In the spirit of vintage travel, Fathom went on a field trip to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to see the inner workings of Chief Trunk, a 19th-century American travel goods company recently revived for the modern gridskipper.
The Oshkosh Trunk and Luggage Company left off was a premier luggage company during the golden age of train travel. Story goes that Oshkosh was under the misguided impression that air travel was just a fad, so it refused to update its heavy trunks for plane-friendly travel, and the company went under.
In 2013, two guys in Brooklyn decided to revive the Oshkosh style for the modern weekend adventurer. Chief Trunk took the masculine and elegant Oshkosh sensibility and reworked it for today's TSA standards: light-weight duffles, chic briefcases, and a gigantic tote called the Big Chief (Fathom's new favorite weekender).
"These are bags for the American good life," says founder Konrad Duchek. They are well-made, picturesque props for weekend getaways and social gatherings. Chief Trunk reminds us that packing is part of the journey. When you see the brand's signature red and yellow stripes, you know you're going somewhere special.
Chief Trunk bags are made almost entirely by hand. Duchek compares the meticulous process to engineering more than design, and we can't argue. He and his partner Michael Sambrano enlisted the help of a sweet man named Roy who has over 40 years of experience producing high-quality bags. Roy and his team cut the yarn-dyed canvas from patterns Konrad and Michael created themselves. They attach leather handles, punch in rivets, and sew the bags into works of handmade, precision-based art.
The signature stripes are an homage to Oshkosh Trunk Company. Fun fact — Spanish diplomats in the colonies originally designed the pattern. After Spain lost the Spanish-American war, Oshkosh bought the entire stock of leftover fabric. The pattern was called The Chief.
Team Fathom stopped by the Chief Trunk factory to see how the collection is made. Have a look.
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Special thanks to Mel Michael Adams Hernandez and Daniel Schwartz for the video production.