Designer Interview: Victor Sanz of Tumi

FASHION & FUNCTION – Tumi’s Creative Director, Victor Sanz joins DA MAN’s Ricky Ronaldo in a seasonal chat about Tumi’s artistry and how travel has changed

Within Tumi’s vocabulary, a bag—whether a piece of luggage or a backpack—is not merely a unit to stuff our belongings in. It is a well-innovated, sculptural and fashionable item that serves as an extension of ourselves and, most importantly, the multidimensional and often fast-paced life we live in. The understanding of the latter is definitely what Tumi excels in, which is evident from its innovative approach, practical designs and high-quality craftsmanship. The fashion and style element is also glowingly present—and growing. So, it goes without saying that Tumi is definitely looking up to a promising and even greater future.

DAMAN: What kind of new features is Tumi introducing this fall and winter?
Victor Sanz:
Some of the things that we’re always looking at, again, are not only from a material standpoint, but also from how we execute the materials. We have the 19 Degree Aluminum cases and we’ve been playing a lot with how the material is finished and how we apply color on to it. And even with our materials that are tried and true Tumi materials, we always continue to evolve them and make them better, whether it’s making them lighter, more durable, putting different coding on it, so that they’ll repel dirt more. And I think this is kind of the secret to what Tumi is known for, it’s to continue to evolve and push itself forward. Even from collections like Tahoe, where we are mixing the idea of material, where we take patterns, the coded zippers and taking a lot of outdoor cues and bringing that into a street fashion detail.

DAMAN: Is the Tahoe collection water-repellent?
Victor Sanz: All of our bags are water-repellent. We know that our customers are not just in an office, but they are in transit and sometimes they are caught in the rain and conditions are not ideal. Therefore we make sure that our products can survive all of that. For example, all the pieces on our Tahoe collection have a rain cover that is built into the bottom of the bag, and the reason we did this is because we know the customer that is buying into the Tahoe collection is much more of a commuter that is riding their bag to school or work.

Tahoe Lakeview backpack

DAMAN: Was the optical pattern in this season’s Tahoe backpack inspired by Scandinavia?
Victor Sanz: It was. So, what we thought about was “How can you digitize the northern lights?” And we created this pattern from that and it just became this kind of optical effect, similar to the feeling that you would have when you see the northern lights. It becomes a bit magical.

DAMAN: So there’s a constant movement that you see throughout…
Victor Sanz: Exactly. For us, when we talk about inspiration and destination, we don’t look at it from a very literal perspective, but it is more about how do we get inspired by that, how do we put that through the Tumi lens and filter to create something that’s in line with what our customers want. And it’s more than just architecture; it’s about food, culture, people and music.

DAMAN: You mentioned that you are heavily influenced by architecture, like in the Tumi 19 Degree collection. How do you translate that into design?
Victor Sanz: You know, being a designer, you’re always seeing new things. You’re traveling the world and you’re being exposed to so much. Tumi’s 19 Degree, for example, was born out of the idea of “how do we create a sculpture that you can travel with?” So there’s a lot of visual interest as the piece moves around.

19 Degree aluminum luggage

DAMAN: Is this part of Tumi’s approach to design?
Victor Sanz: From the very beginning I think we live in a very sculptural world. I think that we’re trying to connect with our customers on a more emotional level. I think Tumi’s DNA is grounded in that functionality and durability. What we’re trying to do now is move even further beyond that, where the customers come to us for those elements and we’re never changing those elements. So, how do we place this more fashionably in a way that has more of an emotional connection to our customers? Now the walls are slowly coming down between design, fashion, streetwear and architecture. They’re not as rigidly defined anymore because we’re so exposed to it.

DAMAN: What do you think are the biggest challenge today when it comes to designing luggage?
Victor Sanz: Keeping up with the ever-changing regulations that airlines put on. So, I think for us it’s always being on point with what those changes are, reacting quickly to the industry and ensuring that our customers have the best options. We want to take the headache of travel away and we want to make the trip as easy and enjoyable as possible. And then it is always about creating new and innovative products. We’re always looking outside of our own industry and inventing new manufacturing process.

DAMAN: Since smart luggage are trending right now, how do you personally define this and is Tumi heading towards this direction?
Victor Sanz: I think the way it’s been defined is about having power in your luggage. Our approach for smart technology within our bags and luggage is through knowing that our customer’s days are so versed. They are at the office and from there straight to airport and right into another meeting. So, we want to make sure that the technology that we offer is versatile. In certain regions we offer our global locator, which is a tracking device you can put it in any bag and it’ll track it anywhere in the world. But we also know that if it was just embedded into the luggage then that technology and that innovation stays there. And that’s how I see it. It has to be flexible and versatile. I think we went through a phase about two years ago where everything had to be connected, even your water bottle was connected and I think people are smart enough to know if their water is hot or cold. [Laughs] I think people got very excited about putting it everywhere. Technology should be used in the right places and that it should be engaging. We shouldn’t just use technology just to use technology.

Tumi’s Alpha Bravo collection

DAMAN: Undoubtedly one of the most important markets of today are the millennials. How is Tumi approaching this generation?
Victor Sanz: They’re really interesting. I think they have a bad stigma, but they’re going to define the future for us. They want to travel to get that connection and experience. And it’s less about just traveling for business; they’ll put money aside to travel to experience new destinations. That’s a very interesting aspect for us. We have a collection called Merge that is really focused on millennial travel. It’s where we focus on the person that’s traveling for leisure. So, we really think about how they’re living their lives to make it as adaptable as possible.

DAMAN: And how do you think luggage is different today?
Victor Sanz: Travel is much more fashionable. It’s much more of a lifestyle. I think in the past it was much more utilitarian and now it’s much more of a fashion item. People want to have a connection to it. They care about what it looks like and they care about how long it is going to last. It’s not disposable and it shouldn’t be disposable’ it should last. You shouldn’t have to worry about your luggage. And I think that’s one of the reasons people chose Tumi. They feel” “Hey, it’s an investment and they’re going to have it for years to come.”

DAMAN: And finally, what would you say is the most important thing for you when you’re designing luggage?
Victor Sanz: Really, it’s about understanding the customer and whom I am designing it for. To me, that is the key:  To know how their lives have changed and know how they’re going to use the product. I think that’s testament to a good design. And then from there, it is really to inspire the customer. That’s the difficult part. I want to connect with them and the entire design team strives to do that, and we are always pushing ourselves to be inspired, pushing the industry and also the customers to be inspired.