Shopping: Something about your person

Don't forget your passport, ticket, guide book ... or your luggage. As travel editor Simon Calder discovers, the students of Central St Martins have proved you can travel light - and with style
Click to follow
The Independent Online
The sign at Heathrow was uncompromising: "Only one piece of hand luggage per passenger." I had five. I got through, though not until a curious security guard had examined each item as though he hadn't seen anything like it. Which he hadn't - because a set of unique designs was getting a first road test. Fortunately, the handful of hand baggage had been specially designed by students at the Central St Martins School of Art to be discreet.

They had been created at the behest of STA Travel, which challenged some of Britain's brightest young designers to produce the "ultimate travel accessory". Janet Lance-Hughes, fashion tutor at Central St Martins, selected the five finalists that appear here. And my mission was to take them on a test run to Amsterdam.

Over a long weekend, I tested them out among the dodgy dives of Amsterdam (and Heathrow) via planes, trains and bikes, finishing up at the tea room of the fancy Kurhaus Hotel on the seafront at Schveningen. To try to make the selection process scientific, each design was evaluated on several criteria, as follows:

Style - who would this most suit?. Comfort - for how long would you be prepared to walk through the jungle with the item?. Security - starting at Kennedy airport in New York, how quickly would your possessions disappear?And an advertising slogan was devised for each. My fellow judges were Dick Porter, chief executive of STA Travel Worldwide, and the international product designer Ross Lovegrove. All the products deserve commercial success, but we agreed unanimously that Rachel Atkinson's body band was the clear winner. Her prize is a weekend in New York.

These are the accessories:

Pocket Pack

You can locate it anywhere you like, and apply it with the sewing kit supplied. But the designer, Becky Dudley, had kindly provided a T-shirt with the pocket already discreetly tacked to the lower part of the back.

Style - best person to use it? Sarah Ferguson, who could keep her jewellery safe rather than checking it in.

Comfort - how long in the jungle? In the swamp of Amsterdam's red light zone, an hour was quite enough.

Security - how easily nicked? Only by a dancing partner.

Slogan - "You can't pick a better pocket."

Travel Trousers

These appear to be an ordinary pair of Chinos. The trick to Gisle Mardae's design is a deep but hard-to-reach pocket inside the thigh. But the operation necessary to reach for your Guilders in order to pay the daintily dressed tea room waitress is impossible to do without everyone tutting at your intense self-exploration.

Style - best person to use them? Michael Palin

Comfort - how long in the jungle? All week (and the trousers help keep leeches away, too).

Security - how easily nicked in New York? Only in a situation of considerable intimacy.

Slogan - "Is that a hidden pocket in your trousers or . . .?"

Front-loading Apron Bag

You could spend all weekend using Amy Walton's intriguing construction simply as a shoulder bag. Made ruggedly of low-visibility canvas, it has a pocket for almost anything. Travelling photographers will find its neat selection of pockets useful - especially when unfolded into "apron" mode. You hook a handle over each shoulder, and the bag opens out in front of you.

Style - best person to use it? Keith Floyd

Comfort - how long in the jungle? All day, though those leeches could lurk in pockets.

Security - how easily nicked in New York? The apron could stay on for ever, but individual items are at risk unless stored in the secret pocket.

Slogan - "From Turkey to Table Mountain, the perfect travelling companion for a Cook's Tour."

Sling Bag

Going to a cocktail party in Norway? This one's for you. Chris Steele has come up with a sleek, understated design that will cheerfully contain passport, ticket, money, map, guide book and compact camera - while retaining its comfortable curves in black leather. Ideal, then, for attending the embassy event in Oslo; this stylish accessory marks you out as a sophisticate. The streets in the Norwegian capital are not lined with prospective bagsnatchers. In most other parts of the world, though, a baddie would have your bag marked out as an easy target.

Style - best person to use it? His Excellency Mark Elliott, HM Ambassador to Norway.

Comfort - how long in the jungle? Only in the dry season; the monsoon would ruin the leather in seconds.

Security - how easily nicked in New York? Don't blink.

Slogan - "This one's just a decoy, honest."

Body Band

When I hear the word fashion, I reach for my anorak. But the potential for Rachel Atkinson's supremely simple design to become the fashion accessory for the summer is clear even to a dismal dresser like me. For years, some hardy travellers have used folds of elastic bandage to carry valuables. The difference with Ms Atkinson's armband is that it is custom-built to give easy access for you to reach your valuables, while keeping them safe from wayward hands.

Wear this fold of Lycra on the upper arm for ostentation or the lower leg for discretion.

Style - best person to use it? anyone from Swampy to Naomi Campbell.

Comfort - how long in the jungle? All year. The Band is durable, lightweight and bright, handy for scaring off snakes.

Security - how easily nicked in New York? The biggest risk is that you could become a fashion victim, robbed for the armband itself rather than what it contains.

Slogan - two choices: "Forget hand luggage - take arm luggage." Or "Out of arm's way."

Competition: Arm yourself for travel.

Rachel Atkinson's design is already hot property - but you can be one of the first to own it. The Independent, STA Travel and Central St Martin's have commissioned 10 armbands for the winners of our arm-twisting competition.

To enter, all you need to do is to come up with an intriguing or entertaining addition to the bare minimum required for foreign travel - passport, ticket, money. Tell us in 50 words or less what you take, and why.

The writers of the 10 best entries will receive an armband. Send your entry to Essentials, Travel Desk, The Independent, One Canada Square, London E14 5DL; or fax it to 0171-293 2451; or e-mail it to travel@independent.co.uk. The closing date is Friday, 4 April.

Looking for credit card or current account deals? Search here

Comments