George Esquivel is not a new name in fashion having launched his own shoe label 20 years ago. But last year he was named Creative Director of TUMI luggage and accessories. TUMI, started in 1975, has a long history of luxury travel products and Esquivel brings his artisanal touch to the handcrafted leather accessories and suitcases. Having personally carried the TUMI brand himself for years, Esquivel was well-versed in the quality materials and performance of TUMI products.
How did you join the TUMI team?
I was first approached by TUMI to collaborate by the design and merchandise team, the conversation then started to move into what we could do beyond a collaboration. As it turned out during this process the CEO had met with Vogue to discuss who they might think would be a good fit for TUMI as creative director, and here I am today.
What does your new role entail?
One of the main goals in my role is for TUMI to continue to capture more of the next generation of travelers and business people. In order to do that, I need to be involved in all aspects of the brand. I help set seasonal product direction, review product concepts and work with design to develop new collections. I also work on marketing communications.
We’re you surprised TUMI wanted to bring in a fashion designer to lead?
TUMI and I both share a passion for quality, craftsmanship and design, so in actuality I think we are a very organic and natural fit. As a creative director my job is not to make TUMI a fashion brand but to further push and evolve the design and aesthetics of the brand.
How do you balance the fashion and function of the new pieces?
I like to stay away from the word “fashion” for me the key word would be aesthetics. My focus is to marry TUMI’s superior function and technology with more elevated aesthetics. Marrying those elements is really not very difficult because we are starting from a point of top quality and standards.
Are there similarities between a well-made piece of luggage and a custom shoe?
When you have good design, high quality materials and a focus on craftsmanship, the final product will always be special and that is the goal at TUMI and my own brand.
What sort of artisanal signatures are you taking from shoemaking and applying to luggage?
In addition to the beautiful leathers that we are starting to implement more into our bags and luggage, one aspect that I’m passionate about is customization. TUMI has always had their signature monogram patch, but we’ve recently introduce the ‘TUMI Accents’ collection, which allows the buyer to choose different colors to customize their bag.
Do you travel more or less now with two jobs?
I definitely travel more as Esquivel is headquartered in California and TUMI is in New York. I fly to New York at least once a month and with TUMI’s global presence, I am in Hong Kong, London, and Paris quite often.
Where is your favorite place to travel?
My favorite city to visit is Paris. They have the amazing galleries, food and fashion. You can’t go wrong!
What’s your go-to piece from the new collection?
My favorite piece from the new collection is the Bashford Duffel from the Santa Monica collection – it is the perfect weekender. It is sophisticated, stylish and still fits everything you need for a short trip.
I feel like I don’t have the right luggage – what are a few pieces everyone should own?
With respect to luggage, I love the Alpha 2 collection, which comes in a variety of sizes and also has the option to customize your bag with colorful accents so that you always know which is yours on the carousel. In addition to Alpha 2, the Just in Case Tote packs into itself so that you have an extra bag if you shop too much while traveling. Also, I would recommend the packing cubes, they are essential and have certainly made me a much more efficient packer!