Hello everyone, and welcome to another of my reviews. In this article, I’m reviewing a pair of dress shoes and a backpack from the local leather goods label Arden Teal.

I recently paid a visit to the Arden Teal/Suit Commune showroom and noticed several new products, such as the Calzada Wholecut and the Avalor Vintage Leather Backpack. Naturally, I requested to give them a spin – let’s see if they are any good.

Arden Teal – the Brand

I’ve previously covered the brand story of Arden Teal in my first review of their shoes. For those interested in learning more about Arden Teal, do check out that article here. Since then, I’ve reviewed another pair of their dress shoes here, their blake-stitched shoes here, their bags here, their boots here, their loafers and briefcase here, and most recently their tees and sneakers here.

Arden Teal Calzada Wholecut – Review

With a unique side-lacing design, the Calzada Wholecut stands out from Arden Teal’s existing range of dress shoes.

I like the side-lacing, which gives the Calzada visual interest without being ostentatious. It’s a subtle way to stand out (literally), and reminds me of the qi pao.

Like all Arden Teal shoes, the Calzada is crafted from full-grain Argentinian leather. For those uninitiated with leather, leather generally comes in three quality tiers – genuine leather, top-grain leather, and full-grain leather, in ascending order of quality. Unlike the genuine leather shoes one often finds in departmental stores, full-grain leather will patina beautifully over time.

The Calzada also features hand burnishing, with leather artisans manually darkening the tips of the shoes. This is an artisanal process so no two shoes should look identical, resulting in an elevated aesthetic that differentiates the Calzada from similarly priced competition.

The soles are crafted from rubber, which is par for the course at this price point. However, Arden Teal has made the additional effort for the soles to resemble leather soles, thus creating a more refined look. The sole is machine-stitched, with neat stitching. The soles are also reinforced, but without the nailed construction that one would see at higher price points. On the bright side, there’s a non-slip outsole applied to give the shoes enhanced traction, ensuring no accidental sliding even on smoother surfaces.

The Calzada uses a cemented construction, which is also common at the sub-$120 price point. It’s not going to be as durable as a Blake-stiched or Goodyear welted pair of shoes, but the Calzada is affordable enough that you can simply buy another pair if necessary. For more information on shoe construction, do read my recent article comparing cemented vs Blake-stitched vs Goodyear welted shoes here.

The Calzada also features a leather padded insole, as well as leather lining. As leather is a natural material (compared to synthetic materials such as polyester), the Calzada remained breathable on the feet even after long hours of wear in Singapore’s sweltering weather. I wore them to the recent Bruno Mars concert, and they held up well, performing admirably during the groovier sections by doubling up as tap shoes.

As the icing on the cake, the Calzada is also a wholecut, which is one of my favourite styles of dress shoes. A wholecut is fashioned out of a single piece of leather, resulting in a formal pair of shoes that oozes sophistication. It’s worth noting that many affordable shoe brands (such as Savelli, Aldo and Pedro) do not carry wholecuts. This is because wholecuts are often hard to construct since the leather used needs to be of consistent texture and unblemished.

All in all, I love the Calzada. Despite the affordable price tag of $119 (after the “WAHSOSHIOK” promo code), the Calzada makes a statement on the feet. The unique side-lacing coupled with the wholecut design results in a pair of rakish dress shoes, making them perfect for those looking for a bit of flair. The only downside is the cemented construction, so hopefully there will be a Blake-stitched version of the Calzada soon.

Arden Teal Avalor Backpack – Review

Although Arden Teal is primarily known for its dress shoes, the brand has also been expanding its range of leather bags over the years, with the latest offering being the Avalor.

Like its shoes, Arden Teal’s bags are crafted from Argentinean full-grain leather, so the Avalor backpack will age beautifully over time.

The straps are also made out of full-grain leather, so they will patina evenly alongside the backpack. Although perhaps not as comfortable as regular mesh padded straps, the leather straps look good and complements the rustic look of the Avalor.

The hardware are brass-coloured, pairing nicely with the vintage look of the leather backpack.

Furthermore, the top handle of the backpack is reinforced with screws, so durability shouldn’t be a concern.

And while the zippers aren’t “branded” (i.e not YKK), they operate smoothly and I never had any issues with them getting stuck. Like the rest of the hardware, the zippers are also brass coloured for a vintage look.

The Avalor backpack is also devoid of any conspicuous branding, save for the subtle Arden Teal text on the bottom right. I prefer the minimalistic look of the Avalor to the Sevilla backpack, as it allows for the full-grain leather exterior to fully shine.

Let’s now move on to its storage capacity. Firstly, there’s a small storage compartment at the front of the backpack, which is useful for storing small items like a portable charger, tissue packets, hand sanitisers, perfume, etc.

On the inside, there’s a laptop compartment that fits up to 16-inch laptops. The compartment is lightly padded, and secured by a velcro strap. There’s also an internal zipped compartment, which can hold important documents, files, etc.

There are also two internal pockets – useful for storing small items such as a mouse, snacks, etc – and two pen slots.

Overall, I would say that the Avalon backpack has decent storage capacity. I could easily fit a change of clothes, my laptop charger, and a water bottle in the backpack’s main compartment without much difficulty. In other words, the Avalon backpack should suffice for your daily office (and perhaps the gym) needs.

I believe the Avalon is a good middle ground for those who want the formality of a briefcase, but the functionality and versatility of a backpack. Its full-grain leather aesthetic provides style and substance, and pairs well with smart casual wear (for example, with a polo tee and trousers). It’s a backpack that can be taken to the office, but also to the cafe on weekends. It’s also terrific value for money, costing just $149 (after the “WAHSOSHIOK25” promo code) – one of the cheapest full-grain leather backpack in the market.

Conclusion – so Arden Teal’s Leather Shoes and Bag “shiok” or not?

I really enjoyed Arden Teal’s latest offerings – it’s clear the brand is coming into its own. With the Calzada, Arden Teal is showing that it’s able to experiment with bolder styles, instead of simply offering well-made but stylistically generic shoes. Meanwhile, the Avalon possesses a refinement that was missing from earlier backpacks. Its sleek design allows the full-grain leather to shine, while its build quality punches above its price point. I can definitely see myself wearing both the Calzada and the Avalon to the office, perhaps even with the Arden Teal Polo Tee (like pictured below).

Those interested in purchasing these can use the promo code “WAHSOSHIOK” to enjoy 12% off Arden Teal shoes, and the promo code “WAHSOSHIOK25” for a whopping 25% off Arden Teal bags. The discount is applicable online, as well as in-store. After the discounts, the Calzada would cost about $119, and the Avalon a mere $149. That’s great bang-for-buck, and proof that you don’t have to burn a hole in the pocket for quality leather products. With Arden Teal growing from stride to stride, I can’t wait to see what the brand has in store.

View the Calzada wholecuts here.
View the Avalon backpack here.
View the full range of Arden Teal’s offerings here.

Arden Teal Showroom Location: #02-16 Tampines North Dr. 1, T-Space, Singapore 528559

P.S: Check out The Shiok Store here – it serves as a curation of my favourite products from my favourite brands.

P.P.S: Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wah so Shiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!

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P.P.P.P.S Shiok is a common word Singaporeans use to express admiration or approval. As of 2016, you can find the definition of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary.