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DESIGN
Dror for Tumi
The multidisciplinary designer re-imagines travel in a transformational line
by James Thorne
on 09 April 2012
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When designer Dror Benshetrit joined with Tumi to create a line of luggage, the unlikely marriage was bound to produce something unique. Rather than imagining this as a simple one-off collaboration, Tumi approached the project as their first line with a third-party designer, opening their heritage to Dror's creative force. The brand's commitment to sustainable design and perfectionism was well met with Dror's hands-on, anything-is-possible approach. Working intimately with Tumi's design director Victor Sanz, Dror set out to create 11 pieces that exemplified expansion, adaptability and refinement. On a recent visit to Studio Dror, we talked to Sanz and Dror to learn more about this ambitious undertaking.

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Dror's multidisciplinary background is certainly impressive, but luggage remained a mystery to the designer when the project began, and Sanz stepped in to guide him through the unique dilemmas of luggage design. "Imagine you're flying at 40,000 feet, and the cargo hold gets down to negative 40 degrees, and you land on the tarmac in Dubai and now the cargo hold is this oven," postulates Sanz. "Materials have a tendency to do very strange things when they start going through these temperature ranges."

While Tumi refused to produce anything that didn't match their standards, the field was otherwise open, and Dror was essentially designing for himself as a seasoned traveler and long-time Tumi customer. He would often build in his workshop prototypes that Sanz then turned over to engineers. The thinking seemed to be that if a prototype could be created in Dror's workshop, then Tumi could find a way to make the real thing.

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Acting as cornerstone to the project, the first endeavor was to create an expandable carry-on that could double in size. The sophisticated mechanism uses hinges on all four corners, which collapse to reduce the perimeter of the frame, thus allowing the walls of the bag to fold in on itself. This was a first for Tumi, and the process took years of development and testing to perfect. From a research perspective, the advantage was that this design would anticipate the way people will travel in the future.

"I think that we are all becoming more and more demanding customers," says Dror. "Three years ago we didn't walk around with these crazy devices that can access any application, any data, any information. Not to say that it's good or bad—it's just a reality of things...The transformation is really about the adaptability to our lifestyle."

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While the form and mechanics of the collection vary between bags, the look remains consistent. "There were a lot of decisions that happened in this collection that started from logic and then became an aesthetic element," explains Dror. "One of them is the creases. When you think about a sheet that has no strength, one of the easiest ways to give it strength is by giving it creases. So we gave the bag simple ridges, and we actually fell in love with the aesthetic."

The lines and ridges that run throughout are reminiscent of the QuaDror system, and can be found on everything from polycarbonate shell to the leather handle to the foam liner of the laptop sleeve. The play of light creates unique viewing angles for the entire collection, keeping the look refined yet professional.

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While Tumi is justifiably known for their ballistic nylon fabric, Dror saw room for improvement. "Ballistic nylon is a pretty unbelievable fabric because it always looks fresh, it's super strong, it's really indestructable. But at the end of the day it's nylon and it can feel a bit synthetic," he admits. "We wanted to see how you can make it feel a bit more natural, a bit more organic, and I think that when you're talking about organic, one of the main things is that the thing is a bit random. So we've taken different sizes of yarn and actually created a random order weave from both directions." This process yielded a unique pattern and color that the team immediately embraced.

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The collection also features a custom clasp that is an intuitive and tactile take on the classic option. Each component was hand-machined and calibrated, a necessary expense that guaranties a higher performance than cast metal. The reason for going to these extremes is best summed up by Dror's promise that "We don't flash in the pan". Creating a collection that was entirely new yet built to last a century required custom elements at every level. "Nothing is off the shelf," adds Sanz.

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While the expanding hardcase started the process, some of the smaller, less complicated pieces proved the most troublesome to perfect. Starting with the question "How do you use a dopp kit?", the team developed a travel kit that lies flat for stowage and stands up for use at the sink. Also suitable for placement over towel rack or the back of a chair, the dopp kit features a hidden compartment for passports, just one of the many details that make travel more enjoyable.

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When it came to the backpack, Dror admitted that he loved the practicality but didn't necessarily think the style fit well into professional settings. In the end, utility won out. "These things are extensions of our bodies," says Dror, explaining the need for comfort. "Sometimes you spend your entire day with a backpack and your just like attached to this thing physically." To reconcile the issue, Dror hid the straps and gave users the option to carry the bag as a brief, tote or backpack.

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Other pieces benefitted from the research, but weren't necessarily extremely complicated to create. The travel satchel was meant as an accommodating piece, expandable enough to carry whatever you throw its way. Commenting on the largest of the lot, a four-wheeled suitcase, Dror gushes, "It's like driving a Bentley." The benefit of fusing tech aspects with luxury details is evident throughout, from the hand-placed leather on handles to the specially fabricated plush mesh interior liner.

The Dror for Tumi Collection is available online and in stores.

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