The perfect suitcase
In two different moments in history – one far from the other – two personalities, both experts in luxury goods, were asked a specific question: “What is the perfect suitcase?”
The first one answered: “The perfect luggage is not one that doesn’t lack anything, but something in which nothing is useless.” The second answered laconically just “Rimowa”.
I’m sure you know perfectly well what I’m referring to: the first answer came from Coco Chanel, the most iconic priestess of fashion of all time, while the second answer, many years apart, was from Bernard Arnault, the richest man in France and owner of the planet’s largest luxury conglomerate.
Coco Chanel, a practical and revolutionary woman who was a real game changer of style and feminine dressing, advocated chic textile jersey to provide comfort and designed trousers for women to make their daily lives easier. So it’s no surprise that when asked about the perfect suitcase, Coco immediately thought not about the container itself, but what’s being contained, because she cared about clothes and about them being the ‘right’ ones for the destination at the end of the trip.
For her, ‘traveling’ was definitely as important as ‘arriving’ so she always packed wonderful outfits that did not wrinkle during the journey, something for the long beaches of Deauville, or her beautiful La Pausa residence in the French Riviera.
On the other hand, when asked about the perfect suitcase, Bernard Arnault, a pragmatic man who always had a unique business perspective, immediately zoomed in on the container rather than its content. He always knew that the true voyager cared more for the departure than the arrival. But he also knew that with more frequent travels and the democratization of mobility around the world, everyone was eventually going to need a luggage.
The rest was history.
Most people in the world, except suitcase store owners, have only one luggage. Depending on the destination, the question of packing looms large, whether it’s about the best way to do so, or about the long list of things to bring. In fact, most admit that packing is one of the worst things to do before going on a trip. Everyone seems to have a different strategy: some prefer to do it just before heading to the airport; some get a head-start and then end up having no useful clothes for three days before departure. Others spend hours deciding what to bring, while some just want to get it over with as soon as possible.
Traveling for business or pleasure, packing does not mean grabbing whatever out of the wardrobe. There are methods and a strategy. This is a real discipline, and the military is properly trained for this: someone in the army knows how to pack smaller and more comfortable than anyone else. But whether you are a soldier or not, when that Easyjet flight makes you squeeze all your necessities into a tiny space, you definitely have a huge advantage if you know how to pack well.
If you, on the contrary, are completely at a lost about what to do, technology comes in handy nowadays. With the Pack Point app, you can enter your destination, the number of days of the stay, the sports that you will be doing, and it will list out exactly the things that you need to bring.
On the other hand, for those who want to stick with the old way, there are lots of tricks to pack the perfect suitcase, but we always have to keep Bernard Arnault’s words in mind and choose the ‘container’ that works for us. The “forever suitcase” has to check all the boxes: last a lifetime, perfect for any kind of trip, meet any particular needs, and be as durable as possible. It has it all and fits it all.
According to the latest statistics and hundreds of surveys conducted around the world, the modern-day suitcase for the modern-day traveler seems necessarily to have: an impenetrable and indestructible shell, USB ports for charging devices, compression systems that save space inside and 360-degree wheels that allow for quick, smooth and effortless movement.
Nowadays, from the Delsey Helium Ultimate to the Victorinox Mobilizer NXT, and from the Tumi Vapor to the Samsonite Silhouette Sphere, there is a luggage for every type of traveler. Many luxury brands have realized that suitcases are a serious business that blends technology and beauty, fine materials and functionality.
It is not a surprise then that the LVMH Group acquired the German luggage maker Rimowa just a few months ago and decided not only to turn it into a luxury brand, but also into one for rich millennials who want high-performance suitcases that are eventually designed with Off White or come in the “Supreme” red via co-branding: despite the current trend of flying low-cost or traveling low-budget, the suitcase once again plays a key role in the luxury world – and the market share that has yet to be discovered and satisfied is actually enormous.
Depending on how long the flight or vacation is, each of us probably should have at least three sizes of luggages, from a small carry-on trolley to those for intercontinental flights, all of them having to last for a lifetime – which is rather ironic, because the very first luggage in human history was not made to accompany a traveler during his life, but rather during his death.
