When you think of industry icons you might associate smartphones with Apple, sounds with Bang & Olufsen, style with Giorgio Armani and sportswear with Nike. If you’re not familiar with TUMI then they too are the industry icon of luggage. If you are familiar with TUMI, then you’ll know why.

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The former TWA terminal at JFK airport in New York – where TUMI travellers were no doubt omnipresent since 1975

Founded during 1975 in South Plainfield, New Jersey by Charlie Clifford – TUMI quickly developed a reputation for exceptionally well made luggage and specifically their black-on-black ballistic nylon cases. It was the go to for businessmen looking for a serious looking case that provided utmost functionality, subtle in style yet commanding. Almost a statement piece – defining that you were here for business, successful, hard working and understated. While I myself own a TUMI International 4 Wheeled Office Carry On, this plain looking black-box began to look a little outdated (although now, I firmly believe it’s a legitimate style choice – a classic) – with customers looking for something a little more ‘trendy’.

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TUMI International 4 Wheeled Office Carry On

Like all icons of industry, TUMI changed with the times – introducing more modern designs, but crucially, remained true to their roots of quality construction and function with each item going through 30 unique tests. You’ll also benefit from the complimentary TUMI Tracer program which reunites TUMI customers with their lost or stolen luggage. This recipe of introducing modern style whilst remaining true to your core principles is a delicate balancing act but one TUMI and Mr. Victor Sanz the brands’ Creative Director have achieved. As a favourite luggage brand of Ape we were delighted to interview Mr. Sanz to learn more about the future of this industry icon. And yes, you can still buy the black-on-black ballistic nylon cases.

APE: When you first joined TUMI in 2003, the brand was known for well constructed, black-box type luggage. What is the TUMI traveller looking for now?

VS: I think the biggest change we’ve seen over the past several years is that people are capitalising on the fact that they now can customise their journeys, whether it be for business or pleasure, and in some cases, both. They’re looking at what they’re carrying as an extension of their personality and their own persona, and less as a utilitarian purpose.

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APE: TUMI has a reputation for near-indestructible luggage. Is the battle between functionality and style a burden or a challenge you relish?

VS: It is absolutely something that motivates us when concepting designs. As a brand, we are always pushing ourselves, the product and our customers forward. The best part about working with new innovations is that we have the capability to go way beyond our own industry for inspiration and new methodologies. For TUMI, the innovation may come in a new material, production methods or way of using the product that makes for a better experience. Innovative approaches can be as simple as a modernised organisation system inside of the travel pieces, helping the wearer to be prepared throughout their trip or a new material that the world has never seen.

APE: What are the fundamentals of designing luggage for the modern gentleman?

VS: The most important part is to truly understand the user and their needs. Anything we can add to make the journey pleasurable, we incorporate it.  This involves all aspects of the design – function, quality, durability, materials and aesthetics. We set out to ensure that our customers stay inspired by what we create for them.

APE: In your opinion what does the TUMI brand stand for?

VS: To me, TUMI as a brand is driven by the philosophy of making our customers’ lives easier and perfecting their journey. Whether it’s traveling from the East Coast of the United States all the way to Asia or traveling from your home to your office to a night out. We examine our customers and continuously strive to find new ways to make their journeys as easy and painless as possible.

APE: What are your favourite destinations? Firstly for city-business travel and secondly for relaxation and what luggage do you carry?

VS: During the year I am always on the move from Asia to Europe and more – so when I’m not on the road for TUMI, I really enjoy being at home with my family. In the summer, we love to be outside visiting new places and having new experiences. In colder weather, we head for the mountains, I feel it’s important to have a balance of environment, it makes you appreciate them more.

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TUMI 19 Degree Aluminium International Carry On

When traveling, I tend to use any prototype of a new collection that we’re planning to launch – that way I can truly put these pieces to the test to ensure we’re developing the best product possible. One of the pieces I’ve been carrying with me more regularly is my 19 Degree Aluminium International Carry On. 19 Degree is TUMI’s first-ever aluminum collection, which features a cutting-edge design with strategically sculpted angles set against meticulously-crafted aluminum.

APE: What’s your favourite story about TUMI luggage?

VS: Over the years, we have heard so many remarkable stories from our customers. The one element that always seems to amaze me is how much influence the pieces can have on people and their lives; from giving them more confidence and comfort to inspiring them to go beyond their own limits. A few stories that always stuck with me have been the simple ones; “My father carried this bag on his first day to work and I carried the same one to my first day of work” or “My luggage was lost with my wedding dress inside and TUMI helped me get reunited with it” – it’s always great to be able to make a connection with people.

uk.tumi.com