I spent the first three months of the year travelling between countries for their various men’s and women’s autumn / fall 2011 fashion weeks, but I spent the two months prior to that searching for the perfect luggage to accompany me on the trip. As I’m sure every fashioniser can understand, I was after something very particular when it came to finding the perfect man bag to accompany me from event to event. Of all the qualities I needed it to have, functionality was at the very top. I needed a man bag that could hold all the accessories required of a full calendar of fashion events: the Canon DSLR I often carry along with the iPad or Macbook upon which much of Fashionising.com is written. Second to that, I needed something that could offer up form along with function – it had to look good and, as the only man bag I’d have for the entire trip, it had to visually work with all the outfits I was likely to wear. All those needs formulated into my imagined perfect bag: thus I found myself looking for a man bag of neutral colour (I was looking for a dark grey), cut like a messenger, and heavily compartmentalised to accomodate a camera, its lenses, and the day’s necessary writing device.
Sadly, despite two months of hunting, I never found it.
Three months later, I’ve flown from Paris to Melbourne to attend LMFF, and to my surprise it was more than warm weather that awaited me. There, along with umpteenth other parcels, was the bag I’d been looking for, the bag I’d imagined. Grey, compartmentalized, wholly functional and wholly stylish. It was the Ona Union Street messenger bag, and I was left wondering where it had been for the past three months of my life.
The search for the perfect bag might seem somewhat excessive, but after three months of using a bag that was good but not perfect (in the end I’d settled for something from Calvin Klein which, to be fair, had only been designed to carry a laptop and not a camera as well) I knew just what trouble it could be to depend on something that fell short of the mark. Settling for second best means that your day doesn’t go as smoothly as it could, it means having to consider what to take, and generally having to carry something that is cumbersome.
In the few weeks that I’ve had it, the Ona Union Street man bag has done for me what the Calvin Klein satchel hadn’t. It’s made my days easier. It’s carried everything I need, and kept them all in place. It’s been comfortable to carry, but has always provided my camera and Macbook with the protection they need. Best of all, and certain to sound vain to the non-fashioniser, it hasn’t clashed with a single outfit.
So of the two particular qualities I needed in a man bag for travel, here’s how it stood up:
Carrying one camera body, a lens and an iPad were the main requirements I had of the bag, but to get through a full day I needed the Ona Union Street to carry a few more things. That meant being able to hold and compartmentalize (I hate little more than rummaging around a bag forever and a day) an iPhone, my Persol sunglasses case, my wallet, a Dunhill lighter and, occasionally, a notebook and pen. On the odd occasion I’d also need the bag to hold additional memory cards for my camera. The Ona bag ticked all the right boxes courtesy of the compartments it has within its waxed, canvas walls. While this often came in the guise of the types of stitched compartments typical of the front of a man bag, the real gems are the soft, removable dividers that sit within the main compartment. The dividers can be moved and completely removed, allowing the bag to snugly hold whatever you’re carrying on the day. On days off they’ve been utilised to carry both my Sigg water bottle and print title for the day (today that’s treats! magazine – more on that later).
While they weren’t requirements, other things I’ve come to appreciate are the padded shoulder strap, which is actually surprisingly comfy despite the weight the bag has been charged with being responsible for, and the turn-lock closures that means I’m not forever undoing buckle-straps to get into the bag; those buckle straps add a nice touch, but they’re there mostly for show. If there’s one complaint I can make of the bag it’s that sole carry-handle isn’t always enough. True, messenger bags needn’t have two handles but I don’t always want to depend on the shoulder straps, particularly not when wearing a suit. The sole handle works, but sometimes feels a bit unbalanced when the bag is fully laden.
While the functionality receives a lot of ticks, where the Ona man bag really wins out is in its form. To be certain there are plenty of camera bags on the market, but I’m adamant about the fact that 99% of them are as ugly as sin with looks akin to a hitchhikers backpack. I’m sure they’re all great at what they do, but a fashioniser has a more needs in life then mere functionality.
For the most part Ona have crafted their Union Street in a cotton canvas, and you can smell how well they’ve waxed it from the moment you open it’s protective bag. The smell of wax, along with that of leather, wafts out towards you. It’s a finish that works – available in a tan, a black (which I’d avoid for mere overuse of the hue), and smoke grey the mix of leather and canvas, along with the contrast stitching, makes it appear more like a bag you’ve picked up from a men’s boutique as opposed to something that is probably stocked in most of the world’s leading camera stores.
If I have any complaint about the form it’s that the bag could do with being a little narrower for my personal taste as I tend towards smaller laptops and tablets. With the Ona accommodating devices up to around 15 inches, it’s probably an inch or so wider then I would like. But if it comes down to a choice between the extra inch and having to instead carry something of a lesser quality design, I’ll opt for the inch every time without fail.
Naturally, the nub of any review is whether or not the product is worth it. And to me, without even looking at the price tag, it is – and I suspect that’s going to be the case for any male fashioniser in need of a man bag that offers the same qualities I was in need of. The Ona Union Street camera bag marries looks and functionality into one fashionable package – I came across little else on the market that offered the same.
Ona’s Union Street camera bag is available from www.onabags.com and can be hand crafted for you for US$279.