According to historians, one of the most ancient trunks being discovered was carried by Pharaoh Tutankhamon (14th century B.C.) to his end-of-life journey. “More than 50 caskets and cases with fabrics, cosmetics and a variety of everyday items were found in the Egyptian king’s tomb,” explains historian and exploration writer Paolo Novaresio, who curated the exhibition called “The man with the suitcase. Little history of the baggage.”
“Since then the trunk has become one of the most commonly used luggages. During long voyages by sea or land, the Greeks and Romans loaded them onto their carts. The trunks were made of wood and bronze, and although they were often decorated with ivory and precious metals, functionality was favored over elegance. Like small containers, the square shape and a flat lid made stacking easy”. But it was not until the 1800s that the suitcases really took shape, when they became indispensable for sea travel. “During their cross-oceanic journeys, officials, traders and missionaries who had to sojourn in American or Asian colonies for long periods of time needed to take all kinds of belongings with them: a bed, kitchenware, lots of food and drinks,” says Novaresio.
And where there’s demand, there’s supply: by the mid-19th century the first tour operators went into business, followed by railway development and the advent of the locomotive which greatly facilitated travel and transport. People who once traveled alone in their coaches opted for these larger means of locomotion, and found themselves traveling in the company of other passengers. Groups of people departed together and arrived together: therefore, the need to travel in style arose and the way to distinguish oneself was no longer the choice of transport, but one’s very own luggage.
It was exactly during that chapter in history that one of the largest fashion companies was founded, by Louis Vuitton Malletier in 1821 in Cons-le-Sannier, France. Legend has it that, in 1835, the 14-year-old boy from a modest family traveled 250 kilometers on foot to Paris and began working as an apprentice for a well-known suitcase maker of that time.
Vuitton chose his vocation carefully: right around that time, France inaugurated its first railway; a European ship made the world’s first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean; aristocrats wore pompous, sumptuous and voluminous clothes; trunks were made to measure with poplar wood. In 1857, Vuitton changed the game and designed the easily transportable Trianon trunk, with a flat top and reinforced metal corners and, inside, with shelves and compartments for storing clothes and accessories. Thanks to this beautiful trunk, modern travel was born.
That same period in Paris witnessed the rise of another famous suitcase maker: Goyard. It began in 1853 when François Goyard began to package and hand-finish handbags, trunks and small leather goods. Like many brands in the ultra-luxury sector, the maison with the iconic “Goyard-Chevron” monogram boasts many innovations, one of which is the Malle Bureau trunk patented in 1931 that can turn into a desk.
Last but not less important than the two brands mentioned is Moynat. The Parisian maison’s long and glorious history began when two families – Pauline Moynat and the Coulembiers, both active in the travel leather goods business, met and set up its first workshop in the French capital in 1849. High-level manufacturing and innovation blending artisanal knowledge that evolved with the times and transportation revolution, Moynat created many new products over the years. One of them was in fact the very famous and much-copied Moynat Trunk. Lightweight, functional and with a concave base, each and every one of them collectible and even coveted as a piece of furnishing. A major player at many worldwide trade shows, Moynat won as many awards in Paris as it did in Italy, and obtained an honor at the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris in 1925 for the luggages and trunks specially designed for motorists.
Following the end of World War I, the production and popularity of automobiles had increased, thanks to the assembly line model introduced by Henry Ford in US. In Italy, Fiat became the third largest company, while more and more Italians and Europeans started travelling by car. Traditional trunks had therefore to adapt accordingly, becoming smaller and lighter, and the true invention of the 20th century emerged: the trolley. Only in 1988, the brilliant idea of adding wheels to a suitcase was patented by former American pilot Robert Plath. Ever since, the trolley has been made in every imaginable color and material.
In the light of this invention, I can’t help smiling at the thought of using a time machine and make the inventor of the first ever suitcase Pharaoh Tutankhamum start his eternal sleep with a trolley full of papyri.
