It’s been awhile since I’ve posted but I wanted to throw up a quick first impressions of this gorgeous bag from Jemma – the Emma Traveler 39. I’m always in search of the perfect work bag so I was really excited when I came across this option.
Obviously, everyone’s personal style is different but I LOVE the looks of this bag. It’s has such a retro and classic vibe. It’s definitely a briefcase style, and it looks very professional and would do well at any conference or meeting. It’s also feminine without being too girly, which I like. It’s got style nods to Dolce and Gabbana’s Miss Sicily bag, as well as work bags from Maison Heroine, all gorgeous bags.
I got the bag in a special-edition Croc Chocolate, which is this gorgeous deep brown color in croc-embossed leather. It is stunning. I was looking for a brown bag and I messaged Jemma customer assistants through the chat button about their color options. They got back to me very quickly with all their brown bag options, including this limited edition beauty which wasn’t on their website! They were very sweet while I dithered over it but ultimately I couldn’t resist. In person the croc embossed leather is even more gorgeous in person and the perfect shade to go with any outfit. On the website they have a few colors available in smooth leather, including taupe, black and white color block, and a deep mahogany brown which I was also deciding between.
Design and Quality
I have already waxed lyrical about the looks of croc embossed leather. I can’t speak to the smooth leather options. I would say that the leather seems to be of decent quality. I’m not sure how it will age, but in my experience a textured leather tends to be more hardy than smooth leathers. It did have two tiny scratches on one side which expose a lighter shade underneath – so it doesn’t seem to be tanned all the way through. Opening the box, I wasn’t overwhelmed by amazing leather smell or anything, but there’s no mistaking this for pleather. I think its fine.
The lining is a white fabric with black stripe checkered pattern. It feels like a poly-cotton lining. It is fairly light. It does not scream luxury to me, and the Senreve microsuede lining is much more luxurious. A minor point, but the pattern in the lining does not match up at the seams, which would have been a detail broadcasting thoughtfulness in construction. The whole thing can be turned inside out from the bag, which depending on how you feel and your tendency to accumulate crumbs and crud at the bottom of the bag, might be a good thing. I feel indifferent about this feature.
The hardware is a kind of matte gold, almost brushed in some areas. It is neither too heavy nor light, which probably strikes a balance between overall weight of the bag and the feeling of luxury in the hardware. There are feet on the bottom of the bag, which I love so you can set it down on the ground without worry.
The Jemma Emma bag is packed full of design features. Starting with the exterior, there is a back slip pocket with a zip closure at the bottom, which when unzipped becomes a pass-through luggage handle sleeve. Very handy if you travel with rolling luggage and want to slide the bag over the handle. There is also a small card pocket in the back, which could be useful for transit cards.
On the inside there is the 15″ laptop padded sleeve, a slip pocket for a smartphone (fits even XL sized smartphones), pen loops, and some more card pockets. Ergonomically, I would prefer the laptop pocket to be on the back wall of the bag, closer to the body, rather than the front of the bag, where the weight distribution away from the body is less optimal.
The back wall has an open large-ish slip pocket that can hold whatever (extra tablet, wallet, etc.), as well as a zip pocket for small items that need to be more secured. There is a key holder with a clip that goes on your key ring and the other end snaps to the interior of the bag, making it removable, which is very handy since I find it annoying to have to constantly be clipping and unclipping the keys into the jaw clip. One improvement would be if the actual leather anchor folds into a loop so that it’s not awkwardly hanging down when attached to your keys.
The center of the bag has a removable flat divider which is itself a zip pouch. It is clipped to the sides of the bags when in divider mode, and when removed you can use the dedicated adjustable-length skinny leather strap to wear it on the shoulder or crossbody (this is a separate included strap from the main bag strap). The pouch is about the size of a Neverfull pochette and similarly totally flat though, so I find that it is sort of awkwardly small as a crossbody. I will likely just attach a gold wristlet chain to it and wear it as a wristlet when needed, like the Neverfull pochette. I do love that the bag has a divider that is removable though, as sometimes I want to carry a large item (sweatshirt, shoes, etc.) that wouldn’t comfortably fit into divided compartments. This way I can have the best of both worlds! All bags should have this design feature.
