Some people want a briefcase for work documents. Other people want a briefcase built to slide across the hood of an Aston Martin outside the Casino de Monte-Carlo and protect you from an onslaught of gunfire. Christopher Howard makes the latter.
“I would say that we’re one part heritage, one part conservative, and then one part secret agent,” says Christopher Howard of the company he founded in Toronto. His cases are meant for those who appreciate custom design, the finest materials, and expert craftsmanship—along with a flair for the sophisticated.
An expert craftsman, Howard took an unconventional path to his career of working with his hands. Until a decade ago, he was an entrepreneur in the tech sphere. But when he wanted to create something special for his niece, he tried his hand at woodworking—to create a toy chest. “The more I dove into it, the more I found my pursuit of perfection, which has been an underlying principle for my work in general,” Howard says.
His favourite woodworking project to this day is the box he carved for his wife as a wedding gift. These two personal woodworking successes inspired him to build the company he runs today.
Christopher Howard cases are built to stand out in a field that is anything but new. Howard believes he needs to not only uphold traditions but improve on them. He approached case-making like one of his problem sets.
“I really developed my own process based on teachings that I had extrapolated from this reverse-engineering process. That’s part of the ethos of the company; we really, really stick to traditional craftsmanship.”
Christopher Howard craftsmen adhere to traditional techniques inherited from a century ago. You’ll find no sewing machines or technology in the creation process. All bespoke cases are made by hand with heritage techniques and thoughtful materials.
The company decided that most of the cases out there were being lined in leather that wasn’t up to their standards. So they turned to the automotive industry and found a synthetic performance leather called Alcantara, typically reserved for sports cars.
The finest leather needs a proper frame, though, which is where Howard’s traditional craft best complements modern innovations. These cases are made with a special multi-layer laminate wood from the aerospace industry, which can cut their weight in half.
From this wooden frame, custom, modern touches are added. Christopher Howard cases are intended to have an edgy aesthetic that’s tailored towards the modern man. To this end, Howard’s craftsmen offer bespoke customization for colours and materials for the exterior and interior.
Going one step further, Christopher Howard cases offer NIJ IIIA-tested bulletproof inserts to make them bulletproof against most small-arms fire. The company can also accommodate other clandestine requests, such as false bottoms, custom organization and pockets, and inserts to secure watches and jewellery.
“Traditional craftsmanship, to me, oftentimes means doing things the hard way,” Howard says. His cases take between 40 and 100 hours per case to make. “We don’t take any shortcuts.”
The company intends to produce only a few cases per week, which allows it to keep its standards high. But that also causes its waitlist to grow.
“We are absolutely set on becoming the benchmark in men’s attachés,” says Howard.