Jon Passavant and Benj Lee grew up on opposite sides of the Atlantic – Passavant on a farm in Pennsylvania, and Lee in central London. They spent more than a decade working all around the world with leading fashion designers before they ever considered designing something of their own. For the past three years, when these men weren’t modeling for Ralph Lauren, Armani or Alfred Dunhill, they were developing a men’s accessories line worthy of its own label, starting with a stand-apart briefcase.
Passavant and Lee’s first product, the No. 25 briefcase, is a 4-pound, 4-ounce, aircraft-grade aluminum case wrapped in cedar or black Horween leather and sealed with a solid brass lock. And while the original design draws inspiration from their respective American and British heritages, the end result is as much of a feat of engineering as it is a statement of design.
A hydraulic press first stamps the raw Austrian aluminum to make it thin, and once cut and trimmed, the metal must undergo artificial aging to make it strong. It’s called the No. 25 because the top two-and-a-half inches are polished by the same experts who perfect airplanes. And while most men’s bags use less than eight rivets to shore up stress points, the No. 25 uses 76. The distinguished yet durable elements continue inside as well, with a construction of fine suede, silk and leather. Each step in the process is crafted entirely by hand.
“It’s been a challenge of discovery to see if we could make something we had created in our minds,” Jon says. “You don’t have too many chances to do your own thing and so we said, who cares how long it takes, let’s just do it right and come out with something that we’re proud of.”
Passavant and Lee introduced the No. 25 this month with plans to add an attaché laptop case, document portfolio, tablet case and wallet to the collection in early 2014. And while Jon and Benj got their design expertise through on-the-job training, both have committed to building a full lifestyle brand worthy of their roots in both fashion and geography.
“When you start with an authentic, creative inspiration, the process of how you make it and the materials you use become reflections of that initial inspiration,” says Benj. “We wanted to create a style that was timeless and then build a product that was strong enough it could last literally a lifetime.”
Photos by Eric Ryan Anderson