Tumi leaves no stone unturned to make your life easier
In all intents and purposes, it's hard to make luggage 'cool' - but leading luggage manufacturer Tumi seem to make easy work of it. Esquire sat down with the Creative Director Victor Sanz to discuss jsut how they have done it...
ESQ: Are you a collaborative creative director, or do you tend to be more single-minded?
VICTOR SANZ: Collaborative, but it depends on the project. I believe that in product design you need to tap into people’s expertise, so if one of your team is researching astronaut suits and comes across a certain material they think we can adapt, or if they are researching climbing gear and notice that the industry uses 3D printing processes, that can help us. Without having those conversations you are in a tunnel of your own thoughts, rather than pooling together that knowledge.
You look like the kind of person who scrawls ideas in leather-bound notebooks…
That’s because I do! You never know when inspiration is going to hit, so my notebooks are always full of sketches and ideas — both good and bad — that can come from anywhere, be it travel, or a nice meal or an interesting conversation. When I get back to my studio, that’s when I have to try and decipher what I was thinking at the time.
Part of Tumi’s reputation is making near-indestructible luggage. Do you find the constant research into new materials liberating or a burden?
It’s the love-hate relationship of being a creative. At times, the project requires a material that might not exist, so you have to create it. This requires a constant curiosity to keep exploring. And you have to understand what is happening on a broader level —what is going on in the aerospace industry? Or the automotive industry, or what’s happening with rapid prototyping? It’s like being a chef, discovering and putting different ingredients together.
Do you risk future sales by making such durable products?
That’s one of those difficult issues, which is a good problem to have. If people use your product year-on-year then you know that it has value. That’s what makes us luxury, and that’s what makes us premium. We will never let the durability of the product drop, because that wouldn’t be Tumi. Instead, to entice more customers, we push ourselves to remain contemporary and filling our customers’ ever-evolving wants and needs.
For a long time the belief was that only stuffy businessmen travelled regularly. That is no longer the case. We realised that the people using Tumi products were people who run charities, DJs, athletes, new-age and older CEOs. Travel and work are now so linked that you have to create products that make travelling an infinitely easier process. Related to that point, while luggage used to be all about function, it is now much more than that. Function is key, but so is the look and technology. Our men’s CFX line is made from soft carbon fibre, which means that it drapes more like leather. Those are the differences that we bring.
How many days can you travel for using a single carry-on?
The most I’ve done is eleven days. The key is to keep things simple and pack efficiently. Clothes with flexible palettes will allow you to wear everything you’ve packed in different combinations.
Do you personally road-test your prototypes?
Absolutely. The whole team does. I would rather any issue happened to us than our customers.
Time spent at the baggage carousel must be fascinating for you...
Haha, it is! Sometimes I ask people using our products for feedback. It is less about giving myself a pat on the back, and more about getting an honest assessment. I don’t tell them I’m from Tumi, as you don’t get the same honesty.
What’s your favourite story about the Tumi brand?
There are stories about returning lost luggage to survivors of the miraculous Hudson plane crash, and returning lost wedding dresses on time, but one of my best experiences was customising pieces for the Doctors Without Borders charity. They required products that would allow them to transport medicine to remote places while also keeping it cool. Those products had nothing to do with making profit, but the fact that we could have an impact on helping someone save a life was very rewarding.