WWD.com/fashion-news/fashion-features/getting-a-handle-on-baggage-design-534128/

PARIS — It is impossible to have too much baggage these days. That’s because after years of somber colors and humdrum design, luggage is becoming bright, beautiful — and fun.

“Overall, there is a fair amount of novelty being brought to the market in an attempt to stir more interest into the category, which historically has not had a lot of emotion,” said Laurence Franklin, chief executive officer of Tumi, based in South Plainfield, N.J. New colors, fabrics, shapes and designs, plus technological innovations, are key to making people dream, he said.

Tumi went into overdrive for its new line, created with the Italian motorcycle company Ducati. The slick-looking, streamlined Ducati collection includes rolling suitcases with handles that can easily be swiveled to the left or right. “It’s a comfort function,” explained Franklin.

Also in the Ducati line is a compact backpack with an exterior pocket that can be expanded dramatically — thanks to a patent-pending system — to fit a motorcycle helmet or bicycle helmet.

Tumi’s zipperless system, introduced last year, was conceived with versatility in mind. Small push-buttons were developed for enlarging the cases’ frames.

Making travel easier is the philosophy at Delsey Luggage Inc., of Elkridge, Md. This August, the company will launch a four-wheel suitcase system under its Helium Breeze brand, then roll out (literally) the technology to its other Helium collections.

Four-wheelers have long been a hot commodity in Japan, but only recently have gained momentum in the U.S. According to David Beiber, president and ceo of Delsey, what will set this new model apart is that the four wheels will not work independently of one another. All too often, suitcases with wheels can go the way of supermarket carts — each wheel has a different direction in mind. Delsey’s four wheels will be attached by lightweight tubes made of aircraft aluminum.

“We don’t have to do all the reinforcing,” he said, explaining that adds extra pounds — a real hassle when more weight means more dollars spent at check-in counters these days. “Four wheels are very important. One’s arms and shoulders never get the brunt of the weight.”

This story first appeared in the May 26, 2006 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

A new collection for Mandarina Duck, of Cadriano, Italy, was inspired by the Mini car. The MD for Mini line has brightly colored pieces, including a trolley, city bag, travel bag and backpack, each designed to fit into the tiny, sporty vehicle. There’s even a CD holder in the mix.

Mandarina Duck is going designer, too. As reported, it has just announced a collaboration with Yohji Yamamoto.

Of course, not all luggage need to be solely practical. Delsey is working on a new wheel that should hit the market around November. Simply eye candy for the consumer, its center hub continues to spin even after the wheel hub doesn’t, just like wheel covers on hot cars.

“We’ll be putting them on more youthful bags, for consumers under 40,” said Beiber. “I think people look for design. And newness sells.”