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Ask Amy: Grandson’s clothing can’t travel between homes

Travel is most enjoyable when everything works seamlessly, from check-in and boarding at the airport to the hotels and even the luggage wheeled in front or behind you.
For Victor Sanz, an industrial designer by trade and now global Creative Director for premium luggage and lifestyle brand Tumi, ensuring the latter is up to task – whatever that may be – is essential. And a lot of effort goes into achieving just that.
We recently caught up with Sanz at the launch of the brand’s impressive new Asia-Pacific flagship store in Tokyo’s Omotesando district to chat about all things Tumi and travel.
Where did you develop your passion for design?
From a young age, I’ve always been interested in the fine arts, being a sculptor painter.
There was a moment when I was around 15 years old. This gentleman entered the art studio at our high school and he showed his portfolio of work. I remember seeing this bicycle and it was insane to me – it was a bicycle that looked like a sculpture.
That was the first time I was exposed to industrial design. In my mind I was like, ‘Wow, there’s this industry that’s out there where you can create something that looks like art, but you can expose it to so many people in a functional way.’
That was the beginning of this spark. From there, my career led to New York, and soon after, I was designing digital cameras.
I’m always striving to find new avenues to express creativity, and I started having this kind of inkling to explore the world of fashion. Not the runway side, but more of the creative cut and sew expression.
Around 2000-2002, I found a brand called Tumi and they were doing something quite interesting by marrying industrial design, the process and thinking, with techniques associated with fashion. Every zipper, every D-ring was designed with purpose.
Luckily enough I was able to join the brand. And from there, I’ve been able to grow the brand and evolve it over the years, to this point where we are today.
You’ve now been with Tumi for 20 years. How has travel evolved in that time?
People are appreciating travel more these days. In the past travel was very ‘getting from A to B’, and for luggage, it was about needing to transport your items to the next destination. What I see now is it’s become a moment to express your own personality as you travel.
Pre-Covid, people were kind of taking travel for granted. It was just, ‘I’m going to be in Dubai for two days’ or ‘I’m going to fly from New York to Hong Kong and I’ll only be there for three days and I’m out’. But I think now as people are travelling again, they want to experience the places because they realise how valuable travel is.
The whole travel industry has now started leaning more into that perspective, blending experience and expression. The design of the bags have to be intelligent – the weight, durability, functionality, and the aesthetic. All of that has become a bigger focus.
How has Tumi evolved to keep up with the changes?
The customer’s always the muse of why and what we do – we spend countless hours understanding the customer, not just their habits of travel but their lifestyle.
What tech are they using? Are they carrying a 15-inch laptop anymore? Is it just an iPad? What gear are they travelling with within their personal items? Are they commuters? How do we create a product that can work within all of these moments our customers have?
That’s because customers are no longer ‘I’m just the business person; that’s how I define myself’ and that’s all they are. It’s like, no, you’re also the tennis star on the weekend.
So, as we start understanding that core customer more, it allows us to really hone in on every small little detail to ensure bags not only perform at their best but also make the owner’s lives a little easier. That’s really what we strive to do every day.
19 Degree was our first endeavour into aluminium luggage. While aluminium wasn’t new to the industry, we wanted to create something that was from our own point of view, our own voice and a continuation of our ethos.
When you look at this piece, you see these ribs that cascade around it. From an aesthetic standpoint, it allows your eye to flow and move around it, but from an engineering side, all of these ribs also add rigidity to the piece that gives it strength and stability. This comes from that obsession for detail that we have at Tumi.
I mentioned before that I wanted to study the arts – I wanted to be a sculptor. And this is, I think, the closest that I’ve been able to achieve of having that functional sculpture. This to me is that bicycle.
What are some of your fondest travel memories?
One of my first trips ever as a designer was to Tokyo. I was around 22 and remember landing and being like, ‘Wow, I’m in the future!’. It was just this very quick, addictive bug that kind of infiltrated me to say, ‘This is what I want to continue to do’.
I wanted to have those moments where you arrive in a place and you have no idea where you are, but you embrace everything and want to take in as much as you can.
Where have you travelled recently and what surprised you about the trip?
I was recently in London, for the first time in a long while. What surprised me was that same feeling I talked about earlier was still there.
Even though I’ve been to London so many times, arriving there, launching something that was completely different for the brand where it was not about a bag or a travel collection – it was a fragrance – and seeing the excitement and the kind of acceptance for us, that was really a highlight for me.
What are some of your tried and tested travel tips?
The first one I think everyone should do is lay out everything that you’re planning on taking on a trip, and then cut it in half. That’s where you start. Humans are notorious over packers – we all do it.
Another tip is just becoming efficient with what you’re really going to need and what you value.
There’s so much great technology these days, so many great accessories and things that can streamline your life. And what I’ve realised is that when you arrive at your destination, having less actually makes organisation and your overall experience much easier.
I have a travel kit with USBs that’s always ready. I never unpack it, because when I’m packing at the last minute, which I typically always do, I just want to grab it and go.
The writer travelled to Tokyo as a guest of Tumi.

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