Spotlight on Wotancraft

1-GoldHatPhotography

Wotancraft for me has always been a brand that was shrouded in mystery. The medieval looking logo, the understated, gritty photography that greets you with zero information on the homepage, the dark, low-key product shots, a somewhat confusing website and the distinct lack of social media presence or marketing left me scratching my head as to what they were all about.

Despite the mystery, upon my initial contact with Wotancraft via email, I was greeted by one of the cofounders Jimmy, a friendly Taiwanese guy who is very passionate about this intriguing brand.

Wotancraft Thor

Jimmy very kindly supplied me with two Wotancraft bags to review; the Thor (above) and the Commander (the featured image at the top of this post).

I felt that Wotancraft deserved more than a simple bag review though, hence this interview with Jimmy so we can learn a bit more about what they are striving to achieve, and why Wotancraft should be on your radar.

What is Wotancraft?

Wotancraft Atelier is a very small showroom / workshop located in Taipei City, Taiwan. It was founded in 2008, where we first started the business making hang-aged leather watch straps that fits on Panerai diving watches. We began to make camera bags in 2010.

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Our core values are to focus on what we want, and fight hard for it.

Wotancraft watchstrap
What makes a Wotancraft bag different to other bags?

We have a great balance between personal aesthetics and practicality.

It’s not as easy as it sounds, because personal aesthetics does not always guarantee customer acceptance, which is why most brands either use viral marketing to sell their creative concepts, or stick to popular designs that can’t go wrong.

We took a much harder approach. We continue to make Wotancraft bags look exceptional, refusing to accept any trace of mediocracy in style. But at the same time, we devote equal efforts to making our bags “work”, in order to appeal to those who always thought that “designer bags don’t stand the test of time”.

wotancraft explorer

What kind of client do you envisage purchasing your products?

Someone who cares about style and function “equally”. A lot of Wotancraft’s returning customers are practical, down-to earth people; they enjoy fine aesthetics, but they also care a lot about performance.

It’s understandable that they turn their backs on designer bags because those bags failed them before, but the stylish yet highly functional Wotancraft bags have surprised them and kept them coming back.

Wotancraft Thor

How can you justify the higher pricing of your bags to other manufacturers’ bags?

The question actually answers itself: because Wotancraft is not a manufacturer. Big brands can mass produce a popular design in order to lower unit costs and we can’t.

In order to integrate functionality into innovative bag aesthetics, Wotancraft bags have three times the number of parts than average bags (even high-end designer bags).

Wotancraft Ranger

Likewise, our materials aren’t purchased from stock; they are custom ordered. We’ve spent significant amount of time refining the vintage color fading effect on new leather, and we’ve made our high-performing composite canvas material look like natural cotton canvas. Even the buckle dents and distresses are based on our original design.

None of our design decisions are mass-production friendly.

Wotancraft Thor

A Wotancraft bag does not profit as much as a cheaper bag. As simple evidence of this, we never offer discount sales, because unlike others, our price structure has no room for discounts. Our products are made in small amounts and sometimes on-demand in our workshop.

We believe people should purchase what they won’t regret, rather than being coaxed into buying by discounts or tempting price tags.

Our artisans personally follow up on every purchase via email for customer feedback and opinions, and we offer 7-day free return (shipping also covered) if our customer thinks that the bag doesn’t live up to expectations.

Wotancraft Commander

How long do your bags take to make? 

It usually takes a full week to make a bag but this varies. Although the Commander is a more complex bag to create because of its design for example, the Thor bag with its more minimalistic design takes up just as much time as creating a Commander, because for a full leather bag like Thor the leather selection and cutting required more scrutiny, and hence takes more time than preparing canvas materials.

What was the inspiration behind Commander and Thor?

Commander bag is from the City Explorer series, which is inspired by the ruggedness of WWII military bags and equipment.

The leather shoulder strap system is derived from the WWII Swiss Army backpack, the front leather utility straps are also inspired by fastening belts of antique WWII bags.

Wotancraft Commander

Thor bag is from the Urban Classic series, which is a pure design concept that attempts to visualize what’s calm, serene but powerful.

We daringly used purple lining against black leather, because we don’t want sexual stereotypes to hold back our creativity: this bag is suitable for men and women, for those who appreciate simplicity but enjoys subtle luxury and strength in clear-cutting shapes.

