This week in Milan, high-end luggage maker Tumi launches a new type of carry-on bag with a hard case that can expand via a hidden, hinge-like mechanism, created in collaboration with hip product designer Dror Benshetrit of New York-based Studio Dror.
The studio is best known for poetic products such as the Peacock Chair, an eye-catching, fan-like seat created for Italian furniture maker Cappellini. It's now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s permanent collection. And Tumi is betting that its latest invention will catch on with frequent fliers that attend high-profile global events like the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, also known as the Milan Furniture Fair--taking place from April 17-22, and for which the new bag's launch is timed.
"The biggest challenge was probably designing the living hinge for the expansion suitcase. We went back and forth with the Tumi engineers countless times," Benshetrit told me in an e-mail message. In a press release, Studio Dror cited 18 months of research and development conducted with Tumi to develop the expandable bag and ten other items in a product line called Dror for Tumi.
"We went out of our respective comfort zones and pushed boundaries, denied obstacles," he continued. "It was so rewarding to overcome that challenge and feel that although I was new to luggage design work, I was able to contribute to an innovative product with my fresh eye and [determined] character."
Benshetrit, who said he is a long-time Tumi customer himself, designed the patent-pending bag after creating about 40 prototypes, according to a recent piece in Fast Company's April 2012 print edition. The depth of the case can increase from 9 to 14 inches. The cool-looking carry-on comes with a premium price tag: $895.
Yes, that's getting into elite, luxury-goods territory. But the collaboration between Benshetrit and Tumi is more than just a stylistic or status-conscious one. Benshetrit's imaginative, playful approach to design, informed by his own customer experience and travel habits, resulted in a possible new patent and a technical solution to every business traveler's packing nightmare.
That Studio Dror, which works with a variety of brands known for their style, from high-end automaker Bentley to mass-market retailer Target, doesn't hurt. The association helps build Tumi's brand as a design-conscious one, too. Launching the luggage during the Salone Internazionale del Mobile was a wise marketing choice, given the types of globe-trotting, design-conscious audiences who will be in Milan this week. (Note: the luggage will be shown at a venue outside of the main furniture fair, at an event called MOST from April 17-22 at Milan's National Museum of Science and Technology.)
Here's a video on the Dror for Tumi collection--in case you can't make it to Milan, or are just curious about Benshetrit's creative take on Tumi's legacy of making sturdy, well-engineered luggage.