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When Bags Speak

by Sam Gabel



“If you want a bag beyond man and time–you want a Marcellino.”


JOSEPH MARCELLINO is an award winning American classic briefcase maker. His bags have appeared on Billion Dollar Buyer, and are carried by celebrity and professional clients worldwide. To view his work and blog, visit He lives in New York.


What Does STYLE Mean to You?


Style is an artistic expression, something you can tell the world about yourself without telling in words. Style is not something that comes easy or is thoughtless. Style is an individual expression of curated material objects. Style is a step below being a true artist but a step above the expressionless masses. 


Staying RELEVANT in Today’s World


Staying relevant in the industry means you have to pull from the classic and push to a new limit. You don’t want to dwell too much in the past because the new generations will not be able to associate and you don’t want to be left out in the blink of an eye. 


The Modern Value of CUSTOM MADE


Before the industrial revolution everything was custom made. You were not only able to gauge the quality of an item firsthand, but you also had a close relationship with the maker and their ability to better understand your needs. This was our ancestor’s currency and it also gave a deep meaning to craftsmanship, apprentice and the lifelong multigenerational role one had as being the locksmith, the leather craftsman. True art creates meaning from nothing. Mass production split the trades. That is why custom made is so valuable today. 


LONG LASTING Beyond the Current


When I create an object for another human being to use or appreciate I create it with that in mind. My legacy, my reason for being and for existing is wrapped up into what hands can form. A true artistic expression is forever unfinished needing a user to complete the artwork. When professionals carry my work, they’re standing it up and showing it off. When you buy from a company, they look at profit. I look at legacy. I could do that kind of business, but I won’t. There’s no way. 


A Collection of EXTRAORDINARY Details


One will never understand the extraordinary details in an object until you dissect that item. When I build my briefcases I do such subtle things to them that only the hand can do and is hidden by the other layers of formation. From the intricate sculpting that goes into making a handle to the prepping of the interior of a briefcase lining, the details are contained within. 


I have a consciousness of where material comes from. I won’t use anything farm raised. I use material from the food industry. I use by products that would otherwise be wasted. I buy materials from England, from Italy. I know how they tan them. I know the laws. When I make a bag, I don’t design for a price, I design for perfection. I use great materials. The whole fashion industry works on fashion and season. I don’t. 




Physically building items to last is very important. If they are not made to be relevant, they will be tossed away. I stay away from trends; they don’t last. I use different shapes, different types of locking mechanisms. The Marcellino latch is signature. The latch is saddlery hardware. It’s used on a harness. When you put the harness on a horse, you would buckle the harness strap around the horse’s belly, and then the tip of the strap would tighten it completely. The classic way of closing a briefcase is a buckle. But the locks eventually broke. I came up with something that gave them the classic, vintage buckle look—just as strong as a buckle, but easier to open. Aesthetically, it all flirts together to create that vintage briefcase look.


The NEW Man & Woman


I can tell you who my customer is. They’re professional. My customer is buying me, they know me. They love me, they know how the stuff is produced, where the leather comes from, and they’re really intertwined with the material. My style is pushed from my customers. When I make the bag, I build it to last, to make it have a function. Suede feminizes bags. I use light blue suede, I use weird types of shapes, experimental; a bag can be made of cat hair. The feminine part has to conform to the durability. I do a lifetime warranty on all my stuff. It’s got to be durable. Men want pockets, they want shoulder straps, they want function. They want something to last, something that won’t break, something they can talk about. Their alligator bag, they want people to know, “I know this guy!”


What goes into ONE MARCELLINO Bag?


Each bag is individual. They’re one person. They’re tough. They’re complicated to make. You can’t put my bag into a factory. They take a person to make it. It’s one craftsman per bag. I’ll design, I’ll build. I’ll cut pieces of leather. I’ll determine the size. “What kind of lock is it going to be?” It’s a sculpture. It can take two days to make one bag. It’s my blood, sweat, and tears.

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