This is the first time that I'm doing this, but let me put in a plug for this wonderful bag company, Waterfield Designs. I'm also writing in English (a Japanese version will follow) in hopes of increasing the likelihood that someone in the market for a great bag will come across this entry.
I was looking for a new briefcase last year since my Tumi was completely worn out after 5+ years of heavy-duty use (I was a management consultant - need I say more?). Getting a new Tumi was an option, but this time around, I wanted something that wasn't all business and function. It was then I stumbled across Waterfield (thanks to this entry by Joi Ito).
At first I thought the bags they made were kinda funky (and I'm not a fan of messenger bags like their flagship Cargo bag), but after browsing around their site I found this bag called the Cozmo which, well, started growing on me after a while. Furthermore, this company seemed to have this legion of happy customers (on top of a lot of great magazine reviews), most of them citing that their personalized customer service was just fantastic, which fueled my curiosity.
So I decided to check that out by sending them an email asking some information on which laptop sleeve size to buy, and was really pleased when I got a response from the owner Gary (his bio's here) in no time. Then I called them up to inquire a few more things, but then I ended up talking to Gary himself (who provided great advice on the choice of color and size), and eventually ordering the product.
The product that was delivered a few days later was just great so I was very happy. Since you can read all about it on their web site so I won't go over the features and why it's so special, but everything on this bag was just screaming "high quality!" It's not the most inexpensive bag in the world, but it's not as expensive than some of the high-end bags of comparable quality such as Tumi, Brenthaven, and Briggs & Reilly. Most of all, Waterfield products have a lot of character; if you want a workhorse of a bag go for a Tumi, but if you want something that's "different", get a Cozmo (or a Cargo if you like messenger bags).
But then, getting this great bag was only part of the story. Gary and his staff do live up to the reputation of having wonderful service. First of all, when they found out that the particular color was out of stock after I ordered, Gary sent me an email immediately to let me know that they'll manufacture one ASAP (so I ended up getting mine "made to order"). They could have just kept quiet and still sent me one quickly enough, but something like this makes one feel special. In other words, it made the whole experience something more than a "shopping experience" - I felt as if I were dealing with someone I knew personally.
I was already happy, but when after a month or so of usage, I had a problem with the shoulder strap, Gary and his colleagues delivered again. They sent me a replacement strap right away, no questions asked. Now this was contrary to their lifetime warranty, which asks the buyer to send in the defective product FIRST - aren't you impressed with a company that bends its own rules to keep a customer happy?
This is getting longer than I intended, but that's probably because I had so much positive stuff to share.
One last thing - they don't have any retail outlets, but why would you want to go to a store when you can get to deal directly with the nice people who obviously take pride in their work and show A LOT OF LOVE for people who appreciate their products?
Check them out, and if something catches your fancy, get it, and be happy.
Note 1: You can find a follow-up to the above describing specifc features of the Cozmo here.
Note 2: Waterfield Designs ships their products internationally - for rates check here.