The rise and fall of crowdfunding
With its promise to revolutionize blood tests, the start-up Theranos was hailed as a Steve Jobs of biotechnology. However, Elizabeth Holmes is risking up to 20 years of imprisonment for fraud in a scandal that has woken up Silicon Valley, teeming with spontaneous start-ups that seek funding and rich investors.
With a very aggressive crowdfunding initiative, Elizabeth Holmes wanted to democratize blood tests with a non-specific, so-called ‘patented’ method of analysis. As the investors never properly investigated what it was, Elizabeth Holmes went on for a long time using this patent – which neither worked nor was certified in any way – as the basis of her funding campaign, and took advantage of the weaknesses in the US crowdfunding system to commit fraud on investors, politicians, doctors and patients.
But what is exactly crowdfunding?
An increasingly popular method of obtaining financial participation when funding is insufficient for a project, crowdfunding as a term comes from crowdsourcing – the collective development of a product. The wide range of purposes for collective financing can include providing help in the event of humanitarian tragedies, supporting the arts and cultural heritage, or scientific research.
First started in Australia and the U.S., crowdfunding is when someone who promotes an economic, social, cultural or beneficial initiative asks any sum of money from the general public (thus ‘crowd’) through an internet website (a portal or platform) to support an announced project (thus ‘funding’). Crowdfunding is an important source of finance every year for half a million European projects, many of them are luxury start-ups which would otherwise never see the light of day. About a billion euro was collected in Europe alone in 2017. Exponential growth is predicted for the near future, at least millions of billions until 2020. To unleash the internet’s full potential, crowdfunding seens to have everything going for it.
Different crowdfunding models serve various purposes for which the financial resources are collected, or the renumeration expected from the lenders on the web. Let’s take a look.
– Donation based crowdfunding raises funds for non-profit initiatives;
– Reward based crowdfunding offers a non-monetary compensation, like an award or non-materialistic recognition such as a public acknowledgement by the newly formed company on its website;
– Lending based crowdfunding entails micro-lending to individuals or companies;
– Equity based crowdfunding allows participation in the company’s share capital – currently the only regulated crowdfunding model in Italy
Within the reward and donation-based models, each platform can then adopt a keep-it-all or all-or-nothing approach.
All-or-nothing gives the funds to the project and the success fee to the platform only if the goal is met.
Keep-it-all provides the project with whatever amount of fund that is being raised, even if the goal is not met. In this case, the success fee for the platform is more than the all-or-nothing approach.
The most well-known platforms, such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, proposed many types of projects and many of them are in the electronics area, from the Internet of Things to design (furniture, office or home furnishings). The intelligence company TAB launched an index for gauging the financial health of the global crowdfunding industry: today, the Crowdfunding and Marketplace Finance Index is the main barometer in alternative finance. Every month, the new index analyzes more than 4800 platforms around the world to estimate the status of the global crowdfunding market through three key factors:
– Scale: the entire sector’s market volume, the main factor that influences its health;
– Efficiency: the average funding rate includes the amount disbursed by the platforms per unit of time, efficiency of resource allocation and market information:
– Transparency: the level of information dissemination by the platforms.
In the past two to three years, crowdfunding witnessed an explosion of luxury initiatives which range from apparel to more precious items such as watches. Many little ideas have been able to grow into large projects thanks to this form of collective financing that allowed them to start a business without having to turn to bank financing (which is often simply unavailable to new businesses).
Filippo Loreti, a luxury watch brand with accessible prices that collected 1.4 million euro – twice! – is definitely one of the success stories. Founded in 2014, the brand received arounf 927.000 euro during its first campaign on Kickstarter last year, breaking every record in financing volume. This year, Filippo Loreti did it again: about 250,000 euro were raised in the first 24 hours alone, and now the brand is aiming to reach 3 million euro by mid-December 2018.
For this second round of crowdfunding, the number of investors have surpassed 5,900, each contributing an average of 247 euro. The minimal donation in order to receive a Filippo Loreti watch is 139 euro. The concept is as interesting as it is simple: the money raised goes to developing and producing the pre-ordered watches of new collections and the brand promises to deliver these luxury watches – which usually cost thousands of dollars in boutiques – at a retail price of less than 200 dollars.
