What lies ahead in the world of luxury travel and lifestyle?

In this edition of ‘How to Succeed,’ we speak to Victor Sanz — Creative Director at TUMI– about his passion for design, predictions on post-pandemic travel, and the vision behind TUMI’S new virtual store concept.

Victor Sanz’s interest in Art and Design began from an early age, first training in painting, drawing and sculpting, his love for classical expression offered him a glimpse into the world of fine art. His passion led him to study at Pratt Institute in New York, where he majored in Industrial Design and graduated top of his class. Joining TUMI in 2003, Victor Sanz was appointed Creative Director in 2016, continuing to drive the brand’s vision forward through his innovative product design, recently expanding into new and exciting categories including outerwear, electronics, fragrance and eyewear.

Victor’s ability to bring a multi-disciplinary approach to the field is showcased in his expert and innovative designs at TUMI. His unique style bridges the gap between art, design, and fashion, and his career has seen him paving the the way for luxury travel lifestyle products, collaborating with the likes of Russell Westbrook, McLaren, Dror, and Johnnie Walker. Despite a global pandemic that has crippled the travel industry, Victor Sanz continues to innovate, catering for the needs of the modern customer and adapting to road bumps along the way. Eager to learn more, we spoke to Victor about his passion and inspiration behind pursuing the arts, the challenges faced as the world navigates a ‘new normal’, and what’s next for TUMI.

Tell us a little bit about your background. How did your passion for art and design pave your career path? Was there a specific moment that inspired you?

I was interested in the arts from a very young age and it has been a passion and pursuit of mine ever since. I had always wanted to be a sculptor because I loved how you can manipulate material to create forms and transport people to new places. There was one moment when I was young that stands out in my mind, where an industrial designer had brought in some of their work to show us. I clearly remember that he showed a concept bicycle, and I was blown away at how one could take something so sculptural and transform it into something that was manufactured. That’s what really got me hooked on a path to create functional art as well as a dialogue between people and the products that they use.

Who is one person who has been instrumental in your success?

One person that was definitely instrumental in my success was my father. He was a chef and a creator in his own right. I remember his unwavering support for the passion that I had for creating and producing concepts. Even if he didn’t understand them, he always looked at them with fresh eyes and push me further and further.

To you, what’s the most important aspect, trait or criteria for someone to succeed in the world of product design?

For me, one of the most important things is for the individual that is the creator to really understand who will be interacting with their design, not just design for design’s sake. It’s also critical to look at how that product is going to impact the world. We have a responsibility as designers and product creators to ensure the longevity of the designs and products we create because they will be part of the world that we’re living in for many, many years

What did you wish you knew at the start of your career that you know now? What words of advice would you want to give your younger self?

One of the things I wish I could’ve realised as a younger designer that I know now is the path of design is not always a straight one. There are many complications in designing and with design there’s more to the creation than just pen to paper. There are many levels, layers and people involved to create one piece. Having an in-depth understanding of all those individuals and how they interact with the development is crucial to success. This takes time to understand.

What do you do or where do you go to make sure you stay productive and creative?

In the past, I found much of my inspiration and creativity along my travels. Now that the world has shifted and travel has become a much smaller portion of my world, I’m finding creativity by connecting with individuals who are doing interesting things and are pushing the boundaries of their own industries.

The speed at which the world has digitised and progressed in showcasing what individuals are doing has also greatly interested me. It enabled me to easily interact with artists, musicians, architects, and other creatives across the globe to keep the ideas flowing.

In the course of your career, describe one of the toughest or most challenging experiences you’ve been through. What was the most valuable thing you learned?

This past year has been exceptionally tough. It was a complete upending of our process for design and development. In the past we traveled to go and meet with manufacturers and meet with material suppliers who create the parts needed for our products. This year we had to completely change the process since we were no longer able to meet face-to-face. Everything had to be done digitally or over virtual calls. Instead of seeing products and materials in person, they had to be shipped to various individuals.

