Early this summer, I immediately placed a pre-order for Polene’s newest tote – the Ilo – when it was announced. I was hopeful to finally find a low-profile, structured yet lightweight tote that could fit my sizable work laptop. It arrived in July, and I’ve been using it for the past month – here’s my review so far.
Despite being one of their larger bags, the Ilo tote is priced at the lower end of the Polene spectrum at $290. While the majority of material is canvas, the straps and bottom of the bag are made from full grain smooth calf leather.
Honestly, Polene can’t miss when it comes to design. The straps are designed elegantly, connected to the main body through a section with a detached leather strip edge. This silhouette adds an elevated touch to an otherwise simple tote design. Like the Numero Dix, the Ilo has hanging leather straps on the side – purely decorative, in the case of the Ilo.
I appreciate the full-leather bottom of the bag – even though some scuffs and scratches will be inevitable, it provides a sturdier base when carrying heavier items. The shoulder straps are plenty long enough to be worn on the shoulder, in addition to carrying by hand.
To me, the Polene embossing on the front of the bag is decently subtle, especially when compared to similar vibe bags like the Chloe Woody tote. However, if the branding bothers you, you can flip the symmetrical bag around to display the non-logo side.
The Ilo fits my 16” Macbook Pro, so 10/10 on capacity. I’m able to place all my essentially easily in the bag, as shown below. If anything, I have to be a little careful of not overloading the bag, as it can get heavy quickly. I can definitely feel the thin leather straps digging in once it weighs more than 8lbs or so.
If there was one thing I could change about the Ilo – I wish the shoulder straps were maybe just 1-2” shorter. At 5’4”, I unfortunately can’t carry the bag by hand, as it touches the ground. If you are 5’6” or taller, and wearing shoes with some lift, this shouldn’t be a problem for you.
Additionally, I wish there were at least one internal pocket. Even though I organize and carry smaller items (ex. gum, lip balm, house keys) in pouches, it can sometimes be hard to find exactly what I’m looking for. The bag becomes a bit of a black hole, and the slimmer profile actually makes it tougher to rifle through.
However, I realize there are some trade-offs when it comes to the size of a bag that can fit a 16” laptop, so even as is, it’s still an excellent bag!
Overall, the Ilo tote is a great bag for both work and casual occasions. I haven’t found any other bag that fits a 15/16” laptop with the same ease and elegance.
Even though it’s more of a summery colorway with the cotton material, I think I can easily still use it into the fall months. It’s much lighter than Rothy’s bucket bags, and a unique design compared to typical east-west tote styles.