Troubadour was founded by action men. Every time I meet founders Samuel Bail and Abel Samet they tell me about a new mountain they have climbed or a race they have conquered. The same drive that led them to their seamless, well-designed leather goods proposition is more than apparent in their personal pursuits. Not everyone could quit their secure, corporate jobs and embark on the journey to find the ideal bag. Something so simple that no one before them had thought of it. A classic and durable marriage of function and style. Today I talk to Samuel Bail and his partner Karianne Lancee, not about leather luggage, but about their devotion to swimming and the challenge of Lake Bolsena.
It’s June, the week before Pitti Uomo, and Samuel Bail, co-founder of Troubadour Goods, has not only managed to produce a precise, honest new collection for the shows, but has stopped in Italy to swim Lake Bolsena for the second time with his partner Karianne Lancee. Lake Bolsena is a crater lake in the centre of Italy, is 14km long and has volcanic origins. Sam and Karianne swam it in 4 hours and 42 minutes.
Swimming is more than a sport. As members of the Serpentine swimming club, Sam and Karianne wake up every morning to swim in the centre of the city before enjoying breakfast together and beginning their day. They tell me how it gives them a sense of balance. Open spaces like the Serpentine, surrounded by the Royal Parks and greenery, are not something to take for granted in London. There is a sense of community that keeps them grounded and centred in the chaos of the city. Yes, it’s a time to keep fit, but it’s also a time to make a cup of tea with the other members and catch up.
This is not the first time that the couple swam Lake Bolsena. They wore wetsuits last time though and, as the website for the Serpentine swimming club says, “we recognise that some external events are ‘wetsuit compulsory’ and people need to use them for training. However, their use is considered by many not to be within the true-spirit of an all the year round open-air swimming club”. I had no idea that there was so much stigma attached to the gear. Samuel tells me how, only with the water against your skin, can you really experience open water swimming. The wetsuit symbolises a lack of community and so the pair completed their challenge again – the purist way.
The wetsuit is not the only piece of gear debated in swimming. Karianne tells me about distance beepers that sit in their swimming hats and tell them how far they have swum. Great in indoor pools, but perhaps more difficult in the open water. Swimming paddles also allow you to grab more water with each stroke, but they can put more strain on your shoulders. This is more considered than just a technically correct front crawl.
The more I talk to the couple the more obvious it is that they are fully submersed in their swimming. Karianne tells me how she uses Samuel’s slip stream for extra support and Samuel laughs as he tells me about the man at Dover who’s job it is to grease up the Channel swimmers before they set off. They talk in depth about how their bodies have adapted to the cold temperatures – the difference between your perception of cold, both mentally and physically, and the reality of the pressures felt by your body. They talk about how lucky they feel to swim in the Serpentine each day as well as the thrill of coastal swimming down in Dover. It’s hard work, but there is an honesty and a level of precision that you can’t help but find appealing.
The next challenge, they tell me, aside from launching another collection for Troubadour, is that Samuel will be swimming the English Channel next year. And so the stakes are increased again. Karianne explains how his swim won’t count if he touches the boat so she will be riding alongside him, throwing out bananas to him on fishing lines, to ensure that he maintains his energy levels and reaches his targets. Samuel hopes to complete the crossing in between 12 and 14 hours.
Just by looking at Troubadour’s full collection, from the timeless rucksack to the classic card holder, the refinement and high-quality craft of their products is more than apparent. Careful deliberation, durable materials and artisan techniques create a precise, considered collection of beautiful pieces. As the name Troubadour suggests, these are accessories inspired by adventure, by travel and by stories. We can’t wait to see them again to hear about their next adventure, their next adrenaline fuelled accomplishment and about Samuel’s Channel crossing. There’s always a new Troubadour tale.
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