However, creating the recipe to crowdfunding success for something like cultural heritage is hard work: it’d be easier to make a list of what to avoid to prevent failure (or fraud like Elizabeth Holmes).Equity campaigners have in fact to work hard both on and offline not only to explain the scope of the project to financial operators and underwriters, but also convince them to proceed with discreet ease within a high-risk investment environment, which depends on the wellbeing of the business itself.
One of the countries that has reacted quickly to crowdfunding development is without doubt China. In 2017 alone, nearly 50,000 projects – half of which linked to the fashion and luxury industries in general – received 1.7 billion dollars from a total of 238 Chinese crowdfunding platforms, a 400% increase from the previous year. The first half of 2018 witnessed a sudden rise and by June it has already achieved 92% of what was collected in 2017. Up to 2.24 billion dollars are expected (from close to 400 platforms) this year. Some of the largest platforms include DemoHour, AngelCrunch (equity), Dajiatou (equity), Yule Bao (Alibaba’s initiative dedicated to cinema), and Dreamore.
Unlike European startups in fashion and design, Chinese investors maintain a certain level of distrust of mere ideas and prefer products that have already been designed. They use crowdfunding platforms as pre-sale channels where they can sell the items before going into production, thus sharing both cost and risk. Though China has approached crowdfunding so aggressively, Chinese investors are wary of using this form of financing on entrepreneurial ideas that are still in their infancy, due to the country’s lack of intellectual property protection – which means an idea can get stolen – and due to a cultural stigma against failure, or worse, bankruptcy and disgrace in the public eye.
On the other hand, functioning platforms that develop fashion and luxury projects with crowdfunding are thriving in the Old World. The tradeoff? In place of instant gratification, the customers get involved in the design process. Not only do they get what they like, but also support the talent whom they believe in: in short, Crowdfunding is really transforming the fashion business.
During my research of this strange yet wonderful world, I found these extremely interesting platforms which I recommend to young designers looking for funds: Born, Teespring, The Petite Shop, I am a la Mode and OutofX allow the public to support emerging fashion brands directly through crowdfunding, in addition to crowdsourcing which lets individuals voice their opinion about a certain design or designers, or provide the artists and community with positive feedback.
But there are two in particular that caught my attention:
“Before the Label” is a platform for independent designers to test-run their designs. After getting approval to showcase on the website, the designers can list their concepts in campaigns that run from two weeks to two months. The public decides on its favorites – which means it directly influences what gets made and what doesn’t. Production follows the end of a successful campaign and the time this production takes depends on the design of accessories, apparel, etc. What’s different is that rather than rewarding the backers with a thank you card or a small gift from the website, which is what Kickstarter does, Before the Label sends the backers the actual product of the design being supported. Rather than investing in something that might never get produced, the backers get a real product once the minimum goal is reached. In a way, supporting a design by an emerging talent is like pre-buying exactly what is desired. This means that by the time the designers are poised to launch a commercial campaign, they already have a clientele base.
An innovative menswear brand, Gustin gets crowdfunding for all of its designs. If one of them gets enough support, it gets produced. Though it takes about two weeks to promote the designs and then six to eight weeks to produce, what the customer gets is first of all, something that he knows he loves – obviously a limited edition – and also high-quality, made in USA product made with outstanding Italian and Japanese textiles. Since every item is pre-ordered, there is no wastage in Gustin’s production and there is no need for the brand keep a certain stock, hoping that it gets purchased. All this means that Gustin can offer competitive prices for each and every item that gets produced and shipped – at high quality, in the exact amount ordered, to the customers who already know that they’ll love it.
In light of the above, it would seem that this new way of collecting funds to make one’s dream come true is finally the cure to everything, especially when young designers have to find banks for financial backing. In almost all cases, we face the birth of a company by very determined enthusiasts who feel that they can galvanize everyone in the pursuit of their success, before anything comes to fruition. But the adrenaline rush can make them get caught up in the rise towards glory and wealth: the fall though is definitely no fun, which happened to Elizabeth Holmes, as it can happen to anyone.