Travel Essentials: Sandast

When I travel I only pack two things, my weekender and a backpack. I have mastered the art of packing light, partly because I’d rather not deal with the hassle of checking in luggage but mostly because the possibility of the airlines losing my luggage. Yes, it has happened before. I got to my destination and waited, and waited, but nothing came around the carousel that looked even faintly similar to my bags. Not the best experience. Gone forever, along with everything that I packed for the vacation that was just about to start, in a not so good way. I learned quickly that unless I am going away for a significant length of time, my bags are staying with me the whole trip.

As I travel often , I’ve been looking for a much needed replacement for my college backpack which has gone around the world with me. I came across the Sandast Falcon Backpack and it made perfect sense. Made in Los Angeles, the Falcon backpack gave me everything I was looking for; spacious, stylish, and very lightweight. I could pack my camera, laptop, notebooks, and anything else I needed for the trip with ease. Another feature that drew me to the bag was the amazing leatherwork that could be seen in the details of the bag. The waxed canvas was complimented by some great vintage leather on the pockets, straps, handle and draw string of the Falcon Backpack.

After getting such a great product from a company that I was unfamiliar with, I wanted to know more about the history of the brand behind the bag, Sandast. I had a chance to talk with Chris Pak, the founder of Sandast and learn what he risked in order to create these amazing works of leather.

A&H: Tell me a little bit about the history of  Sandast and when it started.

Chris: Our concept of Sandast (hand distressed & vintage inspired luxury leather) was created in 2006, but our actual collection wasn’t  introduced until 2010. Our current collection is an end result of hard fought and painful journey of trial & error for 4 years.

When we first started, we were so focused on the visual aspect of the bag.Our bags back in 2010, 2011, and 2012 had many minor flaws in their construction. In 2013, I ended up wasting the whole 2013 season because I wanted to do the production in India to lower our costs and thus make our products more affordable.  However, it turned out to be a total disaster because I was not sold on the quality of the products and still to this day I have all of my Indian production sealed away in the corner of our warehouse.

A&H: It must have been very difficult to see an entire season sitting in the warehouse, how did you recover from this?

Chris:  My biggest mistake was that my initial approach was to make money, not for the passion or love of the craft.  That explains why I was content with using inferior materials and focusing on the visual aspect to hide or masquerade the inferior materials used. The last two years (2012 & 2013) were really tough as my initial investment ran out and my partner gave up on me and left as well.  For me, it was too late because by early 2013, I fell in love with the craft and would do anything to keep Sandast alive.  After my partner left, I carried the brand on by selling my house, car, life-insurance, and just about anything and everything that could be sold.

A&H: Wow, tough times indeed! What was the next step in keeping Sandast alive and well?

Chris: After 2013 fiasco with Indian production, I decided to bring back the production back to US where I can see and manage it all.  Sandast literally became my baby and I wanted it to be perfect so that when a consumer buys and receives it, he or she will like it and cherish it. We’ve made a drastic change from the onset in almost every aspect of production. We import some of the best leather in the world, premium Horween leather. All hardware and buckles are solid brass and are imported from France as well as all the lock & frame materials which are imported directly from Italy; Riri zipper’s from Switzerland. Basically, I source the best materials from around the world and make them in our workshop in Los Angeles.

A&H: With production back in the US, what did you learn from your mistake and has business been better since the change?

Chris:  In retrospect, what happened in 2013 with Indian production was the biggest loss, yet at same time  it was the biggest blessing. It made me focus on making our products under my supervision and focus on quality and construction. As our quality improved, our sales in Japan & China are increasing and slowly but surely, our business in U.S is also increasing as well.

Looking back, it was a great challenge and hardship that Sandast had to go through, but it taught us a lot and its lessons really struck into our core DNA, which is to create the best vintage inspired luxury leather goods that will last for generations.

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Ryan Neeven

|Editor at Large, A&H Magazine| Travel Well, Travel Often.