Collaborating with Tumi is always an iterative process of refinement. For this, our second backpack, we began by looking back at the first one—a military-inspired black canvas rucksack—and chose a few key elements to carry over. But from there we reset the brief. We wanted to create a bag versatile enough to serve as the ultimate carry-on, yet with a sophistication that feels right in any environment. Debuting today, the Otis Backpack, delivers on that promise by bringing together thoughtful design, considered materials, high-quality fabrication and room for just about everything.
Kicking off in January of this year with our Tumi co-conspirators, Creative Director Victor Sanz and Senior Designer Peter Wu, our mutual love of bags and obsession for detail served as the perfect starting point. We loved the side pockets from our original backpack and carried them over along with the hidden document sleeve in the back panel. We also kept the closed loop shoulder strap as we’ve never liked the loose ends on more basic straps. From there we began sketching and exploring materials. Leather was considered at first, but we quickly settled on an Italian coated canvas that’s both durable and water-resistant, but has an elevated look and feel. Leather is used as an accent material in the things you touch—pulls, handle and straps. We wanted a large bag to accommodate our needs both as a daily driver and as our primary travel pack, but it also had to hold its own in meetings and not make us look like we were heading off to class or on safari. Multiple designs were considered, mocked up and tested. And as a break from the norm we chose a rich navy with black accents instead of all black.
We settled on a design direction with a large main storage compartment and a single front panel pocket that zips on three sides. Bags with this kind of fully opening section are typically proportioned to be carried as a brief or a backpack, but we found accommodating both uses rendered neither optimal, so we dropped the side handle and widened the base to focus on creating a proper backpack.
Following through with the water-resistant material we inverted the zippers and used a coated backing. We had to sacrifice other details (including a reflective weather and safety cover) to maintain an accessible price, and instead invested in keeping leather most of the places you open or carry the pack; the bits you touch the most must feel as good as the bag looks. There are nine external pockets—some with two-way zips, so this was a big decision. On the inside there are lots of organizational elements as well. The Otis easily carries a 15″ laptop, large tablet, DSLR and lenses, headphones, water bottle (in a lined, expandable exterior pocket), tons of accessories and even a change of clothes.
For over eight months we’ve been testing samples daily at home in NYC and on our travels to Asia, Indonesia, Africa and Europe. To make it easier and safer we added a pass-through sleeve on the back to easily slip on to the handle of a roll-aboard bag, and included a micro-fiber lined Tumi ID Lock pocket that shields chipped and electronic contents from being scanned by identity thieves. Our final samples have had about three months of daily use in all weather conditions and we love the subtle and distinctive sheen the material is taking on while at the same time showing no breakdown, wear or tear from the extreme use.
Images by Josh Rubin