This new way of creating allowed us to trust one another more. It allowed individuals to express their opinions more freely. It also allowed us to work very efficiently and make decisions very quickly. It made me realise that meeting face-to-face carries great value as does interacting with individuals within their own environments and it should never be taken for granted.

How has the travel luggage market changed over the past decade and how do you cater for new demands?

Over the past decade, travel has shifted in so many ways. It has become less glamorous and more democratic. We were traveling more than ever as a human race and we were looking at travel as a necessity to do business. With Covid hitting, the marketplace has definitely reset what travel means to all of us. Travel now will slowly shift back into leisure and enjoyment. I’m hoping people will take pause during their travels to enjoy the environment they are in and the people with whom they are traveling. I also hope they embrace the culture and beauty of the destinations they go to. I see travel shifting from long-haul to more domestic where people will come to enjoy their own home countries more and more.

What does an ‘average’ work day look like for you?

My workday definitely shifts depending on which team I am meeting with. We may be focusing on marketing for our next big collaboration or maybe I’m working with the design team in the studio refining the season’s collection. My day is always filled with a mixture of both creative and business with my mind and hands always moving and meeting with my partners to push the brand forward.

What do you think are the biggest challenges today when it comes to designing travel accessories? 

The biggest challenge today with designing travel accessories is understanding how people will be traveling within the next 12 months. We are reevaluating what will become the necessities of the modern traveler and to truly understand what essentials they will need. Additionally, technology is playing a huge role in what travel will look like.

These are obviously challenging times for a travel brand. How do you adapt in times where travel is so difficult?

TUMI has always been customer-centric and perfecting the journey. We see ourselves as a brand that goes beyond just travel; we focus on the lifestyles of our customers and create the best tools for them to perform at their highest. We continue to look beyond the bag and understand their needs and how to bring those parts to life.

With travel at a standstill, how can we creatively use and invest in luggage? 

If you have luggage that you truly love, the best thing you can do is continue to use it—even if it is for something different than its intended purpose. I’ve used mine to store shoes, blankets and even clothing that I will put away for the following season. Additionally, it’s always great to plan short trips just to give your luggage a quick stretch of the legs.

Do you think the pandemic will force people to change how they travel? If so, how?

Of course. Travel will look different after the pandemic as people continue to protect themselves more and more. I believe airlines will have new restrictions and guidelines to help protect them and the passengers. I also feel the way people perceive travel will change. They will be looking more for the experience in the leisure aspect of travel and the connection of family and community.

Where’s next on your bucket-list?

Next on my list is a visit to the United States National Parks. I have yet to visit them and what a great opportunity now to go and explore.

What do you predict will be the next big travel trend?

I feel the next travel trend is people traveling for leisure and adventure again. Additionally, I think domestic travel will pick up where people will be doing road trips to visit new destinations within their own countries.

Can you share your top packing tips with us?

Lay everything out that you think that you will need for your trip and then remove 50 percent of it. That will get you closer to what you really need for your trip and always refine the amount that you bring with you. Keep your color palette simple with your clothing and always prepare for that unexpected last-minute shift in plans.

Can you tell us more about TUMI’s new virtual store concept? 

The Virtual Store was our first step forward in answering the needs of the modern customer wanting more from the brand. For TUMI, our customers are global. They understand technology and they are looking for experiences beyond just the products that we offer, and this is just the first step in what we’re bringing forward.

Parting words of wisdom for those looking to get into the industry?

For anyone looking to get into the industry, I would tell them to prepare to work hard. It’s not the same as in a world of social media where there are no rainy days and everything is painted as perfect and easy. It all comes from hard work and it all comes with a team—rarely is it done alone.

This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Hong Kong

Lexi Davey
Managing Editor
A typical ‘third culture’ kid, Lexi spent the best part of her life between Hong Kong and Malaysia. A self-confessed heliophile with a thirst for travel and adventure, she moved home to foster a career in digital editing and lifestyle copywriting. Loves include: commas, nervous laughter and her rescue pup, Wella