I first met Claudio Albieri a few years ago. We chatted at the time, making small talk about our shared passion for pipes, but short of a bit of camaraderie nothing really came of it. This past September, I saw him again at the Dortmund Tabac Fair in Germany. I wasn't deliberately seeking him out and would probably have missed him had he not been sharing a booth with our mutual friend, pipe maker Gabriele Dal Fiume, who was right next to another mutual friend, Mimmo Domenico of briar cutting fame.
When I first arrived at Gabriele's booth, I was immediately impressed with his set up and presentation, especially the selection of various colors of leather to skillfully set off his pipes. And upon closer inspection, the leather was that sort of clean, vibrant, soft, Italian leather against which all other leather is compared. The sort of leather that makes women swoon, or, failing that, at least coo appreciatively and insist on picking it up to feel its texture and breathe in its scent. We got to talking about pipes and I started picking out some of Gabriele's lovely pipes for the site. That's when Gabriele then went to his briefcase for something. While I can barely dress myself, even I still know what a really fine handmade Italian leather briefcase looks like, and Gabriele most definitely had one. I was impressed.
But then Gabriele showed me that it was actually a pipe bag and a briefcase and a laptop bag, and in short order I was the one swooning like a Russian noblewoman in a Tolstoy novel. We temporarily abandoned the pipe transaction to have a conversation with Claudio, who, this whole time, was right there waiting for Gabriele and me to finish business so he could to talk to me.
I saw two examples that day: Gabriele's, bright yellow with brown trim, and Claudio's, blue with yellow trim. In my case, well, dark hair aside and Italian-American wife aside, I'm just not Italian enough to pull off a blue briefcase. It seemed just a bit daring for me (or, frankly, most American pipe smokers I could think of; I'm a bit jealous that I'm not as cool as the Italians I know, but at least I recognize that I'm not; it takes a certain panache to pull off a blue briefcase that I simply lack... but I digress...). So, as things progressed we settled on more sedate and earthier colors for most of the bags that would ultimately end up on Smokingpipes.com (the black and red roll-up is still pretty bold-looking in its own way).
The work was stunning. I immediately and unhesitatingly decided that we really needed to carry these on Smokingpipes.com. I love them. It's like someone finally made the thing I always wished existed. After years of cramming my trusty Martin Wess 5-pipe bag (which, to be fair, has been an extraordinary companion for ten years) in my laptop bag (which, to be fair, is a piece of junk that came free with a laptop... two laptops ago), the prospect of a pipe bag and a laptop bag in one, with space for a book, my Kindle and assorted other odds and ends (all 838 cables I seem to travel with these days) seems so extraordinarily liberating. And I'd be tastefully sharp-looking and all Italian and stuff, which is something my wife has been trying to make happen (with little success) since we met. I'm on the road thirteen or fourteen weeks a year, which doesn't exactly encourage acquiring an impressive wardrobe. But briefcases and luggage are really important to people who spend more than a quarter of their lives living out of them.
They only arrived two days ago, but I've been dropping hints to my wife about Christmas since September. Of course, I'd told her the whole story and shared pictures of them with her. So, hinting, basically came down to: "and you know that pipe briefcase; you know Christmas is coming; you know you could call Ted; hint...hint." Subtle. I know. But I really hope she caught it...
Sykes Wilford: Founder/President