Looking for a new briefcase? This detailed, unsponsored Carl Friedrik Palissy Briefcase review will help you decide if it's worth buying.
I work in the United States Senate and the days are long. Life on ‘The Hill’ as they call it can be exciting but also exhausting.
It’s a high paced environment that often requires me to take home important documents along with my laptop on a regular basis. The commute is a little over 30 minutes door to door and I am often standing or walking the whole time.
I needed a new bag that would work as hard as I do every day but without complaint. In comes Carl Friedrik.
Carl Friedrik is a direct to consumer brand that makes a slew of leather goods for both men and women. The company was originally named Oppermann which is the last name of its owners, Mattis and Niklas.
The rebranding also included a logo change to a ‘knife-like’ shape that resembles part of the letter “F”. While simple in nature, this logo finds itself subtly displayed all over through manufacturing details.
The products are made in Naples, Italy by a family owned business now in its third generation of management.
This is a review of their Palissy (slim) Briefcase, the second smallest of six briefcases offered by the company but the one I would argue offers the best bang for the buck when it comes to getting the job done.
Before digging into the details, let’s circle back on what ‘direct to consumer’ means.
The entire industry is shifting to eliminate middlemen from the supply chain and that means good things for the consumer. As a former menswear retailer, I attended many trade shows in New York City.
Brands at the show are often selling goods with a smaller margin (roughly 30%) in order to give the retailer at least a keystone (100%) markup. Retailers need such margins to manage the costs of high overhead.
The Palissy Briefcase retails for about $600 but if it were to sell through normal distribution channels, you would find it at an independent retailer for no less than $1000. That is the first value add right out of the gate.
As of this writing, I have only had the briefcase for a little under a month and received many complements on it. The day the briefcase came in, I immediately left to fly from DC to Atlanta for the Menfluential Conference.
Out of the gate, the bag proved it could do both fashion and function but ultimately served as a no thrills workhorse.
Features of the Carl Friedrik Palissy Briefcase
Let's look at the features of this leather briefcase, starting with the outside and working our way in.
The Carl Friedrik Palissy bag is about as clean as it comes. The first thing one notices is the exterior pocket where the contrasting nylon is exposed.
In previous versions, this pocket had a zipper but the new easy open slip allows for quick access to keys, wallet and other small items. During my first use at the airport, it really helped me empty pockets and push through the security checkpoint with ease.
Working for Congress, I enter security checkpoints daily so I find this simple pocket to be as helpful as the entire interior of the bag. Sometimes less is more.
The leather is Vegetable-tanned Vachetta leather by Artigiano del Cuoio. Tuscany, Italy. It is thick and hard but crisp as can be. I chose the color navy but the Palissy bag also comes in Cognac, Black and Chocolate.
For a small additional fee, one can upgrade to hand painted patina. The color is rich and the stitching is on point after up close inspection of every seam.
Since the bag is made in Italy, the size was designed with metric measurements in mind but the US standards put this at a width of 15.4”, height of 11.7’ and depth of 2.4”.
A lot of companies get this wrong as they try to develop something that is aesthetically pleasing without concern for consumer comfort.
The human hand and its grip are round so every bag handle should be designed with that in mind. Across the product lineup, all of Carl Friedrik bags have round handles.
As a test, I carried a 12-pack of red bulls to work which loaded the bag down significantly but it did not bow out on the side and it glided with ease. The handles are firm, sturdy and put no unwanted stress on the hands.
A small detail I noticed is how the bottom of the handles are cut at an angle. This keeps them from rubbing against the top edge of the bag which will definitely increase the longevity. The hardware is custom nickel-finished with a minimalist look.
An alternative to using in the handles is the included detachable 40mm wide shoulder strap.
The visuals on this are distinct because both the clasp as well as the leather attachment are both shaped in Carl Friedrik’s logo.
It’s a subtle design detail but something I really like. The leather strap is also reinforced on the inside with matching 220gsm technical nylon from Milan, Italy.
Now some folks may see this play as either too cheap or rugged but I would politely disagree. One can guarantee that nylon will last a long time without showing wear and tear. This is also something I haven’t seen on many other bags.
The Palissy bag has a large Raccagni zipper which is made in Bergamo Italy.
