MILAN — Luxury luggage brand Globe-Trotter celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, and while it is staying true to its handcrafted, traditional techniques, it has evolved its production with a number of co-branded collections (the latest with Tyler the Creator and his Golf le Fleur label), is expanding its global reach and is building its digital business.
This new phase is taking place under a new owner and was kicked off just as the COVID-19 pandemic started to spread globally, when Oakley Capital Group, founded by Peter Dubens, took over Globe-Trotter in March 2020.
Vicente Castellano, executive chairman of Globe-Trotter and operating partner, was not deterred by the impact of the health emergency and decided to focus on the brand’s original plans and priorities. These included developing a digital platform, creating Globe-Trotter’s first four-wheel trolley and forming a team “to move the company in a direction that would reflect our ambition,” said Castellano during an interview with WWD at the new Milan showroom that opened at the end of last year. In 2019 Castellano led Oakley Capital Group’s investment in Alessi and the sprawling and sleek space also includes products from the Italian high-end design brand. The fund in 2014 also invested in North Sails.
“Dubens is an entrepreneur, he does not hail from investment banking, which makes Oakley special. Oakley flanks the brands to bring them to the next level,” said Castellano, noting that both Globe-Trotter and Alessi were “brands bigger than their business, which was in line with Dubens’ strategy.”
Oakley bought Globe-Trotter from entrepreneur Toshiyasu Takubo, who had developed the brand in Japan, and who retains a minority stake in the company.
Castellano joined Oakley in 2017 after working as managing director at Hackett London from 2006 to 2017, developing the brand globally and growing its business ninefold. Prior to this, he was licensees and international director for Pepe Jeans London and director at Coach Europe JV.
Castellano touted the uniqueness of Globe-Trotter. Each product is made with the exclusive Vulcanised Fibreboard, the result of an artisanal process conceived in 1859 by Thomas Taylor and patented in 1902. Durable and resistant, it is composed of 14 layers of compressed recycled paper, cotton and wood pulp sourced from sustainable forests.
Extremely light, sturdy and durable the suitcases are practical, and each is finished with contrasting leather accents and brass hardware.
Globe-Trotter has been favored by the likes of Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth, as well as, more recently, David Beckham, Angelina Jolie, Kate Moss and Daniel Craig.
The manufacturing process remains one of the company’s most closely guarded secrets and the suitcases are still made with the same techniques, machinery and materials as a century ago in its headquarters in Hertfordshire, England.
“One of the main reasons I really think that Globe-Trotter is unique is because when you have a product that doesn’t need a logo or branding but is highly recognizable, it’s a big achievement and there are very few brands like that,” Castellano said. “There’s no need to shout about it.”
What also “makes it unique,” he continued, is that it is “a product for life, we repair luggage that sometimes has been used for 50 years, and usually it’s the locks that need to be updated or the handles in leather that look tired, but not the case itself.” Castellano also noted that owners “don’t want to lose the patina, these are cases that age really well.”
Takubo significantly developed Globe-Trotter in Japan, which remains the biggest market for the brand, accounting for 60 of sales. When Oakley took over, “the company was solid and the brand was well-curated, very clean and uncompromised, poised for growth. It just needed to be expanded in other markets, which had never been a real priority before,” explained Castellano.
While he declined to provide sales figures or the amount of the investment in the acquisition of the brand, Castellano said Oakley initially channeled 10 million euros in the development of the brand. Globe-Trotter’s fiscal year ends at the end of March and he did, however, say he is aiming for revenues in March 2023 to be up 20 percent compared to the time of the acquisition, barring a deterioration of the war and of the pandemic.
Castellano’s digital push has been successful, as the online channel in this fiscal year will account for 25 percent of sales.
In particular, U.S. sales online have grown 400 percent and the company is planning to open a physical store in Los Angeles in May on Melrose Place. Sales in the U.S. were driven forward by the brand’s new product development, from the four-wheel luggage to the watch cases, as well as the collaborations including those with the James Bond movies with Eon Films, and with Golf le Fleur. Upcoming collaborations for 2022 include with Casablanca, after Globe-Trotter was featured in the brand’s fall 2022 Paris show.
The company has stores in Tokyo, Hong Kong and London, inside Burlington Arcade.
In addition, the brand is present in six locations in the Isetan, Hankyu and Mitsukoshi department stores in Japan.
Globe-Trotter has around 50 wholesale accounts with key partners Mr Porter for online, Browns Fashion and Matches in London, Loden Frey in Munich and Rinascente in Milan.
The pandemic forced Castellano to “be more agile and creative,” expanding the brand’s product range and categories — less travel-driven — sooner than planned, introducing watch cases, smaller cases and clutches, for example.
Also, Globe-Trotter used to produce for several luxury brands, from Gucci and Tiffany to Berluti and Hermès, but going forward, these collaborations are more of the co-branding kind.
The collection with Golf Le Fleur was very successful, said Castellano. So much so that a new capsule is expected later this year. “It was a real joy to work with Tyler the Creator, he is super, super, super passionate, he loves the brand and was generous trying to make it happen. He’s done a great job.”
By the end of the year, the company plans to launch a new product, but Castellano was mum about the details, saying, however, it is key to “upgrade and improve, while keeping the brand’s core essence.”
For 2022, Globe-Trotter introduced gray and caramel color combinations into its Centenary collection, which is a return for the hues, discovered in the archives from the early days of the company’s history.
Prices range from 895 pounds for a miniature case to 1,295 pounds for an attaché case or 1,495 pounds for a carry- on four-wheel to 2,095 pounds for a large four-wheel check-in case.