As we get further into 2021, and into the future, we want to do our best to show off brands and bags that cater to all humans of all origins, backgrounds, and genders. While we’ve often covered gender-neutral items from brands like Bellroy in the past, we think we can still do a better job. So with that in mind, let us introduce you to Agency Aspect. Agency Aspect was founded by Liana Delucca Johnson and Michelle Rose; both previous design leads at The North Face. Liana and Michelle are responsible for many of the staple jackets and softgoods you see coming out of TNF even today.
Liana and Michelle launched their brand on Kickstarter in 2018 which consisted of two bags; the Hybrid Messenger and the Hybrid Crossbody, the latter being the smaller of the two. In their own words, they wanted to “merge outdoor technology, innovative fabrics, and functionality with edgy-luxurious aesthetics.” By combing 500D Cordura, high quality leather, YKK Aquaguard zippers, and even magnets, I think they’ve done well by that mission.
|Capacity||793.3 cu. in.||13L|
|Primary Materials||500D Cordura, Saffiano leather, YKK zippers|
|Capacity||305.1 cu. in.||5L|
|Primary Materials||500D Cordura, leather, YKK zippers|
Quality and Comfort
Both the Messenger and Crossbody land in a really nice middle ground between luxury and performance. The 500D Cordura and high quality leather found on each bag pair well together, especially with the pop of color on the custom hardware. Both are available in black or pixel grey Cordura – we opted for one of each.
The Hybrid Messenger is the larger of the two, and while the materials are generally the same throughout both models, the Messenger uses Saffiano style leather, first designed by Mario Prada for Prada’s very first handbag in 1913. It’s a beautiful finish, and it holds its shape well.
The Pixel Grey 500D Cordura is one of my favorite color choices in recent memory. It’s not a pattern we see very often (or ever) in other markets, so kudos to Agency Aspect for sourcing this. It’s nice enough where I wish both of our Hybrid bags were in the Pixel colorway. It has also, so far, been very resistant to stains and scuffs, which was one of my initial worries about such a light shade of grey. And since most of the bag is covered in the Saffiano leather, it’s relatively easy to keep clean.
For hardware, we’ve got a good mix of YKK Aquaguard and standard coil where it makes sense. The zippers have leather pulls and are all smooth and easy to open. Some other closures use magnets, and some use snaps, but we’ll get to those in a later section. The shoulder strap has an orange metal tri-glide which gives it a nice pop of color, though I wish the strap set up was a little different.
One thing we found while testing this bag was that it was very difficult to adjust on the fly. Typical messenger straps use cam buckles, or similarly easy to release hardware, which allows for the wearer to loosen the bag when taking it off, and tighten it down when slinging it up high on your back. The mixture of a thick strap and metal hardware that is just a bit too tight means you’ll probably want to set this strap in a sweet-spot and leave it there. It was even difficult for another person to adjust it with two hands while it was on someone else’s body. It would be nice to see a more messenger-style strap on future iterations of the bag, as I think that change could go a long way.
The Hybrid Crossbody has the same strap, but it works better on this bag since you’re not typically wearing it like a messenger, so you’re less likely to want to adjust it on the fly very often. Still, I think the strap would have been better with the aforementioned changes.
The Hybrid Messenger also has a luggage pass-through on the back side of the bag, as well as a removable stability strap, but in all other ways the Hybrid Crossbody is very much a scaled down version of its larger sister.
The final difference that might be worth your consideration is the leather used on each. While this is more of a personal preference, I prefer the Saffiano style leather on the Hybrid Messenger to the smooth leather used on the Hybrid Crossbody. The former has a really nice look and handfeel to it, and provides the bag with some structure and even protection. The latter is a bit more classic. We opted for the black 500D Cordura on this one, but I think we might choose Pixel if we had to choose again, just for some added contrast.
Both bags have a nice, high contrast, embossed red liner. Except for the bottle pockets, there isn’t an unlined area on this bag, which is what we like to see. To really drive home the fit and finish of these bags, even the interior binding is matched perfectly to the red interior – this is something we almost never see and it’s a great touch.
Organization and Access
The Hybrid Messenger has quite a bit more organization and quick-access than you might be used to like on a typical flap-top messenger. It’s also got water bottle pockets, which is relatively rare for a messenger. These are both held closed by a snap, but I would have preferred the use of a magnet like on the center pouch. The snaps have a finger loop on the rear-side hardware, so it’s pretty easy to open and close. These pockets won’t fit your full size Nalgene, but they will fit most slimmer bottles without issue.
The front and center portion of the bag is home to both a zip pocket and a dump pocket, the latter being held closed by a magnet, which is always fun. The zip pocket is a standard coil zipper, and has the same footprint as the dump pocket behind it, albeit with slightly less available volume. Like the rest of the bag, this pocket is lined with bright red, embossed liner.
The left, right and front panels of the Hybrid Crossbody are identical, though obviously smaller. We were able to stuff the same bottle shown above into these bottle pockets, but it was a tight fit. You might want to opt for something a little slimmer and smaller, like a memobottle.
The large main compartment on the Hybrid Messenger is cavernous, but not unmanageable. Everything inside is lined with that same bright red fabric as the front zipper pocket. The rear wall is empty, but the rear wall is often the most difficult place to access on a messenger. Agency Aspect has instead opted to put some pockets on the front wall; one large zipper pocket and two slip pockets. The large zipper pocket would be a good spot for an e-reader or small tablet, but you’ll have to bring your own protection.
If you haven’t guessed yet, the main compartment of the Hybrid Crossbody is very similar, with some slight changes for pocketing. The large gusset across the bottom of the bag means you can probably fit more in here than you’d think. A mirrorless camera setup would fit with ease. There’s also one medium sized zipper compartment on the back wall, rather than the front wall.
Both the Messenger and Crossbody have a rear zipper compartment, with one small difference – the larger of the two is made to accommodate a laptop, up to 16″, and the smaller of the two is just a slip pocket.
- The mix of high quality heritage and technical materials really allow both offerings to stand out from the crowd
- All hardware is high quality from the anodized tri-glide to the YKK zippers
- Fit and finish everywhere is perfect, with no stitch out of place, and matching interior binding
- The gender-neutral but feminine lean of these designs means that anyone can rock them, but it also brings some higher quality offerings to the female carry crowd
- The strap on both could do with a redesign, or hardware swap, to make adjustment easier
- The use of hook-and-loop on some internal pocket closures is a no-no in my book, and might catch on gloves or cuticles
- More color and material options would be appreciated for those not into real leather
I’m glad we were able to get our hands on these bags from Agency Aspect – they’re a breath of fresh air. You can tell these were designed by someone obsessed with carry and softgoods, and not just fashion. On the flip side, you can also tell that Liana and Michelle prioritized the look and feel of the bag to compliment the functional aspects, as to not just end up with a lifeless utilitarian piece. I’m truly excited to see what Agency Aspect has in store for the future.
Editor’s Note: The Hybrid Messenger and Hybrid Crossbody were provided by Agency Aspect as samples for review purposes. The content of this review was not shared with Agency Aspect before publishing. Our reviews are unbiased and never modified to keep a brand happy.