Basader Handmade Classic Messenger Bag with Gusset Review – $400

Since began reviewing products a few years ago, we have watched Basader grow from an Etsy store into one of the mainstays of the leather goods market. Based in Brooklyn, founders Philip and Elin Antonelli come from a fashion background, which is evident in their stylish products. All of their products are dyed, cut, and assembled by hand in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In 2013, we reviewed their Messer Leather Briefcase, and posted an interview with Philip. Since then, they’ve sold quite a few messenger bags to customers who have broken them in and given them feedback. Thus was born the Handmade Classic Messenger Bag with Gusset, a customizable combination of everyone’s favorite Basader features.

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Crafted from 7 oz bridle leather, the Classic Messenger Bag is durable yet soft. It hasn’t lost its shape after daily usage, nor will it ever. The inside of the bag is smooth and supple, and the divider is made with raw leather. This medium brown color option is a rich reddish-brown, with a subtle luster that looks very sophisticated. The bag comes in three different color options: medium brown, dark brown, and black. Even the edge color is customizable in four colors: dark brown, medium brown, black, and natural. To get a better feel for the color options, check out the color guide on the Basader blog.

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The construction of the Handmade Classic Messenger Bag is immaculate, with clean double-stitching and sturdy brass hardware to hold it together. The bag has minimal seams on the front and back, giving it a very sleek, understated look. The standout feature on this bag is the gusset. A gusset is a reinforced seam that provides structural strength or reinforcement. In this case, it does both, while simultaneously adding a divider that runs through the middle of the bag and provides two pockets and pen holders. The thick divider is a great feature for laptop users to keep their computer safe and scratch-free. This 16-inch, 4.5-pound bag keeps a 15″ laptop nice and snug without killing your shoulders. The size is functional for every day use without being clunky or in the way.

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The top handle has an extra leather covering for additional comfort. The removable shoulder strap is attached with D-rings and lobster-style clasps. Of course, the metal hardware is customizable as well, in three finishes: brass, nickel-plated brass, and nickel-plated matte.

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There is the option to add an adjustable backpack strap, which attaches to three O-rings that are added onto the back of the bag if you select this option. You also have a choice when it comes to the two front buckles. You can stick with the classic buckle or upgrade to faux buckles with hidden tuck locks for quick and easy access, a feature that is great for the less dextrous.

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The Handmade Classic Messenger Bag with Gusset ranges from $400-450, depending on what features you choose. It’s $20 to size up from 14.5″ to 16″, $20 to add a backpack strap (and necessary hardware), and $10 to upgrade to the hidden tuck locks on the front buckles. This is a very, very nice bag that will last you a lifetime due to its high quality materials and superior construction. It’s worth every penny; possibly more. It’s American-made from high-quality leather and handmade exactly to your specifications. The simple and timeless style will never go out of fashion, and the leather will get even more beautiful the longer you carry it. What more can you ask for?

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Basäder Handmade Leather Belt Review in Dark Blue – $55


Based in the bustling streets of Brooklyn, it is very easy to see the motive for Philip and Elin Antonelli’s designs: life in the city. Philip and Elin began Basäder on Etsy (read more about that here), an online hub for local startups and people looking to buy cool things.

They began by making artisan leather bags, one of which had the honor of being the first bag reviewed by BestLeather, the Messer Messenger Bag, and they soon expanded their line of hand-crafted leather goods to include multiple briefcases and satchels, as well as totes, keychains, and belts.

The Basäder Shop in Brooklyn, NY
The Basäder Shop in Brooklyn, NY


Basäder uses nylon thread in concordance with copper rivets to hold this strikingly beautiful blue belt together. The buckle is made of copper as well, and features an antique burnished look. The leather is 7oz vegetable tanned, which is then dyed blue (dark blue model). the rivets are tough solid hand hammered rivets which will excel hollow rivets by a wide margin. Solid rivets will break a weak pair of snips, that’s how tough they are.

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That blue color is very striking with denim.
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No doubt it would go well with a pair of chinos as well.

This belt is not dyed all the way through the leather. In other words, the blue will fade with time, which would give way for an interesting patina; however, if you are in search of a belt that will not fade, this belt, especially in this color, may not be for you.


A belt has a very simple purpose, one that may seem comical, but it is the truth. A belt is designed for the sole purpose of holding one’s pants up. Does the Basäder hold my pants up? Yes, it absolutely does. It is thin enough to fit through my belt loops and substantially thick enough to hold up to daily uses.

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That subtle scratch shows how the blue coating doesn’t permeate the vegetable tanned leather.


When a boutique leather company such as Basäder designs a belt, they go into it with an intent in addition to the purpose of holding the wearer’s pants up: uniqueness. There are thousands of belts out there and when you’re a cool but small company such as Basäder, you have to find a way to get your foot in the door with customers. In other words, you have to find a hook, a catch that draws customers and leather aficionados alike to the till. You have to make the belt stand out. And this belt definitely does.

