More than a century after the horse and carriage gave way to the automobile, luggage brands are combining nostalgia for old times - and sturdy quality - with slick simplicity and high-technology add-ons.
The result is a new generation of deluxe leather bags for road warriors who may want to pack both a tuxedo and gym shorts in their overnight kit - and charge their smartphones too.
"If luggage designers can combine efficiency, comfort and design, then they've got a winner and high-end designers have done their research to find out what people want," said Ms Anne McAlpin, who runs a travel and packing advisory service from Jacksonville, Oregon, in the United States. "Anyone who has travelled for business has had to give up some fashion, but that's changing," she said.
With digital mobility in mind, Aspinal of London has created the Mount Street technology bag, one of the first high-end bags to have built-in phone and tablet chargers. Some mid-range brands offer similar chargers, but those are mostly in backpacks or nylon bags, said Ms Mariya Dykalo, Aspinal's creative director.
Aspinal already introduced a women's tote bag with a phone and tablet charger last year.
Ms Dykalo explained: "I am a working mum with two children, so I panic when my phone battery gets low. I wanted to do the same thing for the businessman who is always on the go."
The juice pack, as she calls the battery charger, has a standard plug for phone or tablet charging chords. The removable 4.25-inch by 2.5-inch pack takes about two hours to recharge and stores enough power to charge a phone three times or a tablet once. "If it's stylish and powers their phone, people can justify spending a thousand dollars or more on something that's going to improve their business," said Ms McAlpin, who has clocked quite a distance in travel herself.
"It's really about how heavy that beautiful bag is, or if that suit bag folds into thirds on an airplane, or if your luggage can power up your phone," she added.
The idea of a practical bag hidden beneath a fashionable disguise also inspired a new suit bag by the Troubadour leather goods brand, which has paired with the tailor, Thom Sweeney of Mayfair, London, to shake up high-end luggage for business travellers.
The suit bag, made from a dense and sturdy oil-treated leather, folds like a typical suit bag, but without the typical bag's flimsiness.
"The rectangular corners make it look like a small art portfolio case and there's a slit on the top with a strap that holds the hangers, which are hidden below. There's a minimalist and contemporary aspect to it," said Mr Samuel Bail, who founded the company with Mr Abel Samet, a fellow ex-financier.
"Suit bags fall apart quickly, so our goal was to create a bag which fits in with other small bags and lasts a long time." That same approach to luxury and simplicity also inspired them to create a sleek, all-purpose matching day bag.
Mr Bail said: "Both of us worked in finance and wanted to take the same bag to work - as well during the weekends - a bag which looked professional and didn't have logos.
"When I was growing up, I could see my grandfather's briefcase shine on all the worn parts," he added.
"It had a lot of character and a lot of stories and I want our bags to show the stories of where they've been."
This article was first published on Nov 26, 2014.
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