Wotancraft Thor

Your product shots are very dark. What was the reasoning behind this decision?

We want to create a powerful visual experience, so people can feel the attraction just as we do when we see our own creations. However we are still improving our photography technique to make better product photos, to better convey product details as well as maintaining a stunning vibe.

Wotancraft Messenger

What influences go into the creation of Wotancraft products?

We are inspired by free-spirited, tough, mature lifestyle. Our movie personas are Mickey Rourke and Tommy Flanagan. We keep or discard a bag design by imagining whether those guys would carry our bags.

As for performance, we have an ongoing collaboration with professional photographers all over the world, who work closely with us in product designing stage. And of course we receive advice from our customers (many of them are also professional photographers/videographers), and we continue to implement suggestions into our existing designs.

Review of the Wotancraft Commander

Materials

Vegetable tanned cowhide leather
Waterproof W.A.L canvas
High-strength metal hardware
Bronze YKK Zippers (with rustproof coating)
High-density foam padding (shock-resistant insert)

Dimensions

Bag exterior – width 17 x depth 33 x height 44 cm
Top insert interior – width 11 x depth 23 x height 19 cm
Bottom compartment – width 15 x depth 28.5 x height 24cm
Shoulder strap – adjustable between 60~87 cm
Weight – bag with insert 2.6 kg

Strengths

Handsome looks – no other camera bag on the market looks like this
Strength/durability – mixture of canvas and leather make it very hard wearing
Functionality – in particular, the ability to access interior via pockets
Size – doesn’t look particularly big for a backpack, but is able to fit in a great deal
Comfort – padded back panel and straps make it very comfortable to carry

Weaknesses

Weight – when empty, the Commander is rather heavy
Functionality – difficult to access interior via side pocket when Commander is in use on both shoulders

Available here

Review of the Wotancraft Thor

Materials

Vegetable tanned leather (grain cowhide body, cowhide straps)
Smooth hand velveteen lining
High-strength metal hardware
Bronze YKK Zippers (with rustproof coating)
High-density foam padding (shock-resistant insert)

Dimensions

Bag exterior – width 49 x depth 21 x height 27 cm
Insert interior – width 31 x depth 11 x height 19 cm
Shoulder strap – adjustable between 116~130 cm
Weight – bag 1.66 / insert 0.46 / shoulder strap 0.275 kg

Strengths

Unique appearance – doesn’t look anything like a camera bag. First camera bag I’ve seen to use such luxuriously soft leather
Functionality – fastener-less (elasticated) front pockets provide fast, silent access
Size – for an everyday ‘street’ camera bag, the size is perfect and can be adjusted to carry smaller loads

Weaknesses

Price – we’re entering designer handbag price territory…!

Available here

So, what are your views on Wotancraft’s camera bags? Leave us a comment to continue the discussion as I’d be interested to know your opinions.

If you’d like more information about any of Wotancraft’s products, visit their website: www.wotancraft.com

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10 Comments

  • What a coincidence, I just stumbled upon the Commander this week online and was disappointed by how few in depth reviews I could find! Sounds like a pretty solid bag. Have you had an opportunity to wear it around/travel with it fully loaded? Or at least reasonably loaded with what one might need for a days photo shoot? Just wondering if the comfort level lasts. Do the bottom part of the straps that aren’t padded cause any irritation? Thanks for the review, I feel like the “perfect camera bag” is like trying to find the bloody holy grail sometimes, I’m always switching them up.

    • Yeah I know where you’re coming from Roberto – the perfect camera bag is an endless quest! To answer your questions, the Commander is a very comfortable bag and the bottom part of the straps don’t really come into contact with my body. The only thing I would say though is that even when empty, it does have a decent weight to it. I guess using quality leather, canvas and metal add to this, but it’s worth bearing in mind. Thanks for the comment and good luck in finding the holy grail of bags ;-)

  • Where could I buy this bag from? I live in the UK so do you know where the nearest dealership is? Also the commander backpack says “preorder only” on their website, are they made to order or something?

    Also everyone says they have great customer service but I’ve sent three emails without any replies!

    Thanks Ellis.

  • Nice review of the commander! Could it fit a 17inch macbook into the laptop compartment?

    Thanks Ellis

  • Mark, Great review – Thanks. Question: Is the divider in the lower compartment removable, should one want to use both “sides” to fit a DSLR with long (400mm) lens attached? Again, thanks. Brian

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