UP IN THE AIR
Evanna Ramly discovers how luggage can also be a creative expression.
Tumi unpacks the more creative side of luggage
“Tumi is all about providing creative solutions for everyday life. The idea here was to bring alive ‘ The Tumi Difference’. What we wanted to do was make it compelling,” says Tom Nelson, Asia-Pacific managing director of travel, business, and lifestyle brand Tumi. “And what better way to do it than to look for some of the best creative minds, both established figures as well as up-and-coming artists, to collaborate with us and develop the extraordinary work before you.”
Nelson is talking about the recent launch of Tumi’s new campaign, ‘ Makes Life Beautiful Work’, held in Hong Kong. The artists featured include fashion designer Barney Cheng, travel photographer Sean Lee Davies, product designer Millicent Lai, socialite blogger Charlotte Chen, and floral designer Hayden Blest. It was important for the exhibition to showcase different characters, giving a voice to the creative individuals yet to be recognised. “We asked one group of artists to reinterpret the ballistic nylon, and the other to take the Alpha lightweight packing case and do something creative with that, inspired by one of our five founding principles,” Nelson recalls. Said principles comprise superior quality, design excellence, technical innovation, functional superiority, and world-class customer service, all of which have always been at the core of the brand. The result was a mind-blowing exhibition of diverse talents.
WORKS OF HEART
Cheng’s couture ensemble for men and women was an instant hit. The crowd loved his innovative vision and vibrant use of colour. The jacket he created featured clever zips on the sleeves, which could be removed for a change of silhouette. He confessed it was a challenge for him to work with such thick material but he loved it all the same.
Similarly with other artists, ideas went beyond the possibilities imagined by the material’s creators. Lai had created lotus blossoms in myriad hues, lanterns floating on an imaginary pond. The petals were soft, belying their true strength. Lit up, the effect was ethereal and evocative of her Asian roots.
One finds oneself gravitating towards the work of Lee Davies, vivid depictions of the Holi festival in India, printed on ballistic nylon. Despite concerns of how the colours would show up on the material, the prints were remarkably lifelike and beautifully immortalised the excitement of the occasion. A post-show conversation with the man behind the camera revealed a mutual appreciation for how the material’s durability further emphasised the importance of photography in making memories last.
Another memorable installation was a suitcase redesigned as a picnic set. Created by luxury hotel and home accessories designer Susanna Valerio of SV Casa, it was exquisitely handcrafted with a fine shell finish. Closer inspection of the tiny bits of shell uniting in a delicate mosaic on every item revealed Valerio’s loving attention to detail. Many expressed a desire to purchase it on the spot.
Of course, catering to the taste and needs of consumers in the Asia-Pacific region is nothing new for the brand though Nelson is quick to define Tumi as quintessentially a global brand. “The elements that make up The Tumi Difference are universal principles
that work for everybody around the world.” He attributes the brand’s regional success to the fact that its products fit in perfectly with the fast-paced Asian lifestyle. “The Tumi traveller is someone who is successful in what they do. They’re always on the go, and they look for a product that performs just as they perform,” he says. “But Tumi is not just about travel. Travel is the heritage of the brand but now it’s much more about lifestyle. Day bags, sunglasses, electronic accessories, it’s a very broad consumer base.”
Nelson hopes the travelling exhibition will help consumers see Tumi in a whole new light and recognise what has always been the hallmark of the brand. “They’ll understand ultimately that it’s more than just luggage.”
It was a fitting celebration marking the 30th anniversary of Tumi’s pioneering use of military-grade ballistic nylon. “That was what put Tumi on the map; it was the first marketable innovation for the brand,” Nelson explains. “One of the key products we introduced earlier on was a garment bag. At the time, those were leather mostly and they weighed about a hundred pounds. We introduced the ballistic nylon, a significantly lighter and much more durable material.”
The revolutionary designs presented a modern, sleek aesthetic that both men and women find appealing. “There have been countless groundbreaking developments since I’ve been here,” shares Nelson, who has been with Tumi for 13 years. “We’re now embarking on what stands out for me as really memorable, and that’s the new Tegra-Lite hardcases. They’re made with Tegra, something only we can use. It’s a phenomenal material used in life-saving
armour, NASCAR, NFL – industries where you need something light and durable.” Then there’s the FXT abrasion-resistant ballistic nylon, a major innovation for the brand, and the ID Lock. “It’s our newest innovation, which protects against identity theft.” Designed to safeguard personal data encoded on identification cards and passports, response to the ID Lock collection has been extremely positive since its launch in Spring. It’s just another example of how well Tumi answers the needs of its customers. “Because the world in which we live is constantly evolving, we are constantly innovating the products that we introduce. It’s important to keep up and have accessories that support your lifestyle,” Nelson points out. “People are just getting busier, time is a luxury, and we need more products that make life easier and safer.”
FULL STEAM AHEAD
So, what’s next? “Our ‘Makes Life Beautiful Work’ campaign will be a primary focus this year. We also have a new creative director, George Esquivel, who has a background in leather craftsmanship.” Developing its freestanding store network globally are new openings in Hong Kong and Singapore. “We’ll continue to focus on the five key elements that make up the Tumi Difference.”
It is telling, how Nelson consistently returns to those elements, never losing sight of what Tumi is all about. Still, he acknowledges other factors that have made the brand what it is today. “The synergistic effect of all the elements that make up The Tumi Difference is what sets us apart,” he muses. “That’s what we are and that’s what we’ll always be.”
Tumi’s ‘Makes Life Beautiful Work’ campaign
Sean Lee Davies with his vibrant documentation of the Holi festival
‘Tuff’ by Emanuela Santi referenced the baby and the stork for one’s precious cargo
Barney Cheng with his highly durable couture designs
Vincent Peu Duvallon explored a shoe fetish