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How to buy luxury: Globetrotter

6 June 2008

No one makes nice luggage anymore. Suitcases are usually plastic, bulbous and age badly. They’re black, or possibly silver. There is little possibility for using something you particularly like, or you can get the remotest joy in using.

If it’s a weekend bag you’re after, there’s plenty of choice. Mulberry is always a staple – I recommend their scotch grain range. Bown makes beautiful bags – particularly the overnight cabin bag. In fact, almost anyone that makes lovely leather items can do you a good weekend bag.

But there’s nothing like the same range in suitcases. Even Mulberry’s cases look like they have little to do with the soft, malleable leather of the smaller bags. They are awkward, largely made of a woven fabric with leather detailing. The recently launched Samsonite Black Label range is similar – despite high design, their best feature is a lime-green lining. Little on the outside really appeals.

The problem is leather. It is too heavy for a suitcase, but no one quite knows what an attractive alternative would be. Louis Vuitton suitcases are made with canvas. This is lighter but still not so light you could carry it around for any length of time. They were designed, after all, for the age when porters carried your cases for you everywhere. (Plus a decent size will cost £3,000 and everyone will think it’s fake anyway.)

Fortunately, I recently stumbled across Globetrotter. Its suitcases are made with vulcanized board – essentially compressed paper with a protective coating. They are therefore light, while been famously strong: a famous old stunt featured an elephant from London Zoo balancing on top of one.

What’s more, Globetrotter fulfils all my criteria for buying luxury. It is built for longevity. It is something I will use often (I probably travel on business an average of eight times a year). And it has a history behind it: it was founded in 1897; Queen Elizabeth took it on honeymoon; it was used in the first ascent of Everest; and Churchill carried a Globetrotter briefcase.

It also seems to have wasted little money on advertising. The website is slick (globe-trotterltd.com), but few people have heard of it. The store, just off Bond Street, is nice but small and personal. So you can rest assured that your purchase is not funding a huge branding exercise.

Like any luxury item of worth, the company has an easy system for quickly repairing and refurbishing. They are happy if you only ever buy one.

On the more frivolous side, they also come in a fantastic array of colours, from orange with brown leather to blue with white, from red with tan to cream with yellow.

The Original range offers the best value for money, with a decently sized suitcase starting at £350. For more leather straps and leather corners (Centenary) you pay disproportionately more, as you do for the Safari range, which just offers another two colours. If you do take a liking to the leather straps, I recommend buying one or two separately. They cost £25 each, which is a lot less than the step up to Centenary.