Off Topic: Mahi Harvard Satchel

It seems I have become a "style influencer." That's what the folks at Mahi Leather said when they asked me to review their handmade leather products. While I have no idea how powerful my influence may be, I was happy to give one of the Mahi products a whirl. It may be out of my usual lane, but I dig leather goods and I can always use a new bag, so I accepted the sample and put it through its paces.
I chose the Harvard Satchel in vintage brown. It sells for $125 shipped worldwide, which is quite a tempting price. Mahi bags are made to order and while they may be personalized, I chose a plain vanilla. The satchel arrived directly from India via DHL in about a week, packed in a flat shipping box and a protective cloth bag. Opening it up, I was struck by the heady smell of leather. The vegetable tanned hide was a rich red-brown that looked fantastic, but something about the feel made me think twice. A few quick passes over the back with a clean cloth confirmed my suspicions, the dye was easily rubbing off on the cloth - not at all cool if you are wearing light clothes. When I informed the folks at Mahi, they assured me that this was not normal and promptly sent a replacement. This was not special blogger treatment; they offer a 100% satisfaction, 30-day guarantee on all products.
The new bag looked and felt just as lush as the first one but did much better on the cloth test, showing only minimal dye transfer. Still, even a little bit of brown staining on my clothes is too much, so I thoroughly buffed the new bag to remove as much of the remaining residue as I could before I got down to business. [Update: Shortly after I published this review, Mahi contacted me to say that in response to my complaint and others, they stopped production, investigated the problem with their tannery and changed their leather treatment method to resolve the dye transfer problem.]

The Harvard measures 41 x 30 x 12cm, (16x11x4.7"). There are two exterior pockets on either side that close with magnetic flaps. Quick-release catches hide under the twin buckled straps of the bag's flap, revealing a square exterior pouch with its own buckle and a generous interior space that is cotton lined and divided. There are also small zippered pockets on both the interior and exterior of the back wall. The Harvard swallowed by 15" MacBook with ease, along with my iPad, portfolio, watch pouch, sunglasses, and all the other assorted junk I can't seem to leave the house without.
Of course, just fitting the items is only half the battle. I tend to overload my briefcases and messenger and kill them with weight. I've had only one hardware failure (on a Bally briefcase) but plenty of stitching and leather failures where the shoulder strap attaches to the body of the bag. Mahi uses sturdy brass hardware so I do not expect they would be a problem. The strap attachment points are riveted and double stitched, as is the handle, which is a good sign.
Looking the bag over, it is clear that it has both hand and machine made elements. It doesn't look at all sloppy or homespun, but you can see the occasional imperfections in cuts and stitching. You won't mistake it for a Coach bag, but that is part of its appeal.

The leather has a matte finish that picks up marks and scratches but absorbs them into an inevitable, and to my eye desirable, patina. Mahi does not recommend cleaning it with any more than a soft cloth. I think I would want to hit with a quality leather conditioner in a couple of years, just to keep it from drying out, but that's about it. It has the sort of character that will only look better as it gets broken in and beaten up.

In addition to their leather work, Mahi adds a good deed to your purchase. They pledge to contribute $1.50 from each bag to Frank Water Projects, a charitable organization dedicated to providing clean water to communities in need. That may not sound like much, but as of January 2017 (the most recent update), they had contributed $7439, providing 113 families (510 people) with rainwater collection and filtration systems. Not too shabby.

Overall, I like the bag, it made me aware of a worthy cause, and $125 shipped is a nice price. My only caveat is the dye. It may get better over time, but right now there is no way I'd sling it over my shoulder while wearing a white shirt and khakis, and that is a problem. I'm tempted to give it a good coat of beeswax based finish to seal it. The Mahi Harvard Satchel is appealing, but it will need some elbow grease before it can be its best. ⬩
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