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Jax Chemicals makes a very nice solution for antiquing brass pieces like this.

The blue dye is extremely striking. I’ve had people comment on the color. People commented on my belt. This belt really is unique. The blue combined with the copper rivets and buckle really creates a cool, striking, and extremely interesting accessory, one that is definitely unique. I mean, how many other blue belts with copper hardware have you seen?

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It’s a sharp looking belt.

BestLeather conclusion

This belt is, in a word, beautiful. I’m not really sure what it is, but I really like the way that it catches the light and how the light plays with the minor abnormalities in the leather. It’s very captivating. For $55, you’re getting a great piece of leatherwork. In this same price range, we also have the Woodnsteel vegetable tanned belt, which is a similar and sizeable comparison. I, personally, would take the Basäder over the Woodnsteel, as I prefer the copper hardware and the overall aesthetic. The Basäder is worth the money. As far as leather belts go, $55 is a great price and for it, you will be receiving a great product.

A Conversation With Philip from Basader

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It’s been really fun to watch Basader get more traction as a relative newcomer in the hyper-competitive durable leather goods market. They are doing it with a combination of stylistic innovation, commitment to durability, and extremely competitive pricing.

the Basader philosophy

Basader (Derived from Bas Jan Ader, a famous artist) is heavily driven by a mission to create lasting pieces and promote timeless design principles.  All of their work is produced in our small studio located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn—where they laboriously hand-dye, cut, and assemble the pieces.  Through experimenting with new techniques, materials, and finishes, they are continually trying to improve to offer truly “lifetime” products.

As two designers working within the fashion district in NYC, Elin (at the time, a Fashion Designer at Ralph Lauren) and Philip (a Web Designer and Ecommerce Manager), were increasingly disheartened by the disposable fashion culture.  Thinking that it must be possible to create a brand focused on high-quality goods and timeless designs, Basader was born as a side project that grew beyond their greatest expectations.

Philip and his beautiful wife, Elin.

BL: Can you tell that story about the first bag you bought that ended up disappointing you?

Philip: Before I even met Elin, I was the typical bag consumer within the men’s category—looking for quality in all the wrong places.  And while I wouldn’t flinch at saving my “nickels and dimes” to purchase a nice suit, I just assumed a leather bag was a leather bag—regardless of price.   My first leather purchase (what I thought was an artisan quality bag), was made on eBay maybe six or seven years ago.  So the story goes, it was listed by a very active eBay seller, who was supposedly having the bags custom made in a small town in India, and in the process “supporting a local community”.  Buying into a heartwarming story, and admittedly, being quite thrifty, this was a win-win situation.  I would receive a handmade bag while inadvertently supporting a small village located across the globe!

If I knew then what I know now, the bag was very likely made in a sweatshop in China–and this is a very common story across many, if not all marketplaces.  The bag arrived weeks later, it smelled so bad, I was too embarrassed to bring it anywhere, and lasted a month before the rivets were shimmied loose during light use—disappointing to say the least (and worse, probably harmful to whatever “local” community I thought I was supporting).  With so many high-quality bag companies, had I just spent a bit more, I could have ended up with a bag that would have been passed down generations.  A disheartening and wasteful story, this has influenced our work greatly.

The beginning.
The beginning.
Space fills up quick!

BL: How does your experience in fashion translate to Basader?

Philip: As a fashion designer, Elin brings a very unique perspective to our work, and together, we both have a sincere admiration for contemporary minimal design.  From fashion designers like Heider Ackerman to companies like Shinola, we are admittedly driven and influenced by fashion extremes: deconstructivist contemporary designers; and small-town, American made companies–even Allen Edmund is a company of great revere.

Simply put, our aesthetic is driven by a love of fashion and art, and somehow, we stumbled upon  a niche that lives at the intersection of rustic American styling and the refined English approach.  At the most basic level, we admire leather companies like Shinola and Allen Edmund, that, against all odds, make some amazing work within the US—and both companies have found a way to create social enterprises, that feed back into the local community.

BL: Personally, what is your favorite high quality leather item?

Philip: For us, it’s any hand-dyed leather good with a raw underside.  We love a refined lustrous surface coupled with a raw underside—probably, we respect this look so much knowing how difficult it is to achieve.

But more, we love anything new.


BL: Why did you pick the Herman Oak Leather?

Philip: While we love Herman Oak, we also use a lot of other American suppliers as well.  And we do this because there are so many American-based companies that put a lot of love into what they do.  Further, as major retailers inadvertently outsource to other countries, and suffocate American leather houses, we truly believe a renaissance is on the horizon (and we’re very grateful to be even a small part of this!).

A majority of bags in the marketplace are made in questionable working conditions—from mass-market “high-end” chrome-tanned bags to full-grain “looking” offerings, there are but a few American companies left.


BL: Finally, what is the most interesting thing you have learned about working with leather?

