It's been a little over four years since I purchased my Madewell Transport Tote. At the time, I was surviving my first post-college adult job. The bag was an investment piece for me. It retails for $168 today, but I remember paying less in 2012. I'd been eyeing it for ages, and was completely stoked when I finally decided to treat myself. It's pretty much been my go-to everyday bag ever since.
I love it. I still love it. It's easily one of the best things I've ever bought. Over the years it's gotten plenty of wear and tear, and extra love. I've spilled just about everything you can imagine on the bag. Once, a small dog peed on it. More than once, my lunch has leaked out of a Tupperware container and onto my beautiful leather bag. It's gotten rained on. It's gotten shoved under the seat on planes, ridden every kind of public transit in SF, and gone to countless farmer's markets. The Transport Tote has gone everywhere with me, and earned battle wounds along the way. Stains, scratches and general wear and tear have created a beautiful patina. The patina might be my favorite part, and it really has aged beautifully. I still like it as much as I did four years ago, and I get compliments on it all the time.
The bag is very unstructured and simple. It measures 14" x 14" x 6" and the handles are 8.5" tall. It's large enough to fit a laptop and notebook for work, or a couple of outfits for a weekend trip. It's the perfect size for a carry on bag, or for weekend errands. The leather is died with high-end vegetable dye, and then rubbed by machine for 24 hours. Inside, the bag is unlined and has just one internal pocket. For me, having just the one zippered pocket has been fine. The pocket is large enough for my phone, the leather pouch I keep my ID and credit cards in, and some lip balm. Right now the pocket is also full of change, bobby pins and a hair tie or two. Since the totes are made of natural leather, each one is slightly different. If you're particular I highly suggest picking out a tote in person so you can compare the differences.
In terms of caring for the bag, I wouldn't worry too much about being extra careful with it. It's meant to be used daily, and the natural leather will develop a beautiful and unique patina based on what it comes in contact with. I wouldn't recommend treating the leather with anything, especially if you like the color. Many protective sprays can darken natural leather, so be careful. When my bag gets something wet spilled on it (like soup or rain or dog pee) i first use a clean, dry cloth to get as much liquid up as possible by blotting the stain. Then, if it's something gross like pee (which only happened once and I know is totally disgusting...sorry) I use plain water to get the rest of the stain up. Try not to over saturate the leather. Once it's pretty clean, and there's no excess water left, I let the bag air dry. Once dry, I use an oiled leather sponge from Clark's to moisturize the leather. It's great on the bottom corners, which get the most wear, and for helping stains blend. Over time, natural leather can get dry and will loose it's natural stain fighting properties if not moisturized. Madewell suggests taking the bag to a cobbler or leather specialist for an annual deep clean. I've never actually had to do that, but I'm sure they do a great job.
The Madewell Transport Tote is a great investment piece. It has serious lasting power. I'd buy it again and again. There are other more ethical tote bag options which also look amazing, but the Transport Tote has worked out so well, I still don't feel like I need to replace it.