Interview with Patrick Long
Designer of the Chester Wallace Bag
The creation of the Chester Wallace bag had quite the prosaic beginning. Patrick Long, designer and head of the brand, was unhappy with most of the bags he had encountered. So when a friend opened Project 8, a store in New York City, and asked him to make something, he designed a bag that was an accumulation of bags that had worked for him while traveling and riding his bike. Oh, and something that could easily carry a six-pack of beer.
A former fashion design student at Parsons The New School of Design, Long always notes, first and foremost, he is the son of an architect. “Growing up around making, paper, and pencils” Long’s father was a huge influence to his creativity. After Long landed in Portland, his artistic talents took off. From being a chef, to designing scarves for Nina Ricci, and illustrating his trademark line drawings for the New Yorker, Starbucks, Nike, and Microsoft, Long built quite the list of credentials. Yet, he remains unassuming. Long rides his bike everywhere, works out of a small studio in the city, lives in the same southeast Portland home he has for over 15 years. He credits his success to “being in the right place at the right time, luck, pluck, and Cecilia Murphy [a former employer, friend, and life aficionada].”
But in a city with only a handful of big name design companies, and a plethora of artists bred with a DIY mentality, how does one ‘make it’ as an independent designer in Portland? Long’s advice for those that want to put their ideas into fruition are old truths, “Be who you are. Make what you know. Work hard, and be nice to people.” There is no formulaic answer to financial stability as an independent designer in Portland, or anywhere for the matter, but where we do have a foot up is in what Long calls our “good making spirit.” And he’s right—Portland cultivates a communal environment proud to support its fellow citizens and their creativity.
From Wieden+Kennedy’s international splash in the advertising industry, to three local designers winning Project Runway, our city is making its mark. Only having a few large design companies may seem like a hindrance on that making spirit with the intense competition and skill it takes to score a well-paying, stable job, but Long credits those companies for part of this Portland design spirit. “They are superstars,” Long says, “They bring a lot of attention from all over the world back to our city. They cause the splash that makes the ripples.”
Funded by his own savings from previous freelance work, the ripple of Chester Wallace began. Turning the bag from an idea to a product was an exercise of trial and error. “I make in my head all the time,” Long said, “I notice every bag that goes by. I Google. I make one, then I make it again, and draw it.”
Once the design was ready, Long began product testing for durability and spaciousness. With materials sourced from within the United States, the bags are made in Portland. Composed from heavy weight waxed cotton canvas (often vintage) and a waterproof nylon base, the bag is durable enough to haul just about anything, while repelling our beloved Portland rain. Nylon handles and an adjustable strap add versatility, allowing the bag to be carried as a messenger (holding one six-pack) or a tote (allowing two six-packs).
Thanks to the blogging phenomenon and word-of-mouth, Chester Wallace never needed a marketing campaign. After being placed in Project 8 and some supportive friends bearing the tote around town, the line sold itself. Bob Davis, the General Manager and Creative Director of Lizard Lounge, a local multifunctional clothing boutique, saw people around Portland donning the bag and asked who made them, got in contact with Long, and set up a meeting. “I liked the design and fabrics he used,” Davis noted, “He’s a local maker and I like to support local artisans.”
Now, after multiple collaborations and new color schemes, Chester Wallace is adding some new items to their line this Fall. Long’s business has become a hit in Portland.
For more information visit the shop online.