Appeared In
Special Issue
WWDStyle issue 02/07/2011

In the past few years, Tumi has added belts, outerwear and electronics (speakers, phone chargers) to its roster. If it’s not already obvious, the company is pushing a new message: There’s more to Tumi than suitcases. It’s fitting, then, that the firm is introducing eyewear for spring.

This story first appeared in the February 7, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“We’re moving the company forward as more of a lifestyle brand,” said Alan Krantzler, senior vice president of brand management and merchandising. “Sunglasses were a natural fit and progression.”

The Tumi approach to glasses, however, puts the emphasis on technology. The firm partnered with German manufacturer Carl Zeiss — it creates lenses for microscopes, cameras and planetariums — for a custom Tumi ZR3 CR-39 polarized lens that’s coated to repel dirt, dust, oil and water. “This goes back to the Tumi DNA,” Krantzler said, “which is about functionality and technical innovation.”

The debut collection, retailing from $215 to $265, was inspired by bridges and is named Traverso, which is a take on the Italian term attraversare, “to cross.” It’s a play on words, Krantzler explains. “The bridge is the ultimate expression of form and function, but there’s also the bridge of your sunglasses on your nose,” he said.

Travel connotations, obviously core to the Tumi brand, are also implicit, so each of the 13 styles is christened after a different bridge around the world. The Akinada, for example, is made from an ultralight molded aluminum and named for a suspension bridge in Hiroshima, Japan, while the Brooklyn features acid-etching patterns on a stainless-steel frame.

Other design details were borrowed from Tumi’s luggage, including accents shaped like zipper pulls as well as rubber overmolds on the temples. “We use that on [suitcase] handles,” said Krantzler of the latter, “so they’re easy to grip on a wheel-away. We’re just taking elements from our core categories and applying them to the sunglasses.”

Even the cases for the new sunglasses focus on function. Made from the same ballistic nylon used on most of the company’s luggage, the cases fold completely flat. “We thought that was a great idea for travelers,” Krantzler says. “People are looking to make their lives simpler and minimize what they carry.”

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