Fogg Bags: Now Get What You Really Wanted For Xmasukah, Part 1
Post by Paul Brodek our Used Equipment buyer
Changing things up a bit this week with some soft goods instead of the usual hardware. ‘Cause no matter the camera and lenses, we need to carry them in something, like, you know, a camera bag. If you appreciate well made goods that last, and if not, why are you wasting your time reading this, you want a good camera bag. And if you appreciate insanely well made bags, that delight the eye and in use, you want to look at Fogg bags.
As a certified nerd/anorak/otaku (if you need to look any of these up, you aren’t one), I’ve found way too much to talk about and feature when it comes to Fogg. I’m not only a bloody anorak, I’m a contrary one at that. So I’m going to make this a two-parter. I’m ringing out 2019 talking about Fogg’s background and current product. Then I’ll ring in 2020 looking at some vintage Fogg bags, exploring the minor things that have changed, and the all-important things that haven’t. New stuff for the Old Year, old stuff for the New Year.
Fogg bags are made in France by hand, one at a time, by Nigel Fogg and bee berman. Likely near-newlyweds in ‘86, they emigrated from South Africa to London, where they began making camera bags. They then moved to France in ‘92, in a continued search for egalitaire. 30yrs later, I’m guessing they discovered that Wherever You Go, There You Are.
I don’t speak any French, and the only applicable slang I know is British, so I’d like to say that BCC is chuffed to bits to have been blessed by bee and Nigel to become Fogg stockists. We have a selection of beautiful new Fogg bags on hand, and we would be happy to order either a stock or bespoke bag for you from Nigel and bee.
Fogg’s heritage is obvious from a glance, those traditional cotton-duck-and-leather hunting and tackle bags favored by the landed gentry. Traditional materials, traditional construction methods—cotton and linen from local milleners, leather from local tanners, brass bits from hell-hot local forges—sewn into bags on large industrial sewing machines that could just as easily sew schooner sails or parachutes. Or a human skin suit if you wanted to go all Silence of the Lambs? Not stuff you could do on mom’s Singer.
It’s difficult to put into words the “rightness” of a Fogg bag. Each bag is supremely practical, impeccably made and quietly elegant, while being completely free of frills. Simple, elegant, built to last. They cradle your camera in tough, lightweight linen that sandwiches thin, dense foam, with a tough, water-resistant cotton outer skin, reinforced with leather at critical wear points, to keep out the vicissitudes of the physical world. A bag to delight any obsessive bag otaku.
Fogg’s current line has a wide range of sizes/configurations, starting from the smaller, single-camera Flute, which fits anything along the lines of a 1960s Leica M3 with 35mm f/2 Summicron, or a current Leica Q/QP/Q2, or Fuji X100F. Moving up in size through the Lyre, B-Laika and Last Waltz, we arrive at the full system-sized Concerto 13 and 15. Each bag is individually labeled and numbered by bee, usually on a small leather swatch, using a heat gun that goes from insufficiently hot to finger-scalding in a breath. Nigel is the keeper of the numbers, his still-handwritten product logs the only Rosetta Stone to date your bag. Nigel will, if properly complimented and motivated, dig out this info for you.
I’ll just call out a few of the quiet touches that show the thought and care bee and Nigel put into their bags. Like how even the small bags have the shoulder strap running full-length around the bottom of the bag. That means full support for whatever you load in the bag, and no stress points or tugging on the sides of the bag, where most bags anchor the ends of the shoulder strap. Or the little extra fold of lid material that tucks in at the sides to keep out dirt/dust/rain. The shoulder pad on all the bags, even the small ones. The narrow, horizontal leather strip across the front top edge of the flap, that makes the flap easier to open/close and fold it out of the way to access the bag contents. It also provides a lovely visual line, emphasizing and showcasing the beauty of the leather.
I’d be lying if I said Fogg bags were cheap, just as I’d be lying if I said they were a terrible value. The smallest Flute will set you back $495, and if you need a Concerto 15, have $1,995 ready. Anybody who says there’s no reason for a bag to cost that much hasn’t seen any fashion-brand bags, nameless here since lawyers are expensive, that are no better made than a Fogg, but can run $5k+ for a small handbag just because the material and clasps are slathered with fancy fashion-house logos. You can find seemingly similar British-made canvas-and-leather camera bags for somewhat less $$$, sewn by who knows who. They are really nice, but when you play with one next to a Fogg bag, you’ll see, feel and understand the difference.
And you’ll get bee and Nigel when you get a Fogg bag. Delightfully well-made things can be created by really horrid people. I’m grateful these delightfully well-made things are created by two mensches. I’ve been emailing them for some background info for this piece, and have gotten responses like this (note that bee is red and Nigel is blue):
On asking them to tell me a little bit about themselves:
be careful what you wish for: ask someone to talk about themselves? (risky in France: a simple “ca va?” /how goes it?” risks a quarter-hour monologue …)
On the heat gun:
…with a heat erratic tool – too cold it doesn’t write, too hot it burns my fingers .. the window between the two is a blink .. if i sneeze i start from the beginning.
On my very large vintage Maestro bag:
and the gargantuan Maestro alors? Back-ache? go carefully
On their suppliers:
Ciulli third generation Tannery here in France – we started with their dad, 1st generation Italian immigrant. Over the years we have shared births, deaths, marriages with suppliers.
We consider them friends .. who are happy to supply us!
some ancient history:
Hammersmith, London. 1986
then …… and now ..