An Altrincham equipment designer has launched his own brand with an ambition to put the style back into business travel.
Mat Booth, 33, has spent the last 12 years designing sportswear and equipment for companies including Antler, Umbro, Nike, New Balance and Warrior Sports, during which time he developed equipment and kit for the likes of Liverpool FC and the New York Cosmos.
Latterly he has been running his own consultancy, working with the likes of Henri Lloyd and specialising in sportswear and equipment design, and has now made the leap with his own collection of business travel products, all of which were designed on his own kitchen table.
“I’ve always had a passion for technical design and was keen to do my own thing in this area,” he said. “I wanted to use the leverage I had with doing my own consultancy to establish my own brand.”
The result is Both Barrels, a launch collection of business travel bags including a holdall, backpack, washbag and two sizes of laptop case.
“The idea for the bags came from having travelled the world and seen lots of business travellers that were clearly just given their stuff by the IT department,” he explained.
“But these people are representing brands that are asking you to buy millions of pounds’ worth of product, and it just seemed a real disconnect. Why wear a £1,000 suit but carry an old rugby or football bag? I just felt there was a market for people who really cared about the detail of every part of their impression.”
Both Barrels’ products have the look, feel and, yes, smell of quality. Using the principles of outerwear to fashion a bag that is good-looking but also immensely hard-wearing, Booth has thought about every last detail.
“I’ve always been fascinated by re-appropriating traditional materials, so the products use a great British product like wool but give it a technical twist.”
To hear him talk about the product is to listen to someone who has left nothing to chance.
“The wool is from the UK, the buckles are cast in Italy, the leather is from Belgium as they have the best tanneries, and the zips come from Japan because they have the best zips. All the component parts are the best you can get.”
The products are all put together at a factory just up the M6 in Cumbria, where other individual touches include a water-resistant membrane, a laminated bright purple cotton underside, and a ballistic nylon base panel to protect against wet floors.
“I know myself I don’t want to spend £800 on a leather bag, because I would be scared to death of using it,” he said. “Both Barrels products are meant to fill the gap between the IT department standard issue stuff and the insane designer brand price point.”
Both Barrels’ first run of production is in stock now, and has just launched a brand new e-commerce website after working with Altrincham digital marketing agency JAW Digital.
“The thing that’s nice is that if I took this business to a really big agency, they wouldn’t be able to grow with me. But it feels as if we’re presenting each other with a unique opportunity, and I know that the service I’ve had from these guys has been absolutely fabulous,” he said.
Wayne Berry, co-owner of JAW, said a considerable amount of research had gone into competition and the marketplace before the site was built.
“We didn’t want to do anything too outside the box, because there’s already an established marketplace for this kind of product, so then we just set about making the best-looking and most user-friendly website we could,” said Berry.
Booth said he would be continuing to sell the products directly through his website for the time being, with the aim of branching out into retail.
“It would be fabulous to get into Oi Polloi in Manchester, and then into bigger retailers like Selfridges,” he said. “But for the moment I am focusing on building up the online arm of the business.”