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1733 sets new standards in craftsmanship

Phil Schade is very busy. As the founder and sole operator of Chicago-based 1733 bags, he’s up to his neck collaborating on and producing satchels with an ease and timelessness you’d expect from a company far older than six. “Real recognizes real'' is a reductive way to explain what magnetized us to 1733 in the first place– it really boils down to a mutual appreciation for objects with set intentions. That is what carries something out of the realm of trend and nestles it firmly into the flow of everyday life. In 2019, we approached Phil to create a collaboration with Varyer. We came to the table excited, recognizing his unique perspective and limitless potential. We wanted to create something with specific features that were chosen with purpose and functional utility. The beauty of gear is in legacy pieces made to last; the ones you keep forever.


A look into the process for the Varyer + 1733 collaboration

1733 gets its name from Phil’s formative years spent in Philadelphia, the address of the house he grew up in and the one his parents still live in today. It exists as a reference to his creative incubation period. It’s a microcosm, an homage to the things in our lives that build up our aesthetic and help shape us into who we are now; the direct influences on our lives. Originally in school for engineering, Phil had wide-eyed ambitions for design and pictured himself making cars or shoes. When reality planted him in Chicago with a career in IT after graduation, he decided to teach himself to sew to stave off the mounting creative frustrations. As time passed, it became apparent that the machines and infrastructure required to make just one single pair of athletic shoes were far beyond a barrier to entry. Though not entirely forced to abandon his lifelong fandom of Allan Iverson and the grips of internet-sneaker culture, he made the conscious decision to forge a more realistic path to keep his newfound passion for sewing alive.

That’s where bags came in.

We don’t always choose the work we do; however, in the discovery of new skills it often finds us. By remaining open to possibility, what might have been a stepping stone turned out to be a destination for Phil. Bags became a way to push the boundaries of form, creating new and interesting shapes with a variety of materials and trims. Dimensions were explored as Phil’s abilities evolved. His intention was to sew; and over time the bags have become unique, sculptural works that fill a space in the market that Phil wasn’t seeing anywhere else. The bags themselves remain delightfully unfussy and endlessly practical. Their craftsmanship shines as a reminder that a well-made object deserves the admiration of your constant use, and they’re up for the task. They’re relatable, it’s easy to see yourself carrying one. It’s what you put inside a 1733 bag that makes it yours.

For Phil, standing out was directed by the functional need for bags that fulfill spaces he views as underserved. He thinks of his work as “wiggling its way in” to a new space, a new genre entirely. The designs straddle the line between technical-outdoor and in-city urban design, drawing inspiration from major brands like Arc’teryx with their clean lines and thoughtful palettes. He also sees himself alongside small teams of designers who do all of their sewing in house, many of which hail from Japan and Korea. His wide-spanning library of materials and willingness to venture into the textile unknown always set him apart; with custom fabrics being the next aspiration to explore.

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For now, the choices that arise from the lack of capital for large, multi-style production runs often turn into strategic collaborations with outside retailers and brands like this one with Varyer. It’s all a balancing act, staying true to the art of his craft while creating opportunities to expose 1733 to more people who in turn have their own ideas that inspire Phil to push the brand forward. Chicago has become a breeding ground for this type of supportive community, something that the size and diversity of the city can offer over his hometown of Philly. Locally, he’s teaming up with The Weaving Mill who produce loosely woven, organic materials that are in stark contrast to the technical fabrics he generally works with. It forces new modes of thinking, as the scrap fabric they provide gives way to entirely new bag shapes. He’s also selling bags at Buddy Store, a shop dedicated to Chicago-made art and objects that was forced online due to the ‘unforeseen circumstances’ that have thwarted so many of the best laid plans in 2020. It’s this type of cross-pollination that energizes 1733.

Varyer + 1733 Variable bag

It is this way of working, too, that inspires Varyer. There is a level of vulnerability in realizing there are ideas you are not entirely comfortable having on your own, or capable of executing on in a silo. What comes of these conversations serves to tie you more deeply to what it means to be creative in the presence of others. Teaming up with other small companies with distinct points of views means dual-growth and the opportunity for shared inspiration. It also makes it easy to respond to a request for 100 new bags in three months with a simple, flat-out “No.”

So what’s next for 1733?

Phil tells us about his upcoming mid-season capsule collection for Brooklyn-based Adsum, work for Chicago’s ubiquitous fashion shop Notre, and a recently released crossover collab with artist Miriam Dubinsky that features her paintings of tigers boldly embroidered on a six-style run of six styles of bags. When speaking of blue-sky dreams, Phil keeps it pretty level headed. Step by step, he’s making moves to create the custom camouflage print fabric of his dreams based off of the design of a friend. He knows it’s going to happen, and he’s admirably comfortable with attainable goals that build towards his practical aspirations.


A collaboration in parts

With an attitude that’s an even mix of go-with-the-flow and utter determination, he navigates his 1733 business like a true professional. He’s unflappable despite setbacks, like seeing a bag of his own design be produced by a mega-corporate street brand. He describes himself as self-taught, having used a combination of Reddit, YouTube, and industrial sewing classes—information that is readily available to all. These resources are not in the ivory tower of fashion institutions, which leads him to believe that “intellectual property is kind of bullshit.” His social media presence is full of process, he answers all of the technical questions that end up in his DMs and still regularly participates in Reddit forums to pay it forward. It’s clear that Phil cares about sharing, stating “the more we all know, the better.”

In that spirit, here’s a bit about the Variable bag we created together: It starts with layers of ultra-lightweight, translucent 1.43oz Dyneema composite fabric. If you’re not familiar, this technical material is waterproof and nearly indestructible. Trims are YKK AquaGuard zippers, utility rope, Black Diamond miniwire carabiner, and closed cell foam for padding. Device pocket fits a 15” laptop, includes an inner pocket organization array and an assortment of accessory straps, removable crossbody and stabilizer straps, and grab handle. Get one of the ultra-limited run while you can.

Photography: Lyndon French; studio shots and sketches provided by 1733