Nov. 24 2015 05:09 PM

Mission Hills duo craft designer leather bags built to last

Leading up to the holidays, we'll use this space to profile five local crafters whose wares we think would make excellent gifts.

Michael Rogacion and Daniel Nguyen

Michael Rogacion is looking forward to traveling during the holiday season. Sure, he's excited about getting a nice vacation and seeing family, but he's also looking forward to mixing in a little business.

"I like any opportunity to beat up my bags," says Rogacion. "Whether it's water being dumped on it or TSA tossing it around, it makes me happy to know it can sustain a beating."

Whereas most travelers go out of their way to make sure their fancy designer bags aren't scuffed or sullied, Rogacion and his partner/boyfriend Daniel Nguyen want their handmade Private Henley bags and backpacks to last. Started in 2011 and created in a Mission Hills studio, the bags are geared toward fashionable men, but given the meticulous design and contemporary styling, either gender could easily sport one. Whether it's at the airport or in the gym, both say they get stopped all the time with people asking them where they got their bags.

"The brand is an extension of our lives," says Nguyen, who also works on the sales and marketing side of Private Henley. "It's an extension of what we want to use and what we're looking for in a bag. The English bridle leather, the water-repellent canvas and everything down to the rivets, it's all made here. Even the cloth companies we use have a storied legacy."

Rogacion started Private Henley after returning to San Diego from New York City where he went to design school and studied under one of the city's most notable pattern makers. He says he always had Private Henley on his mind as a creative project, and that he's glad he started it here instead of New York.

"The rent is one thing, but we have more resources here," says Rogacion, pointing out the company's logo which has "Made in America's Finest City" inscribed prominently underneath the Private Henley moniker. "It's easier to get our products in local stores, whereas you can get lost in New York."

While the bags are still the company's most popular product and were recently featured on Nylon Men, Rogacion and Nguyen are also beginning to offer ceramic wares and manly smelling candles. The bags start at $100, but Rogacion says they're all a bargain given how long he thinks they'll last.

"We don't just test them for a week or a month," he says. "I take these bags everywhere and I think others will, too."


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