UP IN THE AIR

Evanna Ramly dis­cov­ers how lug­gage can also be a creative ex­pres­sion.

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - Contents -

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.”

MIL­I­TARY-GRADE

MILE­STONE

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

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