Chapman Bags is a new firm in terms of British fashion labels, coming into being in the early 1980’s. Despite its relative freshness, Chapman Bags produces items rich in English tradition. It’s a bit rare that we here at Dapper Chapper get to review a brand that only produces accessories, but we’ve been very lucky to manage to bag (pun intended) a review of the fantastic products from Chapman Bags.
Chapman Bags have multiple uses. In their range are products perfect for businessmen, for travellers, shooters, fishers, soldiers and walkers – this breadth of customers means, of course, their products have to be both smart and practical, which they manage with admirable skill. As a country lad, I’m used to constantly working with these kinds of products, so I know what constitutes a decent working bag – are these bags hit the mark. They are well put together and therefore sturdy enough to take the weight of, say, 5 brace of grouse, a few trout or, indeed, your laptop and all of your work documents. As well as being sturdy, they are also well made – they would really take a battering through bad weather or general mistreatment and still maintain their good looks. As an aside, I also love the fact that Chapman’s products are named. It brings personality to the products, a touch of humanity to them – it also shows that thought has been put into them and the local names prove that this is a brand proud of its roots.
As for the looks, Chapman Bags have gone for the traditional market – and it so works. There is also what could be described as a modus operandi throughout Chapman’s range – most of the bags feature a double pocket front with two straps. This, of course, is perfectly in line with the steeped heritage of both shooting and fishing bags, as does is the material used. Leather and canvas are still the materials of choice for most field equipment for a reason – canvas is easily cleaned and can be waterproofed, whilst leather is hard-wearing and keeps its shape.
Let’s look at the range in more detail, starting with the business and travel bags. There is more diversity in this section than then others; country folk tend to be a more conservative bunch. There is still, however, the commitment to tradition. The business bags are slim, compact, unobtrusive. However, they also keep the style of Chapman bags – the marrying of leather and canvas, the traditional stitching and the metal buckle on everything bar the holdalls. Not a hint of Velcro in sight. These bags are amongst the coolest you can buy for the office and are certainly the most well-made. Anything that’s made with the wilds of Cumbria in mind will certainly stand up to the rigours of a sudden downpour as you walk from your car to the office.
Secondly there are the general outdoorsman’s bags. These are really useful bags to just have around you – fill them with waterproofs, picnic equipment, work documents. These bags are a fantastic tool and tough enough to just sling over the shoulder and go. Amongst this selection, the ones that stand out are the tweed Wanderer and the lighter canvas range, the Livingstone and Rambler in particular – the contrast between dark leather and light canvas really draws the eye. I have to say, It’s not often the average person look at a bag and thinks; ‘that’s a looker.’ You will, however, with these. First of all, a declaration of interest for the Wanderer; I love tweed. Therefore, I already loved this bag, regardless of the design. Which is, actually, a good design; the darkness of the tweed would go well with any dark coat – at the risk of turning Dapper Chapper into shooting fashion blog, a Barbour wax jacket would be perfect. As for the Livingstone and Rambler, they’d be better with lighter coloured, more modern clothing to blend with the lighter canvas.
Finally, on to my ‘special knowledge’ round – the ‘Rod & Gun’ range. First of all comes practicality; The Rod range comes with a poppered waterproof lining, a must for all fishing bags. They are also built like tanks, well stitched using British materials. The Troutbeck is the Daddy of this range, one of Chapman’s best sellers and best designs. However, the most interesting story is a piece of information about the Kirkbeck – reportedly, it’s also highly popular with mothers needing a changing bag. I wish I knew more…
Onto the ‘Gun’ part of the range. There is a focus away from traditional shoulder bags here and onto practical shooting equipment. This is heavy duty, high quality kit. They’re in the traditional shooting tones – earthy browns to match the leather – and it works well. But a matching set of Chapman kit and you’d be drawing jealous looks from every beater, keeper and gun on the shoot. However, these aren’t designed for walking down the high street as well, they’re designed for setting down on the peg and carrying serious weight in, be it your gun, cartridges or whatever you’re shooting. You may, of course, get away with walking the Solway bag into your office; I doubt, however, you could get away with walking a gun slip in there.
Chapman Bags offers something for everyone. If you’re a city slicker looking for an alternative to the usual black briefcase and all-leather holdall for the train or a countryman searching for key work tools, Chapman has a bag for you. What’s more, they’ve got a lot going for them over the alternative from the high street or usual brands-they’re well made, they stand out, they’ve got tradition and, perhaps most importantly, they’re British. British made and British designed; who says our industry is dead?