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Bag and Baggage For The Sartorial Man

As travel finally picks up, it’s time to make a fresh beginning with new luggage,

I don’t how to put this across in more unimaginative (yet hopefully ‘woke’) a manner but the time to ‘catch flights, not feelings’ is back again. The time has come to leave behind the memories of the last two years as a bad dream, and travel without inhibitions. It is time to bring down the luggage from the attic and dust it clean or, if you are anything like me, make a fresh beginning with new gear. As always, my purchases are made after extensive research, which includes store visits. It gives me a good idea about not just what is available, but also market trends. Here are the brands that stand out as far as my preference for luggage goes.

Gucci

Gucci: The latest from Gucci Valigeria has two salient selling points, “The Savoy” hotel (where founder Guccio Gucci worked as a porter in his youth) and “Ryan Gosling” (no explanation necessary). Their collection includes everything from hold-alls to suitcases and garment carriers, even trunks, although I am yet to see someone check one in — maybe such people only fly private. My personal favourite has to be the gear that came from their other recent collaborations (and in that order) Palace (skateboards), Adidas and North Face. The idea in each was to revisit their timeless designs with cross-branding appeal and I think, it mostly came out well even if, from a creative point of view, these weren’t the most avant-garde of silhouettes.

Montblanc: The brand that defines formal styling for the erudite gentleman has done some lovely luggage lines in recent times. I have used the monogram duffel for countless trips, and it is a sturdy piece of luggage that is stylish yet well-designed for a weekend away. The new ranges use style features that bring Montblanc up to (21st century) speed. Incorporating accents like camouflage and neon has surely made the brand feel many years younger, even in the most corporate of boardrooms.

Tumi: The brand which has possibly seen the most meteoric rise in popularity, thanks to great design and superb styling is Tumi. They are priced as premium, but in a way, that remains somewhere between aspirational and affordable, which is a lovely, sweet spot to hover around in India. The luggage is smart and build solid but it’s their laptop backpacks where they truly excel. The original Tumi appeal for me was their unique ID, embedded in each baggage, which could help trace it back to its owner but firstly, I always doubted its actual applicability, as in, does anybody return Tumi luggage ever? Also, I don’t think I have seen it in the new bags, so maybe the program has been discontinued. Nevertheless, catch an early morning or late evening workday flight, or even the weekend red-eye, and chances are that you will see airline hat-racks (aka overheard bins, but I much prefer the OG name) with a scattering of bags from the Alpha Bravo series.

Victorinox

Victorinox: The brand that is synonymous with Swiss Knives (and if you went to hospitality school, kitchen knives) has been making a big impact on the Indian fine luggage market in recent years. That’s not surprising, considering that their bags are known for their durability, ergonomically smart design and stylish looks. Their most recent Crosslight collection of softside luggage is made from recycled PET bottles. The Victorinox badge represents not only (Swiss) reliability but also an air of prestige at a price which is high but not entirely out of reach, which makes it a great mid-way choice for those who want the best of both worlds. The brand is now a ubiquitous presence in major cities and towns across the country, and I am sure they will be a big player in the Indian luggage market in the coming years.

Samsonite: The first name in luggage remains the market leader and for me, possibly the most user-friendly designer brand out there. Just their sheer knowledge of how people use their bags, what they expect (as also where) combined with the many design patents they hold, helps them build ware that is, ergonomically speaking, a cut above the rest. The Black Label line is their more prestigious offering, but I see them struggling to find the target group that will patronise it. My thinking is that people would either dial down to standard Samsonite or else, upgrade to some of the other names here which may have more luxe cred.

Rimowa: The most lauded brand in the world of luggage for their all-aluminium chassis and construction may have been great for the era of carriages and railway coaches, but in the jet-setting age of indifferent airline staff who hoist your luggage with lesser care than one reserves for used tissue paper, Rimowa doesn’t fare too well. In the five years of owning their classic case, I have had it repaired about as many times, and it has cost me more than the price of new standard luggage twice over! Cool? Sure. Pricey? Doubly yes. Heavy? Sadly, a lot, even when empty. Plus, an overall zero for practicality and durability. For all their countless collabs and fancy re-branding, it still remains the most fragile piece of luggage I own. If you must get one, go for the cabin size or maybe turn to polycarbonate.

The Ordinary Object: The Travel Case design of their cabin hard-trolley pops up under various brand names around the world (and is a Red Dot Design award winner, too). Introduced by an online portal in India, it is an eye-catching, functionally rugged piece of cabin luggage that I have recently rolled through airports. The wheels are smooth, the wide telescopic handle is not only unique and design-forward, but also functionally superior. Although the carry handle is too rigid and unwieldy to lug the piece around, this cabin-trolley is definitely the go-to luggage among recently spawned Indian brands. Others worth checking out are Nasher Miles, Mokobara, and Assembly, all qualifying as reliable brands with funky colourful styling.