By Matt Pomroy
As the lines between business and leisure travel become increasingly blurred, Creative Director for accessory and travel lifestyle brand Tumi Victor Sanz talks about the evolving demands of the modern business traveller
How has travel for business changed ove the years?
Work and pleasure are happening at the same time. We never really stop working because we’re always connected and always on.
We know that you’re getting off the plane and going right into a boardroom to close a big deal and then as soon as you’ve done that you’re maybe heading out on a tour of the city. Or you’ll be going on from your business trip at the weekend into a break nearby, so all of those pieces of luggage need to be covering all the required bases for you.
How has design evolved for Tumi?
I’ve been with the brand for 16 years and when I joined the company there was around five collections, and they talked about three things: functionality quality and durability.
And in terms of colour?
Black. We’re now a design house with a fashion lens on it, and that’s where this is going. The world is no longer about just those three key elements and black luggage. Those were the building blocks.
Design now is much more than that – it’s about ergonomics, functionality and evolution but also about the aesthetic element because that’s the world that we live in now. There’s no longer a deviation of ‘oh this is a business bag and this is a fashion bag’ or ‘this is a business trip and that a leisure trip’ because now it’s all the same. When we set out to design the products we keep that in mind.
So how do you create something that had an aesthetic value today and still has an aesthetic value in a decade?
I know it sounds like a cliché to talk about a ‘timeless design’ but trust me, leading US-based designer Eames weren’t sitting there going, ‘Oh, this chair is going to be a classic of an era’ they were created with the aim of having a longevity to the product.
You can’t create season to season – there has to be a balance. It’s much more complicated but a lot more interesting, but when we think about design, our products last a very long time. When you think about the average lifespan of a product, 10 years is a long time but for us that’s average.
What’s been the biggest evolution in how Tumi responds to travellers’ needs?
Many of our bags now have built-in power supply because we cannot be three feet apart from our mobile phones and they need recharging. The first thing that people do when they get to the lounge is look for a power source to charge their phone or device. There’s now one built into some of our carry-on bags, but because of the travel regulations it needs to be something that can be detached and taken out when going through security in some countries.
Has increased airport security changed your approach?
We have a group of testers who are out there helping us understand what’s happening, from new regulations being brought in by the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) in America to airline regulations in China to regional rules, these changes all over the globe. It keeps us on our toes.
How important is the continual testing to ensure they’re up to standards? It’s not like you can launch a minimum viable product is it?
I have a love-hate relationship with testing because as a designer we create these things and put so much thought and care into it, then put them through a series of tests with the ultimate goal of destroying them. When you watch a product go through these tests you see how extreme the level is. But it has to be so it doesn’t fail someone on their journey.
How do you test your bags to ensure business travellers aren’t let down?
I test all the bags and I travel with prototypes on every trip. Meanwhile, we have a tumble test where we put a bag in a machine and it mimics five years of travel at an extreme level and if we take it out and it still works we just put it back in. It’s loud and unforgiving but everything that can go wrong will happen in that machine so we can fix any issues before it goes out.
Does your design react to the world around you and the needs of a business traveller?
The design team saw that Apple had launched a new iPhone and it was surprisingly big and because of that it didn’t fit in the pocket of the carry-on bag – who knew that phones needed to be that big? But we knew that it was important to our customers, so we redesigned and made the running change to improve the product. It’s about perfecting the journey.
Have you ever lost your luggage?
Yes. But the effect of that was it changed the way I packed and it sent us on a journey to create the global locator tracking device that we launched to track your luggage anywhere, but it also made me pack differently.
Because when you’re travelling through Asia it’s not always easy to find something that fits the American physique so you don’t want the hassle of having to go out and buy new things, especially if you only have little time before your meeting. I learned the hard way that I don’t look good in black golf shirts.
Best tip for a business traveller?
I use packing cubes and I always keep a full set of gear with me in my backpack at all times. I travel with carry on and it means I can get to the hotel and take out a packing cube containing a full outfit just like that.
How does Tumi designs differ from other bags?
Understanding the customer is where we really specialise. Understanding how people are travelling, understanding how to perfect that journey. And it’s all those elements in between, we put extra effort into our products and that’s really where we succeed. That’s why we do it.
Best piece of travel advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t stress out. And a smile will get you a lot farther than a fist.
How do you get around jet lag?
Lots of coffee, sunglasses, and try and get outside as soon as possible.
How do you pass the time on the plane?
I design and I watch horror flicks, because I can’t watch them at home with my family.
Three things you can’t travel without?
My phone, my music and my sketchpad.