Fashion before function or function before fashion? If you’re like me, for most things in life I seek out a perfect combination of both.
I’ve always loved my Think Tank Photo camera bags for their durability, quality, and attention to detail. When traveling with a lot of gear, I use my Airport Security roller bag so I don’t have to carry it all on my back. For casual walking around town with a body and two lenses, I’ve historically used my Think Tank Retrospective 5. However, I have to admit that I’ve always felt these bags had a masculine look and feel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in the market for a pink bag that stereotypically screams “female.” So what attracted me to the new Lily Deanne Mezzo? The combination of style, comfort, and the flexibility to fit my camera body, several lenses and my 11” MacBook Air.
So how do designers decide what will make the next stand-out camera bag in a saturated market? I asked Think Tank’s co-founder and photojournalist Deanne Fitzmaurice for the story behind the design of the new “Lily Deanne” line of camera bags designed specifically for women photographers by Deanne and designer Lily Fisher.
CL: What made you decide you wanted to design a bag that was just for women?
Deanne Fitzmaurice: “Women have been asking for a bag that has a little more style than the bags currently on the market. They were looking for a bag that doesn’t look like a camera bag, and has style along with superior quality materials and functionality.”
CL: What type of research did you do in the design process and how long did it take you?
DF: “I have been informally asking women what they wanted in a bag over the last 4 years or so but over the last year we ramped it up and did in-depth interviews with women photographers including Justine Ungaro, Susan Stripling, Rachel Niesen LaCour & Jen Rozenbaum. Rachel and Jen reached out to their circle of friends and polled them on what they wanted in a camera bag.”
CL: What specific style elements were incorporated?
DF: “We wanted style and sophistication so we went with soft Dakota leather flaps and accents. As a photojournalist, I didn’t want bright colors or shiny bling to draw attention to myself and my equipment so we kept the look low-key and understated while still looking stylish. The leather accents reflect Think Tank’s appreciation of quality and understated style.”
CL: What are the specific design features included?
DF: “Comfort is paramount so it was very important that the bag was as soft and lightweight as possible to start with before you load it up with your camera equipment. The shoulder strap is padded and adjustable to wear crossbody or straight over one shoulder. We made sure the bag fits professional camera gear like a 70-200mm f2.8 with the hood. The extended zipper allows you to open the bag wide for ease of accessing your equipment. The magnetic closures keep the bag silent for shooting in sensitive situations like wedding ceremonies. There is an abundance of pockets to keep organized including expandable side pockets for a water bottle, sunglasses or a flash. The Lily Deanne bag also has a pass-through in the back of the bag to fit over the handle of a rolling case when traveling.”
CL: What is your personal favorite feature?
DF: “This bag has become a 3-in-1 bag for me – it is my camera bag, laptop case and purse. For most situations, I use the Mezzo and right now as I write this on an airplane I have the chestnut color Mezzo under the seat in front of me. Everything is condensed into that one bag, my 11” Macbook Air, a Nikon D800 with an attached 35mm 1.4, a set of Bose noise-reduction headphones, along with all my purse-type things like my wallet, business cards, sunglasses.”
CL: How does this bag function differently from other professional photography bags?
DF: “To me it is the perfect blend of my two favorite Think Tank bags, the stylish & classic Retrospective and the lightweight roomy City Walker. The bag is the right balance of being soft while still protecting my camera gear without too much bulk. It opens wide and also zips securely. The magnetic closures are quiet and allow you to shoot with the leather flap closed or folded open and out of the way over the back of the bag while still not damaging your clothing. The light colored blue lining helps provide that contrast to find those missing items like lens caps.”
CL: This bag is advertised as a woman’s bag, but can it also be used by men?
DF: “There are many “gender specific” bags in the market place, the bag can be used by anyone, but it’s specific to women by design. We did not expect this but are getting a number of men wanting to use this bag. It does look rather uni-sex but inside is a robin’s egg blue lining. Most men I am asking say they would have no problem carrying this bag.”
CL: What is the response you’ve been getting since the release?
DF: “The women who have seen it and purchased it have responded very favorably which is really nice to hear. We designed the camera bag we wanted with the hope it would help solve problems for other photographers to carry their gear.”
CL: Where is this bag available? Can it ship worldwide?
DF: “The Lily Deanne shoulder bags are available directly from our website and at over 100 specialty photo stores in the US and in 30+ countries. A list of authorized Think Tank retailers can be viewed on the Store Locator on on our website. Photographers can purchase our products from retailers in 30 countries outside the U.S.”
It’s not often we get to hear the “why” behind products that we love. The more I carry around my Lily Deanne Mezzo bag, the more compliments I get (including men who say they would buy it), and the more I love all of its nuanced features. On behalf of female photographers globally, thank you Lily and Deanne! Just in time for the holidays, if you’re looking for a new camera bag to fit your functional fashion needs, this could be the one.