Luggage that tells a story

Every journey tells a story, whether it's a weekend road trip up Pacific Coast Highway or a yearlong, round-the-world jaunt. And Tumi hopes that with its new Santa Monica collection of bags and accessories, your luggage will tell a tale too.

That was what George Esquivel, the Buena Park-based shoemaker who was appointed Tumi's creative director in January 2013, had in mind when he decided to use soft, buttery leather for the assortment of duffels, hobos, totes and other bags. "I've been using the same set of ballistic [nylon] bags [Tumi] gave me when I first came on board, and I did 150 days of traveling last year," Esquivel said. "And they still look almost like they did when I first got them. They're pretty much indestructible. But I'm a romantic, and I love the story of things, and I wasn't seeing the story of travel in those bags."

Make no mistake, these pieces are so solid and well-constructed they'll likely be around to earn frequent-flier miles well into the next century. Inside are Tumi's hard-wearing signature ballistic nylon and a plethora of pocketry. The stitching is sturdy, and there are hidden technical details like magnetic-closure flap pockets.

But the supple leather exteriors — in a range of muted colors that include black, gray and natural leather — make the pieces the equivalent of toteable travel journals, to be etched with tales worn and creased by each passing mile.

FULL COVERAGE: Spring fashion

"Those bags will tell a story," Esquivel said. "The way they age, the way they get beat up, with the oils from your hands or mud that gets splashed. Whatever that is, it will start capturing your travel."

The collection, which retails from $145 to $895 and is available at Tumi boutiques and online at, launched for the 2013 holiday season and since has expanded with new styles and colors for spring 2014. Key pieces include a version of Tumi's best-selling Alpha soft duffel silhouette, several takes on the tote, a hobo bag, a clutch, a handsome flap-closure briefcase, a zip-around wallet and our favorite piece, a zip-top tote Esquivel has dubbed a "helmet bag." He said it's inspired by a vintage fighter pilot's bag he found nearly a decade ago.

"I love this one because it's very utilitarian and military, but by combining it with leather, it makes it feel kind of chic," he said.

Which makes it the kind of thing you'll want to take on that last-minute jaunt into the wild blue yonder. No pilot's license required.

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