As the amount of stuff we carry around with us grows in volume, so does the problem of what to do with a pile of daily debris at the bottom of a bag. The out-the-door inventory has evolved from sunglasses or umbrella to tablet or laptop; then add keys, cosmetics, cell phones, fast-food condiments and medicines with maybe a couple of power cords, and just finding those car keys without spilling everything onto hot, grease-stained pavement can escalate beyond minor annoyance.
Mark Arnold, 57, designs and crafts fashionable, leather solutions to meet the individual needs of people whose daily survival kit exceeds the practical capacity of a simple tote bag, or as is often the case these days, carry their office with them for on-the-go productivity.
The Tampa native’s company, Marcus Bags, is a result of necessity and a chance to start his own business. It evolved from designing and constructing a leather bag to suit his professional needs as a consulting engineer, working in environments far removed from a wired office.
“I had nowhere to put myself,” he said. “I got tired of not being able to organize the things I needed to use. It was derived out of a need.” What he was looking for was a mobile desk.
Arnold drew upon his background of building furniture with his father and an appreciation for how folks who commute by horseback organize their tools.
“The most durable thing out there is a western saddle,” he said.
Strength and durability are achieved by producing bags made of nine-ounce leather, though lighter-weight bags can also be produced, and using carbon fiber support beams to give the leather shape while minimizing weight.
General purpose bags, such as his Engineer and Reporter lines, start at about $125, but Arnold’s main selling point is the ability to offer what he refers to as “bespoke” items.
Bespoke is a fashion design concept referring to clothing and accessories created at the direction of a customer. The term began with London tailors who make a distinction between bespoke and custom made suits, the latter modifying an existing design to an individual’s specifications. Recent usage of the word includes fashion accessories as well.
According to Arnold, the most important feature of his bags is the amount of individualization involved. It’s a process he begins by asking, “What are your needs?”
He sketches out an original design, reflecting aesthetic and functional interests of the person who will use the bag.
“You actually have input into the size, design, shape and color of the bag,” he said.
Marcus bespoke bags are designed with pockets measured and formed to provide an exact, secure fit for items such as eye glasses, cell phones, tablets, ohm meters, and whatever tools or survival items someone uses to get through a day. Color, size and finish are all up to the customer.
Production of the bags, which includes machining of hardware like clasps, tips and other fitments, is performed at a rented workshop located in an industrial park near Tampa International Airport. Marketing is a combination of hitting the streets in his van to find shelf space in local shops and selling online through his website.
“There’s not enough local traffic to sell a bag like this,” the Robinson High School graduate said. “But with the Internet you can sell to the world.”
Such interconnectivity exemplified by the Internet does more than provide a marketplace for Arnold. As far as he’s concerned, it speaks to why his bags are essential for people embracing mobility.
“Wearable technology is the future of personal devices and a bag like this can bring it all together,” he said. That could even include custom cable paths and even a power source.
Buyers include musicians, audiophiles, engineers and sales professionals but Arnold suggests the organizational benefit he provides has a universal appeal. “You don’t know how comforting it is to have a bag with all of your stuff in order until you try it,” he said.
Arnold says one way he’d like to develop his business is to work with local merchants to offer branded or signature bags unique to their shops.