Philip: For us, leather is truly a fascinating material.  We’ve experimented with various organic substitutes, from cork bark to tree-tap leather, but at the end of the day, there is no naturally derived material as durable and as timeless leather.  And for such an omnipotent material, it’s amazing to think that so many people will never know what a real full-grain bag feels like.

Keep an eye on this upstart company. I suspect we will see more excellent goods coming our way. Perhaps like this…

Check them out.


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The Basader Messer Leather Briefcase Review – $315

There are endless designs for high quality leather briefcases and a lot of great options to choose from. In my opinion, this is the best value briefcase considering all the factors. Let me explain how and why.

Basader operates out of Brooklyn, NY and is run by Philip and Elin Antonelli. They first started on Etsy and have done very well on it. In May, 2013 they were the featured store on Etsy in recognition of their quality products.

the beginning

Philip & Elin have a background in design and fashion. Elin worked for Ralph Lauren and Philip worked in the fashion industry in website design. The problem they saw – and many others – is there inherent disposability in fashion products. So, they started designing and built a few briefcases to sell on Etsy. The rest is history. Their products have been a hit and as I have been fortunate enough to experience, they are well designed and crafted. Now you can also buy their products on as well as Etsy.

As with most great leather products, their construction principles are simple and follow the company philosophy of providing value through design and durability.

the bag

I got the Messenger Briefcase with no divider which fits my 15″ MacBook Pro perfectly. I should say, right off the bat, that I recommend always getting the divider. Without it, your laptop is in danger of being scratched by pens, keys and other objects with rough edges that you may have in the bag. Nevertheless,this dilemma can be remedied by just getting a sleeve for your laptop instead. Also keep in mind that while you can squeeze in a 17” laptop in, the tight will be very fit and I wouldn’t really recommend it considering the “scratch-hazards”; this includes the metal rivets on the interior’s side that would be impossible not to hit when you are trying to fit in a bigger laptop. Maybe that is just me…

I used a SBL Moleskine cover between my laptop and the pens to insulate it from scratches.

Despite the lack of divider, it can still be said that the interior is well thought-of. The collection of pockets inside are very usable, and there seems to be a snug compartment for the usual business necessities such as cell phone, pens, cards, notebooks and a small assortment of paper documents.

sleek styling

Philip & Elin’s collective experience in the fashion is evident in this briefcase’s design. The exterior is a handsome mix of sleek minimalism and old-school vibe. Notice the absence of visible rivets in the facade; this gives it a solid and smooth appearance that just tempts you to run your palms over it . And with such beautiful leather as its canvas, the result is impressive. The Hermann Oak leather that was used for this bag has a strong, deep color and a subtle sheen that’s not tacky but rather, extremely classy.

the build

Overall, the Basader Messenger Briefcase has a sturdy structure. The leather used is known not only for its aesthetic appeal but for its durability as well. Simply put, your prized laptop among other belonging will be well-protected inside. Hefty pieces of this Herman Oak leather are put together with clean double stitching. All of the rivets and buckles used to attach the strap to the actual bag are top-notch, nickel plated brass.

If there is any cause for concern it is where the straps meet the bag. If you are toting this on a rainy day, there is a risk of water seeping in through these gaps. I suggested this improvement to Philip and he enthusiastically agreed it could be improved on. It is neat to handle these products and work with their makers to make them even better. Sometimes an outside eye can spot previously unnoticed details.

comfortable shoulder strap

The shoulder straps do an excellent job at dispersing the load. I can easily imagine lugging this around all day without straining my shoulders. The padded part is also adjustable, ensuring a comfortable fit despite the adjustments in the length. This is something that you need to take into consideration if you are the type who is on the go for much of the day. You wouldn’t want your briefcase to be dragging you down or leave you wincing.

I must say that it is nearly perfect save for one flaw: there is a long “tail” left hanging when the strap is adjusted to be short.

This might not be that big of a deal for some but can be totally annoying for others. However, I wouldn’t count this against such a hardily-made bag with an impeccable design. But then again, this was addressed to Philip and true sport that he is, he promised to look into it and work on an improvement.

Best Leather conclusion

There’s not much to be debated about when it comes to getting the Bassader Messenger Briefcase. Though you might have to get extra protection for your gadgets to save it from scratches and from drops of moisture (should you decide to use it on a rainy day), it is still the best of briefcases at this value because:

  1. It has excellent space.

  2. It has a polished design that makes it a very handsome daily companion.

  3. It is impeccably constructed with excellent quality components.

  4. It is very comfortable to handle.

The only reason why you would consider something else is if you have a bigger laptop or carry more load daily than this bag can fit in. It is stellar.

In Portland With The Basader Messer Bag – A Teaser


This lovely week sees me in Portland Oregon for work. I was fortunate enough to bring along the absolutely gorgeous bag from Basader ($300). While I have not concluded a review of the bag yet, here  is a short montage from this evening’s excursion.




Basader-Messer-Bag-in-Brown-keychainIn summation, the Basader Messer Briefcase is proving – so far – to be a well-made and beautiful briefcase suited for business and casual use while erring on the side of fantastically classy.