Several months ago, Maxwell Scott, a British manufacturer of leather goods, offered to send us one of their handmade bags for review. In the meantime, we have had ample time to test it under multiple use conditions, and we are happy to share the results with you today.
Maxwell Scott – The Brand
Maxwell Scott is owned and run by William Forshaw, who founded the company 10 years ago. With a background in advertising, he noticed that many of his peers would use cheap-looking briefcases for which he bore an immense dislike. In order to remedy that challenge, he started looking for leather briefcases that were high in quality and moderately priced. Eventually, he found some in Italy and subsequently decided to start importing the briefcases. After a short while, he created the Maxwell Scott brand in order to combine his British briefcase design with Italian leather and craftsmanship. Struggling to come up with a name, he decided on Maxwell, his brother’s middle name, and Scott, his own. Interestingly, his brother is not involved in the business at all.
The focus of Maxwell Scott has always been briefcases, but after two years in business, the product range was extended considerably. Now, you can buy leather luggage, garment bags, doctor bags, hand bags and accessories such as wallets, keyholders and purses. Meanwhile, Maxwell Scott offers 150 different products in the colors black, tan and chocolate brown. A handful of women’s accessories are also available in navy.
In the future, the Maxwell Scott Portfolio will likely double in size by adding things like rucksacks and backpacks, gloves and desk stationary.
The Leather – Vera Pelle Italiana Conciata al Vegetale
One of the advantages of a Maxwell Scott product is the vegetable tanned leather. It is produced by a small tannery with about 40 employees in Santa Croce, Italy (near Florence). The tannery is part of the Vera Pelle Italiana Conciata al Vegetale, or the Italian Consortium of Leather Tanners. The objective of this group is to dye leathers according to traditional methods without using any chrome. As such, it is ideally suited for people who are allergic to chrome.
The group was founded by 11 Tuscan tanners in 1994, and today they count 23 tanneries among their members. All of them have pledged to produce only vegetable-tanned leather using tannins. These tannins are found in nature, particularly in chestnut bark and Argentinean quebracho bark. For more details about the leather, please take a look at the thread Vera Pelle Italiana Conciata al Vegetale in our Forum.
Even though the requirements for this consortium are rather high, the cost of Maxwell Scott leather from Santa Croce is about 25% higher than the group, because they only use premium hides and aniline dye.
The Maxwell Scott leather is indeed very attractive and robust. Over time, it creates a beautiful patina and scratches come out rather easily. Overall, the leather characteristics and look will improve over time
Our Maxwell Scott Paolo briefcase came in tan, which is the company’s most popular color and I can understand why. Clearly, the hide will age beautifully, and the tan shade will be the ideal base for a nice patina. I have only had the briefcase for a couple of months, but I expect that the patina will develop over the next few years.
The Maxwell Scott Paolo Briefcase Review
The Paolo Briefcase was Maxwell Scott’s first product and, to this day, it is one of their most popular items. We received a Paolo briefcase with two compartments, but there is also a briefcase with three compartments which costs only £7 (about $10) more!
From the outside, the level of workmanship seems to be very high. The double row stitching on the top flap and the single row stitching throughout the remainder of the bag is very neat, and the cotton-nylon thread is very durable. The leather edges are heat and color treated, which gives them a nice, dark shine. The handle looks very sturdy and is solidly connected to the leather; I once dropped the bag when it was quite full, and the handle resisted the weight easily when I caught it.
On the backside, the standard zipper is very neatly sewn in and the lining is made of black polyamide. When I asked why the company did not go with canvas, I was told that they had tried it in the past, but it simply did not last sufficiently long. On the front side, we have a metal lock in a matte, brushed gold tone that fastens securely and comes with a little key. While it is very functional and does a great job, I have certainly seen nicer locks in the past. It is made of nickel alloy and not cast brass, because that would add another £30-40 to the cost of the bag and most customers are not willing to pay that. However, Maxwell Scott intends to offer solid brass locks in the near future on selected items. Above the lock, there is a little leather flap that facilitates opening the briefcase with one hand. About an inch above the lock, you can see a subtly embossed Maxwell Scott logo. Once you open the flap, you have another zip pocket like the one on the back.
The two inner compartments are spacious and my 14” laptop fit easily into one. I think that you could probably transport a 16” laptop in there. On the inside, you can see and feel a full grain leather lining. There are a few pen holders and cell phone holder in the front compartment, and two inside pockets in the back.
Every Maxwell Scott briefcase is delivered in a cloth dust bag, and the Paolo briefcase also came with a basic shoulder strap made of leather. It can be attached to the sides of the bag which are made of the same nickel alloy material as the lock. When attaching the belt with the snap lock mechanism, make sure that the movable part faces to the outside, away from the bag, otherwise a strap may come undone, which is not good at all. It happened to me once, and the bag almost fell down. At the end of this article, there is a Maxwell Scott video that show the shoulder strap in the wrong position – make sure the snap lock mechanism faces outside!
The bottom of the Maxwell Scott Paolo briefcase is all leather and does not have any metal knobs or any kind of other metal protection. If you put your bag down a lot, this is where the bag will probably wear the most.
With its dimensions of: width: 40cm / 15.7inch – height: 30cm / 11.8inch – depth: 9cm / 3.5inch and a weight of 4 lbs. (a little bit under 2kg) it makes for a great companion in everyday life.
The Lifetime Guarantee
However, all Maxwell Scott products come with lifetime guarantee (warranty). As with all lifetime warranties, it is limited to the life of the product – not your own. Maxwell Scott expects them to last about 10 to 15 years when used everyday, which substantial.
Under the warranty, Maxwell Scott will repair zips, stitching, clasps, linings, etcetera, free of charge. However, you have to pay for shipping. Of course, you cannot take a knife and cut a hole, expecting it to be covered by warranty, but you can always send it back and Maxwell Scott will try to repair any other non-warranty damage for a modest fee.
My Maxwell Scott Paolo briefcase looks very nice, is functional, and the leather improves with age. As such, I really enjoy the look of it, but ideally I would like to have a nice, solid brass lock. However, considering that this high quality leather briefcase costs only £260 or about $360 (after theVAT of 20% is deducted) this briefcase is a huge bang for the buck. Certainly, a Maxwell Scott is not quite a briefcase from Hermès, but I don’t think it’s worth comparing it because $360 would maybe buy you a leather key holder at Hermès – not a briefcase. For comparable briefcases from Italy, you have to pay $950 in the US – so Maxwell Scott is truly a high-quality bargain in our opinion.
Where to Purchase Maxwell Scott Leather Goods
You can find this Maxwell Scott leather briefcase and all other products on their website at www.maxwellscottbags.com . Don’t be put off by the website design, because the new one will be online in about a week. I already had a chance to peek at the new Maxwell Scott website and it looks so much better than the old one. If you are on the market for some high quality leather goods in fine and robust leather for a good price, you must definitely consider Maxwell Scott briefcases and leather goods.
For more product reviews, please check our Product Review category.
Update – February 28, 2013
After about 8 months of use, the lock fell apart, which surprised me, although I always knew that the alloy was not as stable as solid brass. William, the owner of the company contacted me and I told him that I was unhappy with the bag. He replied that they had changed their locks and so they had it picked up to be repaired. A few weeks later, I received the bag with a repaired alloy lock. The service was great with updates and tracking number. The new lock works again, though after 4 months it now shows some signs of corrosion / discoloration. I will keep you updated.
Here, you can find a video fo the Maxwell Scott Paolo briefcase with 3 compartments. Note, they attach the shoulder strap with the snap lock mechanism facing inside which is bad because it may come undone that way.