It extends around the length of the bag and is super easy to use. I originally thought this was unnecessary but given the compartments inside, the ability to fully open the bag and access anything quickly is a plus.
The leather on the zippers is also in the shape of CF’s logo, adding to the list of small details I enjoy.
Palissy Briefcase Interior
The best briefcases have enough organization without being over the top, and a durable lining that will hold up for years.
Like the inner part of the shoulder strap, the interior is lined with the same nylon. The bag I chose has a navy exterior so the interior color options were gray or orange.
Another thing I like about the overall Carl Friedrik product line is that lining options can be conservative or bold. That lends itself to making the bags marketable to a much wider audience.
Back to the interior, nylon is a great choice because its clean looking and will hold up over time as things are throw in and pulled out.
Other bags that go for pretty or a softer fabric are doomed to fail. I am not a fan of unlined bags because the quality of leather and construction doesn’t count for much if the bag has no functionality.
The nylon lining has a large side pocket on one side that can accommodate both sizes of the MacBook Air as described on their website. I think it’s perfect for this application.
On the other side include two pen holders, three midsized sleeves and a larger zipper pocket for loose items.
In the center is a neat leather patch that is riveted on which includes the information: brand name, material details and numbering.
I opted to have my initials “RO” embossed here which is an add on. Embossing options include the colors silver and gold.
Based on my use, the pockets are just right for keys, passport holder, headphones and other small items.
The friendly reminder here is that it’s all about function and quick access to the things you need when you need them.
On the website, one can choose to add a ‘Smart Holder’ for an additional surcharge. This is a leather strap that would attach the briefcase to the handle of a suitcase for easy transport at the airport.
While I think this is unnecessary given how small the briefcase is, the innovation and thinking ahead for practicality should be respected. On other bags, I would select that add on option without hesitation.
What I Don’t Like
The leather is very firm and thick, a sign of quality but the navy shows scuffs and scratches very easily so it will require maintenance.
To some degree, this should be an expectation when owning high quality goods.
Just like a car, it’s not going to run forever if you don’t take care of it. It should be noted that I am also extra hard on bags so use that as a metric in your purchasing decision.
For the price of the monogram, it doesn’t make sense to place it on the inside. This does give the company some cover that if a bag were returned or damaged, it wouldn’t have to be entirely replaced.
I do believe if someone wants to personalize an item, they want it out in the open where they and others can see it.
The leather strap is really not needed other than making the bag handsfree. The briefcase is so small it will never be heavy enough to warrant shouldering it.
The buckle placement is also pretty close whereas on the other bags they are near the end. I have no intention to use the strap and quite frankly, it’s too beautiful and robust for a bag like this.
I would consider it mandatory for the other bags sold by Carl Friedrik. This is a tricky spot as the Palissy is bigger than a portfolio but smaller than a traditional briefcase.
My old 2012 Macbook Air was slowing down and becoming unreliable so I purchased a new one just before the end of 2018.
While it fits comfortably in the side sleeve of the Palissy Briefcase, I sometime pack it in a bigger duffle for longer trips. This led me to purchase the ‘Walton Macbook 13’ sleeve.
It’s made of the same leather as the Palissy and I opted for chocolate to experience a different color. The leather is thicker than most sleeves and it will take time to break in as my computer tends to get stuck in it.
The minimalist design is clean and I opted to also have this embossed with my initials near the opening.
A saying my dad once said years ago was, “Son, you get what you pay for.”
Although we were near the bottom end of the working class, my dad still took pride in buying craftsman tools because they were made in the USA and guaranteed for life. Men should treat their clothes and accessories the same way.
The Palissy (slim) Briefcase is by no means inexpensive at $600+ but this is a luxury good made in Italy that should last a lifetime and priced far below other market competitors.
During my time in retail, I have always tried to retrain the customer mind to pivot away from price and toward price per use.
A cheap $100 bag that falls apart at the most inconvenient time and requires another trip to the store isn’t benefiting anyone but the trash hauler that will put it in a landfill.
I travel lean and mean which is what this slim briefcase allows.
Lastly, my dad said, “Son, if you are going to do something once, do it right.”
If you’re just out of college and just landed the first job, this bag might be out of your price range but if you’re a seasoned veteran looking to invest in your future, this is the right move to be ‘one and done’.
I look forward to updating this review down the line to report on its performance and sustainability.