by Hansel Ng
Mandarina Duck Work Bag Briefcase Review
Mandarina Duck is a manufacturer of fine bags and luggage. They carry a “Work Bag” line, which includes briefcases, messenger bags and backpacks for notebooks. The Work Bag Briefcase for 15.4″ notebooks is a very sturdy bag with a beautiful, minimalist design, and matches very well with both formal and casual wear.
About the Company
Mandarina Duck is an Italian brand with a largely European market audience. Owing to the founders’ background in the field of plastic materials and rubber, they are renowned for their bags made out of avant-garde synthetic materials.
On a side note, the duck used by Mandarina comes from the banks of river Ussuri, on the border between Russia and China, where it symbolises happiness and loyalty. It is a monogamous duck with a brightly coloured and waterproof plumage. How’s that for a well thought-out logo?
- Bag Name: 53C06 Work Bag Briefcase
- External Dimensions: 16″ x 12″ x 6″
- Notebook Compartment Dimensions (self measured): 15.8″ x 11.5″ x 3″
- Weight: 3.46 lbs
- Fabric: Mixed nylon polyester textile finished with a polyurethane coating and waterproof treatment
- Colours Available: Black, Teal, Maroon, Beige
- MSRP: $385/-
- Warranty: 2 years (repair centres are located only in the EU)
Unlike most messenger bags, the front flap is not secured with conventional bag buckles, but special clasps which fasten through ridges. The flap is opened by lifting the clasps, which will then allow you to pull out the ridges. This took some getting used to, especially removing both clasps at the same time.
The main compartment houses the notebook compartment, with additional room for miscellaneous items. With a notebook inside, it is still spacious enough for items as thick as a 500ml plastic bottle, small umbrella, dictionary, etc.
For added security, the notebook compartment is housed separately within this area — there is an additional layer of padding at the side apart from the main housing. There is also a removable vertical padded strip at one side in the compartment, which is attached through Velcro. It ensures that smaller notebooks (down to about 11″ from my measurements) can get a snug fit.
This partition is fitted with 2 hard boards with a layer of foam. They are slotted in through zippered areas and are removable, though they are not meant to be removed. I did find myself slotting in pieces of paper into these slots as the hard boards prevent them from crumpling.
There are also 2 additional compartments in the interior of this bag. They are not particularly roomy though, so putting in thick items is possible, but at the cost of a noticeable bulge. I prefer putting my thicker books with the main compartment, and files in the back compartment. All 3 internal compartments are pictured here, with a powerbook in the notebook section.
The front compartment comes with 6 additional slots of varying sizes — 3 for pens and the other for accessories. It is pictured here with my wallet, ipod, and handphone.
There is also a zippered compartment at the back of the bag, which I will touch on later.
The shoulder strap is fully removable, and like the front flap, is secured through two ridged clasps and fits very sturdily. Its length is adjustable from the left and right, but that requires some effort due to the tight fit. Also, the position of the padded area of the strap is fixed, which makes the bag difficult to be strapped across the shoulders unless you alter its left-right length balance specifically for this function.
When not in use, you can tuck the strap into its padded area to save space.
Slot for application on trolley
With the frequent flyer in mind, this bag comes with a slot at the back, so that you can attach it to a trolley bag. For the complete look, Mandarina Duck sells matching luggage, but I found that it fits onto most trolley bags I own.
Whilst the fabric on this bag is already waterproofed, with a frontal flap and zips on the main compartment for added security, there is a compartment on the bag which houses a raincoat for the bag, just in case’. This also prevents water stains from the rain, especially if you buy the bag in this light colour. It fits very snugly when applied, with only a small portion on the back showing. However, when put on, you can only use the shoulder strap to carry the bag. The raincoat is a good way to keep the bag in storage, if not in use for a long time, as well.
Even with the raincoat in it, there is still sufficient space in this compartment for you to put items in without having to open the main compartment.
Style and Workmanship
This is a beautiful bag which never looks out of place for all sorts of everyday usage. You can take it to the office or to a picnic, and it’ll look great. I like the way it doesn’t have the conventional notebook bag’ look. It is quite big and blockish though, so some users with smaller frames might not take to it.
Looks aside, the workmanship on this bag is top brass. Stitching is very well done, and the finishings fit very securely. This bag is built to last, and it feels very sturdy when I’m carrying it.
The fabric used on the bag does not get dirty easily. Unlike canvas, it doesn’t attract dust. Unlike leather, you don’t have to worry about wear due to exposure to the elements. The bag is also easy to wash. While it cannot be completely submerged in water, the exterior can be cleaned simply with a sponge and soap water. More instructions on maintenance and cleaning can be found in the Mandarina Duck online shop.
This is a heavy bag weighing close to 3.5lbs alone, so it’s not something that you are not going to feel. However, I found carrying it comfortable and manageable, though of course after an hour or so you will still get the soreness on one shoulder.
From this perspective, I wish that the padded area of the shoulder strap was built like the handle. The handle is very well padded and springy. I prefer carrying it with the handle by far. The strap is not awful — it is well padded and its thickness does help to relieve pressure– but the padding is thinner in comparison, and the Velcro strap on it does cause some friction if not well positioned. I would have sacrificed the possibility of tucking the strap in for added comfort.
This is not a cheap bag, though it is cheaper online for buyers in continental Europe than in USA. For buyers in USA, it can be bought from online retailers such as Unicahome and Portlandluggage for $385/- (it is labelled as “Single Flap w/PC holder”). Buyers from Europe can get it from Mandarina Duck’s online retail store.
Myself, I got it in second-hand mint condition on ebay, for a steal. =)
- Beautiful, versatile design
- Very functional
- Top quality workmanship
- Very secure for notebooks
- Fully waterproof
- Shoulder strap could be more comfortable