Redefining baggage through innovative design and technology
In 2008, San Francisco International Airport invested $383 million to renovate Terminal Two. At the time, it was home to the new Virgin America airline. When the terminal opened, Richard Branson cut the ribbon with Buzz Aldrin at his side. He said something that resonated with me. “You know, it is quite disappointing that they have named these wonderful places where we disembark into the world such an awful term. Couldn’t they come up with a better word than terminal? It sounds like we are all going to die here.” I had to agree with Richard.
The same can be said for the phase baggage claim, especially the word baggage. We’ve all heard those inspirational quotes about leaving your old baggage behind or the cliche of carrying too much emotional baggage. Baggage is viewed as a heavy burden that needs to be dealt with in life and travel.
The negative meaning of baggage changed when I met one of Briggs & Riley’s luggage creators at a quaint travel boutique in Half Moon Bay. He explained to me the thoughtfulness behind designing practical luggage. All the pieces also included a lifetime warranty. “Lifetime warranty?” I thought, “Briggs & Riley has to have a deep commitment to their products and customers to offer such extensive service. That or they are crazy and will be out of business in a few years.”
From that encounter, I have been a loyal Briggs & Riley user. My luggage traveled with me while writing my first book, FLY SOLO: The 50 Best Places for a Girl to Travel Alone. It has accompanied me to the far corners of the world and survived the rough cobblestone roads in Prague and the salty seawater of Thailand. When the handle started to wiggle, Briggs & Riley fixed it for free. Then a wheel took a beating on the Underground, and they replaced it without any questions. So, when Briggs & Riley say that their luggage is guaranteed for life, they are not kidding.
For a seasoned travel writer and author of travel books, luggage is an essential tool of my trade, and I need the best. But I must admit, the colors and aesthetics of the old line were not all that inspiring.
Two decades later, I was shopping for a travel gift for our art director, Krisha, at a local travel store. There, lining the shop’s walls, was the new line of Briggs & Riley luggage in the most amazing colors and designs. When I saw it, I let out a little squeal of delight. There, in front of me were gorgeous, orange luggage pieces with bold designs and beautiful accents. Next, I caught a glimpse of an ocean blue carry-on that had a matching roller bag with the most sophisticated chrome trimmings. It was love at first sight. I spoke with the shop manager who told me that a woman created the new line.
“No wonder it’s so magnificent! Not only do I want that ocean blue set, but I also want to meet the woman who has designed this spectacular luggage,” I announced.
Days later, I had the opportunity to speak with Georgene Rada, the mastermind and creative genius behind Briggs & Riley’s new line of luggage. While on our call, she said that every design and idea must solve a problem for her consumers, the road warriors. Georgene was speaking my language.
One of the biggest issues that Georgene and her team solved for me, personally, was my propensity to overpack. I would overfill my carry-on, and inevitably, it would be too full to fit in the overhead compartment. Georgene and her team have solved that problem by creating a brilliant compression technology. Baseline CX™ is the world’s only compression-expansion soft-sided luggage. This new technology allows me pack up to 34 percent more clothing and still meet airline carry-on requirements by compressing them securely in place. This straightforward solution has allowed me to pack what I want and still fit my carry-on on the airplane. As a result, I don’t ever check my luggage.
“My grandfather was a luggage designer,” Georgene reveals, “and I was named after him.” Georgene’s mother was an artist, designing and sewing her own evening gowns. Georgene’s uncle was a handbag designer in Italy. A career Georgene also excelled in for a while.
“It’s the inspiration they find across the world—from the desert to the rainforest—that often leads to the design team’s most innovative ideas. You have an instinct about what will be the next right color,” Georgene explains. “We all travel extensively. We do research. We observe. And we explore. We are observers of people, and we are inspired by everything.”
We had a chance to ask Georgene some questions, and this is what she shared with Haute Living:
- The “aha” moment when I knew I wanted to design luggage was when I realized that designing luggage was actually in my DNA. You see, my grandfather, George, had a luggage store in downtown Los Angeles back in the 1930s. While he sold Vuitton steamer trunks for luxury steamship travel, he also designed and made some of his own creations. I have some of his work and it has always served as an inspiration.
- The first piece of luggage I created was back in the early nineties when I designed for Ricardo Beverly Hills: the Renegades Collection, which was minimalistic, sporty, and gave a sense of adventure. It was extremely successful, and the feeling of exhilaration of that success provided me with the assurance that I was on the right track and doing what I was meant to do.
- The most complicated piece I have designed was the Briggs and Riley patentedCX Technology, zipperless expansion-compression luggage. This first-of-its-kind baggage enables a traveler to overpack and then compress the case back down to carry-on size with a simple push, so you don’t need to check your carry-on bag. In essence, you “can” take it with you. This was a huge team effort.
- My most important professional accomplishment to date is something that is coming out in 2022. Sorry, but I cannot reveal it yet, but it will be the absolute best of Briggs and Riley: the greatest functionality plus beautiful aesthetics. Sit tight!
- Professionally, I’m most proud of something that is not exactly a product. I am very fortunate to be in a position to train the next generation to understand how to create a premium product that blends form with function—learning to see how the small details can make all the difference. The Briggs designers truly understand how quality matters. Quality products with a lifetime guarantee helps keep products out of landfills, promoting a healthier, more sustainable future.
- What has been most surprising to me about creating luggage is that, after decades of creating luggage collections, I still get just as excited and enthused as when I created my first piece of luggage. Each initiative is a fresh canvas. Finding solutions to travel hurdles is like solving mysteries. It’s just plain fun.
- I’ve found my interaction with all the people in this tightly knit industry to be the most rewarding, from the factories to retailers to our Briggs team and the consumers who take the time to provide feedback. We all share a special passion for travel and travel products.
- What I have learned from traveling is to go with the flow. Today’s delay is tomorrow’s adventure.
- The one thing I haven’t yet created/designed yet is something for space travel. I know there must be a need to make packing for space travel better, more accessible, lighter, more convenient, and enjoyable. More to come …
- If I were not designing luggage, I would be writing travel articles. I have a million stories and will probably have a million more.
GEORGENE RADA KARLA CEVALLOS PHOTO BY JAIME PAVON @LOLARETOUCH; ALL@PAVON; PHOTO OTHER PHOTOS AND RETOUCHING COURTESY OF BRIGGS & RILEY