Is it worth it?: Packing your bags: a case history

It's Italian, it's leather, it's got a faux English heritage label, but opinion is divided on whether it's beautiful enough to merit the pounds 725 price tag

IF YOU ARE planning a holiday this summer, it's likely that you've budgeted for insurance, spending money and perhaps some holiday clothes as well. New luggage on top of all that might be deemed a bit too much, especially if it cost the same as the holiday itself. This Italian leather suitcase from The Bridge checks in at pounds 725, easily the price of two very sunny weeks far away from home. Can such a price tag be justified? Of course not, but for the sake of fair journalism, let's argue the toss.

This suitcase is not the choice for the backpacker, nor for those with a serious appetite for travel, unless that appetite encompasses private jets and white gloved luggage porters. The case isn't exactly light and with only one main compartment and two fabric pockets in the yellow-checked lining of the flap, there's no room for sectioning your dirty knickers. Without a hard shell exterior neither are delicates well shielded from the physical strains of travel. But, for the holiday maker in search of those two jewels - style and quality - The Bridge stuff, (from key fobs right through to trunks) may well be on the shopping list. The company were remarkably unwilling to discuss the finer points of their product or even, initially at least, to allow us to photograph it, but they did eventually declare themselves to be a "classic brand... masters at creating luggage of timeless beauty, practicality and style".

Sophia Jolly, buyer of travel goods at Harrods, supports the brand's claim to quality. "The Bridge is a very durable brand with reliable suitcases. They use a sturdy, vegetable- dyed, full-grain leather." Basically, vegetable tanning (when the hide is treated to preserve it) is the oldest and most lengthy method, and is also "ecologically sound". Quality leather cases are, sadly, still subject to the same travel risks as the most proletarian of suitcases (like being sent astray and bullied in the hold). But Jolly believes that a few scratches can add to the charm of a durable leather suitcase. "Leather pieces are often returned by customers because they're scratched, but they're meant to look weathered."

Although the zip around the flap can be locked, if I'd spent pounds 700 plus on a suitcase I'd be very concerned about theft. Real Life's Annalisa Barbieri didn't think this would be a problem with the Bridge case. "It would never be nicked, it's far too ugly! It looks circa 1976 with those horrendous straps with `The Bridge' written on and the leather looks cheap. It's naff, unstylish and unwieldy". A damning comment. What would Miss Barbieri prefer? "A Bill Amberg Clarke suitcase made of bridle leather with a suede lining. It's not as big - long weekend size - but it's very stylish and comes with its own nylon slip cover, which protects the leather and wouldn't attract thieves. Or, for the pounds 700 the Bridge monstrosity costs, I'd buy Amberg's fabulous Cabin holdall which is the sort of bag you dream of owning." For an extra pounds 25, it seems, The Bridge certainly offers the quality, but with rather less of the style.

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