a number of major international fashion brands. To meet strict quality standards, each luxury leather item is handcrafted by a single individual artisan (except for the tanning and cutting of the leather).
This is the first La Portegna bag I have set my eyes on and I was immediately blown away by the intense Mediterranean blue, which I love, but even more by the flawless leather texture.
As I found out, the color and texture are achieved through a careful selection of source material (which is, of course, animal hides) and through a vegetable tanning process (through which leather is actually produced). The brand says that it uses “a unique blend of natural tannins and color compounds from Spanish flowers and tree bark“. Vegetable tanning process is more labor intensive and consequently more expensive than the more commonly employed chrome tanning process, but it is also far gentler on the environment.
Finally, the leather is treated with Spanish olive oil, which makes it extra supple and gives it a gorgeous sheen. This kind of leather only gets better with time, acquiring, as the brand says, a “unique patina” as it ages – the famous “old leather” look.
So this is what top-quality full-grain leather looks like! I can only imagine what it FEELS like, but if you happen to live in London or are there on a visit, you don’t have to imagine – you can simply go to La Portegna store in the Marylebone village and check out the full selection of La Portegna travel bags and other accessories.
When I think of travel bags, though, I usually imagine something larger than the “Lucia” handbag. The men’s section of La Portegna website features cool-looking roomy bags made from water resistant canvas with leather detailing, but I was looking for an all-leather option. This is what I found:
As travel bags go, the “Carter” briefcase is simply perfect. Made of the same luscious full-grain leather as the “Lucia” handbags, it comes in two versions: regular and “fat” (in the photo above). “Carter” is pricey, of course, but leather bags of this quality are pricey. Vegetable tanned, treated with olive oil, handcrafted – it takes a great deal of effort and skill to produce a bag like that. That said, the founder of La Portegna believes that the cost of a high-quality travel bag should not be prohibitive, so the brand aims at a price point that is somewhere in the middle between low-cost and luxury.
Besides travel bags and small leather (and textile) accessories, La Portegna also carries a selection of very nice shoes. Their white leather sneakers are the best I have seen all summer. An absolute dream.
Here is a beautiful cross-strap mule sandal:
Men’s line includes slip-on espadrilles and driving slippers. Travel bags, sneakers, and men’s shoes can be personalized with your initials (for an extra charge of around 28 Euros). La Portegna offers free shipping within Spain and the UK and free global shipping if you spend over 275 Euros. So basically, if you buy anything bigger than a handbag, it ships for free.
Summing up, La Portegna’s collection of travel bags, shoes, and accessories really captures the essence of “slow travel”. What is “slow travel”, really, if not cherishing every moment of the journey, choosing quality over quantity, and feeling a connection with those who had trod the path before you?