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As a consumer, it’s an amazing time to be alive. The proliferation of the direct-to-consumer business model means there are more options than ever for nearly everything you buy, from sneakers to activewear to patio furniture. These companies have disrupted the stranglehold of larger corporations in various ways: more transparent business practices, better customer service and cheaper prices — and all without sacrificing quality.
Today, we’re going to take a look at how this new breed of web-based company has taken over one specific industry: luggage. No longer do the likes of Tumi and Samsonite have the market cornered, with upstart brands from all over jockeying to get their share of it.
The one you’re probably most familiar with is Away, one of the linchpins of the DTC movement alongside the likes of Warby Parker, Harry’s and Casper. They’ve halved the price of more traditional luxury luggage retailers while building a brand that resonates with people who consider themselves travelers. Away doesn’t just sell bags that hold your belongings — they sell a dream that you, like the thousands of influencers who tote their carry-ons, might someday live a charmed life on the road.
But Away isn’t the only game in town.
With the global luggage market estimated to be valued at over $21 billion by 2020, there’s plenty of room for further “disruption.” Below, you’ll find the 13 new luggage companies — all of which were founded in the last decade — that we love best.
Year Launch: 2015
The Skinny: As mentioned before, Away is the pioneer in the direct-to-consumer, new school luggage market, with over $100m in funding to date. They are committed to making simple yet practical pieces of luggage and above all, promoting the lifestyle aspect that comes with frequent travel, as evidenced by Here Magazine, the physical and digital mag they launched in 2017 to tell travel stories from every corner of the globe.
Favorite Model: The Bigger Carry-On is the model you’re probably most familiar with. It features an incredibly durable polycarbonate shell, 360º spinning wheels, an interior compression system and a TSA-approved removable battery. They come in four different sizes, and also offer weekender duffels that are high quality as well.
Year Launch: 2016
The Skinny: Paravel was started with the goal of differentiating itself from all the typical black, navy and grey bags you see on the carousel. Their bags are colorful and jaunty without looking tacky. They’re also made from super sturdy cotton canvas and nylon, making them incredibly water resistant and lightweight.
Favorite Model: The Main Line Duffel is made from the aforementioned cotton canvas, which is water and spill resistant. It has two interior zip pockets for your internal separation needs, as well as a two-way lockable zipper. They also make this incredible backpack that folds down into a small six-inch square.
Year Launch: 2016
The Skinny: Solgaard was a Kickstarter darling and makes a handful of kickass travel products that are designed to optimize space and also prevent theft. They’re also currently transitioning to using exclusively recycled ocean plastics. Not a bad conversation starter.
Favorite Model: The Carry-On Closet 2.0 is a hard-shelled carry-on with 360º spinning wheels and USB ports. However, this one comes with an internal shelving system that compresses clothes and makes them easier to find, essentially turning into an extensible closet on wheels.
Year Launch: 2014
The Skinny: Bennet Winch launched in jolly old England with the goal of using the finest materials to hand raft bags that are both useful and attractive on the arm. They’re only available online and in a select few luxury stockists across the globe. They also offer a Lifetime Promise: it’s basically a lifetime guarantee that insures anything short of putting your bag through a wood chipper.
Favorite Model: The Leather Holdall is a garment bag and weekender in one (well really, in two separate parts that combine to make one). The suit carrier is constructed from Tuscan leather, while the duffel is made from super sturdy but lightweight canvas twill with solid brass hardware. It ain’t cheap, but it is glorious.
Year Launch: 2015
The Skinny: Another Kickstarter success story, G-Ro raised more than $4 million on the crowdfunding site based mainly on one premise: the wheels are too damn small on other roller bags. Apparently a lot of people agree. They designed these bags to be rugged, trusty stewards that can handle any and all terrain.
Favorite Model: The Carry-On Classic has this big honkin’ wheel to help you easily go up and down stairs, across uneven surfaces and into Mordor, presumably. It sports a large number of external pockets for quick and easy access to personal effects while traveling. It’s also got, you guessed it, a built-in, removable power bank for easy phone charging. If you want to go extra fancy, they have a carbon fiber version as well.
Year Launch: 2011
The Skinny: Hook & Albert pride themselves on their bags being at the intersection of form and function. They make their bags from leather and other high-quality, water-resistant fabrics. They’re also relatively affordable given their quality and attention to detail.
Favorite Model: It’s got to be the Leather Garment Weekender. Made from top-grain pebbled leather, it can easily accommodate two-suits and two pairs of shoes with plenty of room on the inside for additional clothing once constructed. It also comes in a canvas version that is $200 cheaper.
Year Launch: 2015
The Skinny: Yet another company that started via Kickstarter (if you’re looking to start a bag company, you know where to begin). Started by brothers, Wandrd set out to create a phenomenal travel camera bag.
Favorite Model: The Hexad Access Duffel has a clamshell opening and three separate internal compartments for better organization. It also features a side camera opening for easy access, meaning you can get to your camera without having to go through the rest of your bag. Plus: removable backpack straps and weather-resistant material.
Year Launch: 2016
The Skinny: Founded by Tumi and Louis Vuitton alums, Arlo Skye prides itself on using premium materials such as aircraft-grade aluminum alloy and full-grain European leather among other things.
Favorite Model: The Aluminum Carry-On Max. While it does come in polycarbonate, we recommend the aluminum version. Instead of a zipper, it features two combination locks and the same charging device, internal compression system and anti-microbial interior lining.
Year Launch: 2014
The Skinny: This brand is all about packable adventure gear. Everything they make can be condensed into a tiny pouch, allowing you to pack an extra bag without sacrificing any space.
Favorite Model: The 30L Cordura Transit Packable Duffel packs down to the size of a soda can for easy storage. Despite the packability, it’s incredibly durable thanks to waterproof and puncture-resistant ripstop nylon construction. And they’re crazy affordable, at just $50.
Year Launch: 2017
The Skinny: Originally started as a (surprise) crowdfunding campaign to recreate famed industrial designer Malcolm Fontier’s getaway bag. They’re committed to sustainably created products and also ship products using zero plastic.
Favorite Model: They currently only have one model, The Pakt One. It’s an all in one carry-on duffel featuring a huge range of flexibility thanks to its compartmentalization.
Year Launch: 2013
The Skinny: Yup, Kickstarter again. These bags launched when the founder stumbled upon his grandfather’s WWII map case. All their bags are designed with that era in mind.
Favorite Model: The Gladstone, which is tanned and finished in Italy. It looks like something a gentleman in a tweed jacket and flat cap would bring along on a cross-country rail journey.
Year Launch: 2009
The Skinny: This company started when the founder decided he was tired of making leather guitar straps in Mexico. Now he makes leather bags that develop a distinctive patina and character over time.
Favorite Model: The Military Duffel is a little different than most other bags on this list, which is why we like it so much. It’s a top-loading bag with a foldable closure and a single, large-format shoulder strap.
Year Launch: 2018
The Skinny: Launched by a pair of Tumi alums, Roam is a collection of bags and packs that can be fully customized (in color, not design). Favorite Model: The Jaunt XL is a slightly wider carry-on. While it’s not exactly cheap, everything is of the highest quality, and again, you can choose whatever colors you want. No more waiting for you boring black bag at the baggage claim.
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