On the case

Handcrafted since 1897, Globe-Trotter’s suitcases have been used by everyone from the Queen to James Bond. Alex Moore finds out what gives this iconic luggage its amazing strength.

Planning and designing a case at the Globe-Trotter workshop

 

In 1912, the British luxury luggage brand Globe-Trotter staged an experiment at the Zoological Garden of Hamburg, known as “The Elephant Test”. In an attempt to demonstrate the strength of the brand’s cabin trunks, a one-ton Indian elephant was persuaded to balance theatrically on top of one. Subsequently, a photograph of the stunt was used as an advert in the company’s catalogue, but what’s most extraordinary is the claim at the foot of the advert, which reads:

“Breaking weight of a Globe-Trotter cabin trunk being 8 tons.”

That was over 100 years ago, and while the marque prides itself on its traditional Victorian manufacturing techniques, innovation is most certainly at its core. Which begs the question: how much weight could a case take today? The answer isn’t overly important – if Sir Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II, Sir Edmund Hillary and, more recently, James Bond were suitably impressed, then that’ll do for us. Besides, the weight probably won’t be any less than it was back in 1912 as Globe-Trotter still uses the same trademarked Vulcan Fibre (vulcanised breboard) it has used since 1897 – a material that’s as light as aluminium and as hard-wearing as the nest leather.

Making and fitting the distinctive leather belt strap

 

A selection of cotton rayon lining fabrics

 

The Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa suitcase with digitally printed lining

 

 

Innovation really comes to the fore in the brand’s collaborations: the carbon-fibre trolley case designed in conjunction with Hypetex, the Stabilist rifle case for the 007 blockbuster Skyfall, or in partnerships with brands such as Alexander McQueen, Charlotte Olympia, The Merchant Fox, and most recently Paul Smith and Gucci. Meanwhile, we’re proud to announce a series of Globe-Trotter cases designed especially for Eden Being.

The manufacturing methods and machinery behind the world’s most iconic suitcases have changed little over the past century. The vulcanized breboard that forms the external shell of Globe-Trotter’s luggage is formed of 14 layers of paper, cotton and wood pulp all pressed together. This unique material was developed in Britain during the 19th century and patented by the brand. Interestingly, the breboard actually tends to grow stronger over the years.

The breboard is cut to size by Del Boy, one of Globe-Trotter’s longest-serving employees, using a blunt-edge Victorian-era guillotine. Then the sides are shaped by moulding them around a hot rod – a method patented in 1901. After that, a foot-pedal-operated riveting machine is used to attach the side panels together. The next stage involves installing the locks using the same rivets, while leather components are attached by hand. The leather comes from Britain’s only remaining tannery that uses traditional oak bark to process the leather.

The case’s distinctive corners are applied over a period of five days using Victorian machinery, while the handles are made by hand, bonded and then pressed for 48 hours. The paper-backed cotton rayon lining is cut to size using a guillotine. It goes through a roller to receive a PVA glue adhesive coating and is then inserted manually. The material works well as it is breathable, and can accommodate the movement of the breboard. For the brand’s collaboration with Eden Being, the illustration of each Oetker Collection hotel is printed digitally on to the lining – a truly 21st century element adding lustre to the century-old process of making this superb luggage.

Finally, steel lipping is attached to the rim of the lid to protect and reinforce the exposed breboard. The leather belt straps are attached, and the case is given one last careful inspection to ensure it meets the exacting standards for which Globe-Trotter has long been known.

Discover the full Eden Being collection here.

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