Leather, Love, and Ubrique: The Polene Story

Polene Cyme Tote Bag Review by Tanner Leatherstein

In the bustling world of fashion and luxury, there are brands that stand out not only for their exquisite designs but also for the stories they tell. Polene, a brand born out of the vision of three siblings in 2016, is one such remarkable tale of creativity, dedication, and a commitment to producing high-quality, timeless handbags.


Join me on a journey into the heart of Polene, exploring its origins, the enchanting village of Ubrique, and the meticulous artisanship that makes each piece a work of art.


DISCLAIMER: This is an UNSPONSORED review. I purchased all of these products myself and am not affiliated with the brand mentioned in any way. All statements and expressions made about the products are solely the opinion of Tanner Leatherstein and are not meant to be conclusive or definitive. The purpose of this video is for informational and educational purposes only. We recommend that as a consumer, you exercise your due diligence and research on the products before adopting the opinion of Tanner Leatherstein. 

Polene's Roots and Vision

Founded by a trio of siblings, Polene has aspired since 2016 to introduce fashion handbags that epitomize the timeless allure and practical sophistication of Parisian style. Their journey commenced with a transformative visit to a Spanish Hermes workshop in 2014, sparking eighteen months of meticulous research spanning Eastern Europe, Portugal, and a full year immersed in Spain. This exploration culminated in a resolute decision to procure leather from certified Italian and Spanish tanneries and to bring their artistic visions to life in the storied town of Ubrique.


The strategic choice of Ubrique has proven instrumental in Polene's ascendancy in the fiercely competitive domain of luxury leather goods. By adhering to a philosophy of accessible pricing without compromising on quality, the brand has successfully carved a distinctive niche for itself.


Embark on this narrative voyage, where each stitch, fold, and stroke of artistry in Polene's creations tells a story of elegance, dedication, and the rich heritage of Spanish craftsmanship.

Embarking on a Journey: Discovering Polene and the Ubrique Magic

My introduction to Polene unfolded unexpectedly as I delved into my passion for leather goods through videos. Last year, I purchased the Numero Uno bag for review, priced at a modest $420. The quality left an indelible impression on me, setting the stage for an unexpected adventure. Little did I know that this encounter would lead me to a small Spanish village, making it a focal point in my life.


Polene takes immense pride in crafting all its bags in Ubrique, a charming village in southern Spain. The name Ubrique was unfamiliar to me until I immersed myself in Polene's story. Intrigued by the brand's commitment to quality and its reasonable price point, I packed my bags and embarked on a journey to this legendary Spanish town.


The experience in Ubrique was nothing short of magical. The artisanship I witnessed left me delighted, prompting plans for a return visit. This time, I contemplated manufacturing some of my own brand's bags, Pegai, in immersing myself in the circle of highly skilled artisans that make Ubrique a haven for leather craftsmanship.


Considering a move to Spain has transcended a passing thought. The allure of living in a country steeped in a rich history of leather craftsmanship, surrounded by skilled artisans, is a prospect that excites me. Should I decide to make this life-changing move, Polene will be the primary catalyst behind this decision.

Striking the Balance: Polene's Unique Business Model, Artisanship, and Local Impact

Polene's success is rooted in a strategic balance in its business model, boasting four signature stores strategically positioned in fashion capitals like Paris, New York, and Tokyo. What distinguishes Polene is its deliberate avoidance of fashion show participation and its extensive network of physical stores. This disciplined approach aligns with their commitment to a direct-to-consumer model, allowing them to prioritize delivering luxury-level quality at accessible prices. 


Meanwhile, a behind-the-scenes look reveals Polene's dedication to artisanship, with a recent revelation about their use of top-of-the-line stainless steel hardware, placing them in league with esteemed brands like Louis Vuitton. As shared by friends in Ubrique, Polene has seamlessly integrated into the town's fabric, providing employment to numerous shops and contributing significantly to the local economy.

Polene Cyme Tote Dissection: Unveiling the Craftsmanship

The intricate sophistication of its design becomes apparent through the interplay of curves and folds. Transforming such a design concept into a tangible, real-life bag is a feat that requires tremendous effort. I believe the Polene team invests substantial time in prototyping, drawing, and meticulous craftsmanship, navigating the challenges of trial and error to achieve this level of perfection. 


Commendably, they make the complex task appear minimal and flawless, showcasing a remarkable level of artisanship reflected in their unique designs. Beyond design, the materials used in the bag stand out for their top-notch quality – from microsuede fabrics for linings to impeccable stitching and top luxury-level hardware. 


Upon applying acetone to remove the finish, it becomes evident that a considerable amount of heavy finish is present on the cow hides beneath. While this choice may not align with my personal preferences, it serves its purpose, providing a textured finish through a buffing process and reconstitution using heavy plastics. This particular leather might not require high-quality rawhides, as its purpose is to cover and protect the entirety of the bag. In my assessment of Polene's products, this seems to be the lowest grade of leather encountered thus far.

The Price Breakdown: Luxury at an Accessible Price

Breaking down the costs of making a bag of this size, my assessment leads me to anticipate a requirement of approximately 7 square feet of leather. With an estimated cost of $35 for the leather itself, factoring in the assembly, hardware, and additional materials in Ubrique, Spain, brings the total production cost to around $130


Considering the level of craftsmanship and quality offered in Ubrique, this seems a reasonable investment for a bag of such caliber. Priced at $520, the bag strikes a fair balance, aligning closely with my estimated production cost. Polene's ability to deliver luxury label quality at a fraction of the price, specifically $520, is indeed a commendable service for leather enthusiasts and fashionistas alike. 


While the choice of leather in this particular bag may not align with my personal preferences, as it veers towards a heavy finish, it does cater to those seeking easy maintenance and enhanced durability. Although not my preferred option, it holds merit for its scratch-resistant and waterproof properties, ensuring a prolonged pristine appearance.

Looking Ahead: Excitement for Ubrique

A recent project with Polene has heightened my excitement for Ubrique. I am thrilled to announce my upcoming visit to Ubrique next week to discuss manufacturing for my own brand, Pegai, with local artisans. This journey is not just about creating leather goods; it's about immersing myself in a world where leather becomes art, and craftsmanship is revered.


As I prepare to explore Polene's Paris store and engage with skilled artisans in Ubrique, I can't help but share my enthusiasm. This journey, documented through videos, promises to discover the essence of Ubrique, Polene's role in the town, and the artistry that makes every piece special.

Conclusion

Embarking on this exploration has not only provided insights into the intricacies of Polene's craftsmanship and business model but has also opened a portal to a world where leather becomes art, and decisions transcend the ordinary


The prospect of manufacturing my own brand in Ubrique adds a layer of excitement to this journey, promising a deeper understanding of the rich heritage of Spanish craftsmanship. As we move forward, the story of Polene intertwines with my personal narrative, weaving a tapestry of discovery, innovation, and the timeless allure of leather goods.


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