Towering silver sculptural panels are the first thing you notice upon a visit to Tumi’s newest flagship store in Omotesando, Tokyo. A subversive edifice that probably stands as a surprise to loyal followers of the luxury luggage and lifestyle brand, with a fresh facade poised as a brand’s first—pivotal for its debut flagship in Asia-Pacific.
Inspired by Tumi’s renowned 19 Degree aluminium collection, the new store features hundreds of LED lights and over 250 aluminium fins and pillars achieved with an edge curve cutting technique. While inside, the same stylistic vision is extended; from sleek T-shaped touches and polished stainless steel pillars with cascading curves to a suspended art installation in-store by Michael Murphy. As a pioneer in perceptual art, the American multidisciplinary artist reinterpreted the 19 Degree Aluminium as a suspending ‘T’ logo, made entirely out of aluminium, that also forms an optical illusion of a suitcase.
“For me, art has always been a driver in connectivity to what we do. I would love to continue to have art in our stores or at least have an expression of creativity in the store so people can experience something more than a transactional experience,” remarks Victor Sanz, creative director of Tumi.
As a constant force that’s been with the brand for two decades, Sanz’s fresh perspectives have propelled Tumi to integrate innovative design into its products, while spurring a number of unforgettable collaborations with brands like Kith and Missoni. Below, he shares more with Vogue Singapore on the vision of the newest flagship in Tokyo and what drives the design at Tumi.
Having been with Tumi for over two decades, how do you think the design language has evolved over the years?
In the very beginning, I feel that the brand was very heavily focused on functionality and a smaller segmentation that was focused on the business man and traveller. But as the brand evolved, we realised customers wanted more. It was no longer about the business traveller but those moments between the office and the home. More options and categories were also provided for women; functionality still being super important but then there’s the quality, the aesthetic and the personal connection tied to our products.
Take the Georgica for example, it’s a piece where the structure comes from the engineering but it’s a sophisticated and timeless aesthetic. The material is soft and it’s elevated. And if you need functionality, you can add a laptop case and snap it in. So you’re seeing more and more of that from us, both in men’s and women’s and in travel, even with the 19 Degree, which has become its own icon.
What drives the design at Tumi? Is it about the consumers or global trends?
For us, it’s a little bit of both these things. And it’s really just to continue to understand our customer base, what they’re looking for and how their lives have changed. Now we understand that our customers are global, that they live in the world not just with technology and functionality, but also in the world of fashion, design, architecture and cuisine. So what drives the design is really understanding the world that they’re living in and saying ‘hey, is what we’re developing making their lives better?’ Will it allow them to go through their lives with more efficiency, with more elegance, with a peace of mind and at the same time look as beautiful as possible? We’re creating products that are timeless in the sense that they will live for five, 10, 15 years. So we have to ensure that when we’re looking at a trend, how do we extract elements from those trends that can live past one or two seasons?
What are the biggest learnings from designing the 19 Degree collection, which is now an icon for Tumi?
Internally, this was a big step for us because we’ve never made a collection from aluminium. It poses new challenges for us, from a manufacturing side, from a durability side, from a point of view: what’s our voice? There was the design to think about but then there was the testing, the retesting, the adjusting and testing again. Every detail had to be thought through; there was not one millimetre on the case that was not thought through—from design details that the customer will never see to the sound that the case makes when it opens to the speed at which a handle snaps back into place. It’s this obsessive nature, because we care about the customer. We want you to experience these moments to make your life easier. This is something you’re investing in, you’re investing Tumi, so we want to invest back into that.
Tell us more the new flagship and the collaboration with Michael Murphy.
We wanted to create the next chapter for Tumi to showcase where we’re heading as a brand. That we are a lifestyle and performance luxury brand. To have that moment where people come into the store and experience the entirety of it, from the facade to the interiors and the understanding that the materials used for the store are directly connected to the materials used in the products.
We wanted an artwork that could have this soft fluidity but made out of something that’s quite hard and stiff and Michael was kind enough to create a specific artwork dedicated to the space. I love that his works force the viewer to change their perspectives to see clearly. You have to be in motion to observe the sculpture completely, to not just look at it from one direction. I love that he was able to take something so static like aluminium and turn it into a sculpture that could work and blend with the store.
How will Tumi’s first Asia-Pacific flagship chart the course for what’s to come?
One thing I want people to take away is that this is a destination store. This is a store where they can experience the brand, see the new direction, the evolution of the brand, and how we’re continuing to move forward and innovate—not only through the products we make, but also from the experiential spaces that we’re developing.