Conrad Men’s founder and designer Alex McAfee is a man of many lives—and even more stories. For 10 years, McAfee lived out of his car, traveling across the US to climb mountains and any other obstacles that were in his path. He would go on to live in a ski town in the French Alps, and ultimately settle in LA (where his bags are made). But it’s that decade on the road that provided inspiration for his collection of leather goods. As he tells CH, “Back then, I was living in the back of my car in places like Salt Lake City. I lived in coffee shops by day. That’s where I would stay warm and work. Later, when I moved to Boulder for school, I would stay at coffee shops till 11PM to hang out.” This itinerant lifestyle took its toll, but would inform his future.
When McAfee moved to LA, he launched a yoga tech start-up. “I was running this company out of a coffee shop for about three years, but I wanted to start making something physical that I could use. I wanted to make a bag that could be my office—to keep something with me that was really light and very functional, with a lot of style.” Calling upon his arts background, he began to draw bag designs and, with the help of friends, he headed to downtown LA to learn how to produce bags. “I knew I could start down this path and go downtown and figure it out,” he continues. Most of the aesthetic came from photos he had seen of early 20th century explorers (the gentleman explorers, as they were referred to) and one in particular—Himalayan mountaineer Eric Shipton—proved to be pure inspiration.
McAfee noticed that there was a gap between outdoorsy travel bags and the luxury bag sector. As a lover of the wilderness, he began constructing leather bags that work everywhere from desert camping to business meetings. Each bag has been produced to take a beating, and to look good along the way—plus, a series of compartments inside his three main offerings make organization easy. Further, all buckles and leather are sourced from downtown LA and the zippers and bags themselves are produced there, as well. When hands-on with the bags, we found their beauty and quality is evident, but it’s the backstory of inception and adventure that makes them truly unique in such a crowded product category.
Explore Conrad Men’s range of leather goods online.
Images courtesy of Conrad Men’s