There is nothing better than working with brands from your neighborhood, in this case literally. My wife and I stumbled into Quavaro's shop one day on one of our regular weekend trips to Eastern Market, an outdoor market just a few blocks from our home. Several things stood out to me immediately: the high quality of their handmade bags, the wide variety of models available, and how friendly and welcoming Pial and Cesar, the wife and husband team behind the brand, were.
Over the next few months, we chatted briefly with Cesar and Pial each time we visited the store and even helped them finesse the design of a new bag design one day! It was these interactions and the small touches throughout the store, like the original sketches for one of their bags, that convinced us they were a company worth not just our support, but one that we should actively try to help grow if we could.
When we booked a trip for Scotland it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Cesar and Pial generously supplied us the Tomcat in grey herringbone and we were off. The bag's design is inspired by vintage aviation and made from canvass and full grain leather, lined with water-resistant nylon ,and has YKK zippers and antiqued brass hardware. It also came with a dust bag to protect it when not in use. The backpack consists of one exterior pocket, the main compartment with sleeve capable of holding a 13" laptop, and a zip pocket on the back for valuables. We found this pocket to be particularly useful in keeping our passports safe while we were on the go.
The bag proved to be a great travel companion throughout our ten-day trip. The great vintage style of bag meant it never looked inappropriate in the city, but it was also rugged enough to accompany us on all our hikes too. During I trip, I managed to spill coffee, a cocktail, and water on the bag, in addition to it being rained on for significant periods of time. The leather never developed water stains of any kind, which both surprised and impressed me. Also, the bag was big enough to carry what we needed for the day, no matter what we were up to.
If I were to offer suggestions for where to improve the bag, I have only two I can think of. One, the leather draw cord that closes the main compartment closes wasn't particularly easy to manipulate, but we just left it loose the whole time and that negated the problem. And two, the hardware that attaches the bottom of the straps to the bag, while undoubtedly improving the durability of the straps, can be slightly uncomfortable at times because of the natural way the straps want to twist when worn.
As I prepared to write this blog post, I learned more about the company and became deeply impressed with how thoroughly ethical their practices are. They own a small factory in Mexico that makes all their bags. Quavaro factory artisans work reasonable hours and Quavaro provides them with healthcare, free childcare, guaranteed breakfast and lunch breaks, two extra weeks of pay at Christmas, and a pension at 65. You don't often find that type of commitment to the well-being of employees these days and it's incredibly impressive. If that's not enough to convince you how much they truly care about their team, they even have portraits of their artisans in the store, on the tags of each bag, and on their website. You can really feel how each and every craftsman is a part of the team that makes these bags and gives you a certainty of mind that your money is being well spent.
So, if you’re in the DMV check out their store at Eastern Market. If you’re not in the area, they sell most of their bags online too. Their prices on their handmade bags are hard to beat, they ship internationally and even have free domestic shipping. The next time you need I bag, give Quavaro a try, you won’t be disappointed.