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News & Advice

Henrietta Thompson: Should we get emotional about baggage?

Something to Declare

My suitcase died last week. My fourth in six years. This time the poor Samsonite had its back cracked irreparably in the luggage hold during a flight back from Morocco. It was less than two years old.

Call me callous, but although we visited many places together, I'm not sad. In this instance, it was never love. But is it possible to have a long-term and long-distance affair with your luggage? Something that is both gorgeous enough to want to have forever, and properly practical?

A little research throws up two distinct routes for people who travel a lot. You can: 1) go for the very best that money can buy, and hope to extend the life of your luggage through the guarantee that the best craftsmanship ought to come with; or 2) spend the least you can get away with, accept that it will fall apart, and replace it regularly.

Which to do? Personally, I believe in longevity through quality. I also believe in "emotional durability" – ie, if you adore something, you will look after it, and fix it as soon as it breaks. Tumi and Rimowa are attractive, but I'm also dreaming of Louis Vuitton, Mulberry and Swaine Adeney Brigg. But then, considering the heavy handling it will go through, maybe I should save for a Globetrotter or Valextra.

But do they even last? You'd want to be pretty sure before spending so much. I asked the people I know who travel the most – the photographers, models and international brand ambassadors, the friends I bump into around the world but rarely in the cities they supposedly live in. In their experience, that kind of tough just isn't tough enough. And the cheap-as-chips disposable option? Too risky. Suitcase breakages rarely happen in the comfort of your home.

I have discovered, however, that there is a secret third option: the "War Case", in particular, the indestructible-looking Peli Storm case. It's ridiculously rugged – the inside is lined with foam. Technically made for carrying weapons, cameras and surveillance kit, rather than shampoo and shirts, it looks as if you're taking it to the combat zone, not Gatwick. It won't collapse, that's for sure. But I might also look a little suspicious carrying one through security.

The last trip I made with my now-deceased case was Milan, for the annual design fest, Salone del Mobile, where there were some beautiful rivals. Louis Vuitton brought out its Objets Nomades collection – heavenly bags that transform into hammocks and stools, designed by the likes of Patricia Urquiola. Not to be outdone, Tom Dixon collaborated with Adidas to create a travel kit with a capsule collection of "everything-you-can-pack-neatly-in-a-bag-for-a-week-away". Then there was the stunning travel case commissioned by Hermès in a celebration of the golden age. Oh for the luxury of a careful porter ...

Lovely, but not exactly what I'm looking for. That, I now know, is something that is both indestructible and beautiful. A Globetrotter meets Peli meets Hermès, perhaps? Maybe there's a gap in the market.

Henrietta Thompson is editor-at-large for 'Wallpaper*' magazine