17 Luxury Backpack Brands That Have Elevated The Humble Rucksack
If you’re going to carry some weight on your shoulders, it may as well be stylish, beautifully designed and functional.
Carrying our belongings on our backs is no modern phenomenon. There’s evidence to suggest that we were crafting rucksacks as far back as 3300 BC. Found on the mummified remains of Otzi the Iceman was a U-shaped hazel rod, two meters in length, and two wooden boards about 40cm in length. It is thought that these items were bound together by string and used to support an animal hide bag, thus creating a framed backpack.
In 1874 an American, Colonel Henry C Merriam, designed a backpack for use by the infantry, which was the forerunner of the frameless backpacks that have become such a vital part of how we carry things today. Later, in 1938, Gerry Cunningham designed the first zippered backpack, but it wasn’t really until the late 1960s that the backpack went mainstream thanks to its adoption by school children all over the United States.
Today, there are backpacks for every imaginable purpose and utility. Some have of course become fashion items, an extension of one’s aesthetic to both complement and highlight the look. And yes, they have become symbols of style, affluence and status, too, all the while retaining their functional aspect.
As we become more of a nomadic society post-COVID, the backpack has taken on a new significance as we live and work in a much more mobile world (and as we lug increasingly more tech around with us). Hence, we’ve put together a list of our favorite luxury brands producing the highest-quality backpacks today. From Parisian fashion houses to accessories specialists, here you’ll find the perfect fit whatever your needs and aesthetic.
Some luxury backpacks make the mistake of looking a little too polished, like they’re too good to use every day. Even though that’s exactly what a good backpack is for. They should be practical and ergonomic, first. If they look incredible and are made to last as well, then great.
Carl Friedrik is a brand that has perfected that balance. London-designed and Tuscany-made, the brand creates fold-top, zip-up and other designs, all crafted from beautiful vegetable-tanned leather.
As well as luxury finishes, each one is thoughtfully designed with padded laptop sleeves and extendable sections and comes with a lifetime warranty.
A slick leather backpack – in black, always in black – is an easy way to look good on the move. Modern accessories brand Roderer offers two styles, both hand-crafted in soft-grain Italian leather.
The minimalist design keeps things smart on the commute or longer journeys, with disguised pockets there to easily grab your essentials. Inside, you’ll find padded laptop sections and zipped compartments for handy storage.
Founded by Taichi Fujimatsu in 1994, Japanese brand Master-Piece has been crafting stunning and highly functional backpacks out of its Osaka factory, developing something of a cult following thanks to its unique fabrication treatments.
With a clean, pared-back design language, Master-Piece bags are typically waterproof (thanks to a high-density nylon twill), abrasion-proof and in some cases fire resistant, so you can rest assured that your precious cargo is in safe hands.
As you can imagine from a Japanese specialist, the level of detail and functionality is exceptional.
Bleu de chauffe
It’s impossible to be more French than leather bag maker Bleu De Chauffe. Based in the Aveyron region, Bleu De Chauffe exclusively uses local artisans to craft its stunning bags, selecting only the very best and most sustainable fabrics and hardware.
Each artisan is 100% responsible for the bag he or she produces (they date and sign each piece they make) and there are no production lines, which in this day and age is unique and highly commendable.
While the brand is best known for its musettes and postman’s satchels, the backpacks are equally as splendid, crafted from vegetable-tanned leather and inspired by the outdoor backpacks of the 50s and 60s, perfect for adding a retro flourish to a preppy wardrobe.
WANT Les Essentiels
For the fashion-forward guy who thrives with a wardrobe that is predominantly black, WANT Les Essentiels’ small but perfectly formed collection of backpacks ticks all the right boxes.
The specialist bag maker has crafted four stunning backpacks, each one designed for a slightly different persona. A chic utility piece, the Kastrup style is made from organic cotton (and also available in rugged nylon), while the minimalistic leather Serio backpack is a true testament to ‘luxury’.
We also love the more technical and urban-oriented Mini Rogue 2.0, cut from ECONYL®, a very durable and sustainable fabric constructed using regenerated nylon sourced from ocean and landfill waste.
Although the iconic British brand Smythson is perhaps best known for its luxury wallets and stationery items, it has since expanded its expertise with natural hide into bags, most notably its backpacks.
Crafted from grained calf leather, the Everyday backpacks are beautifully minimal, featuring a single outer compartment, with ample room for your daily cargo, while the Zip-Around backpacks utilize the brand’s Panama leather, borrowing the crossgrain texture from its famous diaries and journals.
The prestigious leather specialist started life out in the footwear business and has since become one of the leading fashion brands in the world so it should come as no surprise that its bag collection is of the highest order.
Renowned for its use of leather patinas for its luxury shoes and outerwear collections, Berluti has incorporated the same effect into its backpacks. This is best exemplified by its Time Off Scritto style, constructed from Venezia leather, perfect for elevated casual looks, whereas its Premier Jour style is more directed at discerning business types with a penchant for refinement.