The bag has a single top handle, which I prefer over double tote handles because with double handles, one handle is constantly falling off my shoulder. While these types of top handles are usually designed for hand or elbow-carry, this strap has enough of a drop to fit over my shoulder for shoulder carry, which is nice.
The bag comes with a long adjustable shoulder strap with a nice comfortable strap pad. The strap attaches by clips to the side of the bag, for on-the-shoulder carry. One thing to note though, is because of the generous drop of the top-handle, it does stick up into the side of the body/armpit when carrying the bag by the long strap. Similarly, carrying it cross-body is even more awkward because then the top handle digs even more into the body.
Another con of the long strap design is the placement of the anchor points on the side of the bag. When the bag is closed, the sides of the bag are supposed to fold in to give it that triangular shape. When you attach the long strap to it, it pulls the leather out again in a very funny-looking way, which probably also puts stress on the leather there.
Most bags with this dowel-top design have the shoulder strap attached to either end of the top flap. However, this bag doesn’t have a true dowel at the top flap – probably to reduce weight and maintain flexibility, so that is probably why the long strap doesn’t anchor there as it would distort the structure of the bag. Maybe a solution would be for the long strap to anchor on the back of the bag instead of the sides.
Size and Comparison
I tried put in the bag a few items that might be part of a daily carry, starting with my laptop, which is a 15″ Surface Book 2. This does fit in the laptop sleeve with no room to spare on the sides, which I really like. Yes! Too many bags only fit 13″ laptops. However, you can see that it does stick out on top by about an inch, so the bag is not quite tall enough for the laptop. The flap still closes over it, but this is still a quibble.
Packing it with some other daily essentials, including a modestly sized 12oz Thermos and a pouch (about the size of my lunch or my pump+flanges) requires some more jigsaw work. Standing the thermos up makes the bag wide at the top, which due to its triangular side profile makes the bag hard to close. I have to lay it down on its side at the bottom of the bag, then put the pouch on top of it.
Because of the flap closure, the top of the bag is thinner than the wide bottom. Although the bag has side straps that undo so you can open up the bag wide for packing, ultimately whatever you fit inside still has to be relatively “skinny” on top for the bag to close.
I’ve compared it here to my Saddleback Front Pocket Briefcase in the Medium (now discontinued) size. While you can see from the front the dimensions look very similar, from the side the Saddleback can be rectangular all the way to the top of the bag. Because the Saddleback flap closure is adjustable, you can really stuff it full to the brim. Whereas with the Jemma bag, you have to keep it slim near the top for the twist lock closure to close. This significantly reduces the overall capacity of the Jemma.
I also compared this bag to the Louis Vuitton Neverfull in the GM size. I primarily use the Neverfull to travel, where it has to haul my laptop, all my portable electronics, extra scarf, travel pillow, etc. And of course pumping supplies when I was pumping.
Although on paper the dimensions look similar, you can see in the pictures that in practice the Neverfull fits a ton more stuff, due to the open top and the ability to stuff it to the brim. Again, having to close the Jemma with the flap closure reduces the capacity. Even with the Neverfull sides cinched in to make it a smaller bag, since the Neverfull is taller I think it still fits a bit more than the Jemma.
That being said, of course the Jemma has a ton more organizational features, luggage sleeve, and security than the Neverfull which is a rather unsecure enormous black hole. I also find the Neverfull tote straps to be quite uncomfortable when the bag is stuffed full, which is why I put a handle wrap around them to keep them together and to give them some padding. As I mentioned before, the included pouches are almost identically sized between the two bags.
So this completes my initial first impressions of this bag. I hope that’s helpful to anyone who’s considering getting one of these lovelies. I can’t wait to take this baby out and about!