Swiss brand Montblanc seems to be able to turn its hand at designing anything and come away with a genre-defining product. And it has succeeded in its task once more with the Extreme 3.0 backpack, crafted from embossed full-grain black bovine leather and finished with black metal fittings. It features a padded compartment for a laptop as well as several pockets and two writing instrument loops.
If you want something with a bit more punch, then the visually arresting Meisterstück backpack is made from sustainable ECONYL® and is printed with a bold glacier motif, “in tribute to the icy peaks of the Mont Blanc”.
The lauded Parisian superpower of fashion has a surprisingly large and diverse collection of backpacks – almost all of which are predictably black and chic. From its City Flap backpacks constructed from ECONYL® with leather detailing (also available in crocodile embossed leather) to its retro-inspired leather Sac de Jour, Saint Laurent brings fashion cachet and bags of luxury exclusivity.
Handmade by a team of master craftsmen in the North of England, Bennett Winch produces a single style of backpack, because all others would be superfluous. The perfect combination of luxury fabrics, exquisite craftsmanship and timeless design, it is available in either 24oz bonded canvas or full-grain Tuscan leather (and featuring London-welded solid brass hardware).
What you see is what you get from this specialist bagmaker – and we like what we see. A perfect complement to a sartorial-inspired wardrobe, the minimalist design will only improve with age and wear.
The Italian master of fine fabrics does not do things by halves, so Mr Cucinelli’s backpacks are of course works of art as much as they are functional fashion items.
The Calfskin City backpack is inspired by vintage satchels, and is a stunning representation of artisan leather craft, while the textured suede and buffalo leather backpack is a more modern iteration of the backpack, albeit expressed in the highest form of luxury.
Yes, they’ll set you back the price of a second-hand car but if you’re a customer of Cucinelli, that’s probably water off a duck’s back.
As you might expect from the Italian fashion behemoth, Gucci’s bag collection is vast, with any number of backpack styles on offer. As you’d expect from a brand with such heritage – and many signature motifs – the backpack collection is a fine repository of the much-loved Gucci logos and trademarks, as well as featuring some of the more contemporary designs (such as the Gucci cat cartoon print by Chile-based cartoonist and illustrator, Pablo Delcielo).
What they lack in functionality and technical utility, Gucci’s backpacks more than make for in design and luxury cachet.
The Milanese leather bag specialist has been handmaking its stunning pieces since 1928. Although no longer family-run, it still adheres to the same meticulous processes to produce some of the most exceptional examples of leatherwork.
Its backpacks toe that same line: sleek and minimal, following a traditional zip-up silhouette, but using fabrics such as ‘cachemire leather’ – an exclusive, naturally tumbled calfskin. Serapian’s designs are perfect for the elegant guy with a wardrobe that traverses sartorial finesse and contemporary fashion.
1017 Alyx 9sm
Founded by Matthew Williams, the New York brand Alyx Studios quickly made a name for itself producing clothing and accessories with a distinctly utilitarian edginess, finding cult support in the luxury streetwear scene.
Immediately recognizable for their rollercoaster buckles, Alyx’s backpacks are invariably black, technical and futuristic, typically constructed from rugged nylon. They’re an excellent way to finish an all-black contemporary streetwear look.
Kicking off with a curveball. Founded in Paris in 2008, côte&ciel is like a Parisian fashion editor distilled into backpack form: effortlessly chic, fashion-forward and covered head-to-toe in black. This is a luxury bag brand that shuns tradition – there are no traditional manufacturing processes by generational artisans or ‘timeless’ design here.
The label’s backpacks are almost sculptural in appearance and unlike anything on today’s market. But it’s not all show and no go – they’re still crafted using high-end cowhide or advanced technical fabrics and incorporate several practical features such as secure padded laptop pockets and accessory pouches, reflective details and water-repellent coatings.
One for techwear fanatics or those with slick modernist wardrobes.
Leather bag specialist Valextra was founded by Giovanni Fontana in 1937 in Milan and has garnered one of the finest reputations for luxury bagmaking ever since. Although it is one of Italy’s oldest luxury leather goods brands, it has not rested on its laurels and continues to craft incredibly high-quality designs.
Its beautifully proportioned V-Line backpacks are a case in point, crafted from soft Millepunte calfskin.
If you want to break from the traditional backpack silhouette and make a statement, then Spanish luxury fashion house Loewe is exactly what you are looking for. Under the creative direction of Jonathan Anderson, Loewe is as avant-garde as it gets.
Its backpacks are smart, novel, unique, colorful and always surprising, combining clever design with humor and sophistication. The collection is both extensive and diverse, featuring soft-sculpted leather silhouettes as well as more classic military backpacks in soft-grained calfskin.
Mulberry feels like it should have been around for longer, such is its association with exquisite leather bags, but the British luxury brand was only founded in 1971. Nevertheless, in that period it has become regarded as one of the world’s finest luxury leather bag makers, and for good reason.
While it’s the women’s bags that get most of the column inches, the men’s backpacks are not to be slept on – the Performance Tote backpacks constructed from recycled nylon are a contemporary rendition of the classic hiking style, perfect with modern streetwear, while the City backpack in heavy grain leather is a pared-back delight, perfect to complement a smart minimalist wardrobe.