123 Years and Counting: The history of the Centenary collection

18 Feb 21

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123 Years and Counting: The history of the Centenary collection
In the latest in our series delving into the stories behind our iconic designs, we explore the Centenary suitcase and how it represents so much more than 100 years of Globe-Trotter

 

A MODERN ICON

With its smart Vulcanised Fibreboard body and handsome leather detailing — specifically the two distinctive straps enveloping the entire frame — the Globe-Trotter Centenary suitcase is an icon of travel. But for a company that has been producing British-made luggage for more than 123 years, it may come as a surprise to learn that Centenary is a relatively recent addition.

 

FASHION-FORWARD

Autumn-Winter 1997 marked the arrival of Centenary, a move that would change the way the world perceived Globe-Trotter. Before, our suitcases were for travellers: robust and practical with a prestigious history. With the arrival of Centenary, Globe-Trotters suitcases were just as much at home in the pages of fashion magazines as they were being wheeled through Heathrow Airport.

 

As its name suggests, the Centenary was created to commemorate 100 years of Globe-Trotter, which was founded in 1897. Even at this time, with luggage production in its infancy, Globe-Trotter suitcases were made in much the same way as they are today. Vulcanised Fibreboard was, and still is, the primary material (later patented by Globe-Trotter), which is renowned for its lightweight yet durable properties. The iconic Centenary aesthetic recalls a 1910 design discovered in the company archives, and it quickly became our most recognisable silhouette and bestselling model. Like a Montblanc Meisterstück fountain pen or Rolls-Royce Ghost, the Centenary is emblematic of Globe-Trotter itself. As our most famous and iconic export, it is an object of desire, aspiration and exquisite craftsmanship.

 

MADE TO LAST

Centenary echoes our heritage yet is modern and dynamic, being both elegant and eminently functional. The sturdy Vulcanised Fibreboard body and leather finishes age beautifully with every journey. The comprehensive collection comes in a variety of sizes — from the bestselling Carry-On case to a robust and roomy Check-In suitcase — as well as new special-edition watch cases. Over the past two decades it has built up quite the A-list following, having been spotted in the possession of, among others, Kate Moss, Dita Von Teese and Daniel Craig. 

 

The Centenary suitcase is made in the traditional Globe-Trotter fashion: meticulously and by hand. For years, the Vulcanised Fibreboard body was cut on an antique guillotine (now replaced with a high-tech laser cutter to keep up with demand), while premium leather for the straps, handle and corners is sourced from a local tannery, cut to size, and carefully stitched by hand. The trademark Centenary corners take their shape on a Victorian mould, then the stylish brass rivets are painstakingly applied by hand. This fastidious, five-day process results in an exquisite, one-of-a-kind suitcase ready for adventure.

 

 

BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL

Unlike other Globe-Trotter collections, such as Safari and the premium Deluxe range, Centenary is known for its eye-catching colourways. There are more subdued ‘colour-on-colour’ versions, such as black-on-black (favoured by David Beckham), which feature straps, handles and a fibreboard frame in matching colours for a stylish, minimalist aesthetic. Others come in contrasting yet complementary shades, such as the popular vibrant red case with caramel ‘tan’ straps, or the elegant racing car green and brown combination. Recent editions have embraced even more striking combinations, such as ‘pumpkin’ orange with navy, or the candy-coloured pink, lemon and blue stripes of the spring-summer 2019 collection.

 

But the most eye-catching editions have come from world-class designers, who take the simple template of the Centenary suitcase and let their imaginations run wild. 

 

CREATIVE COLLABORATIONS    

Fashion-forward partnerships offer the best of both worlds –– merging the iconic Globe-Trotter Centenary silhouette with equally recognisable sartorial flair. Last year saw collections from two Italian fashion houses, Berluti and Vitale Barberis Canonico, both renowned for their unique use of premium materials. The latter, a traditional Florence-based fabric mill, coated the suitcase in a special sustainable material, while Berluti’s version featured the brand’s Signature Canvas print in a similar vein to the groundbreaking 2018 Globe-Trotter x Gucci collaboration. British designer Paul Smith added his Signature Stripe palette to a colourful yet refined Centenary collection in 2018, and New York jewellers Tiffany & Co. went one step further with a glamorous Centenary suitcase clad entirely in Tiffany Blue.

 

TAILOR-MADE

For those who like to add a personal touch, the Globe-Trotter Centenary collection is primed for unique customisation. This could be as simple as adding initials to the exterior, a service that was popular in the early 20th century so that families could easily identify their luggage. Alternatively, customers can create a case that is entirely bespoke with everything from original colourways to tailor-made linings inspired by whatever takes your fancy.

 

100 YEARS IN THE MAKING

In the context of Globe-Trotter’s rich history, the Centenary collection is a modern addition — but at almost 25 years old, what does the future hold for our iconic bestseller? The core components of the Centenary’s instantly recognisable aesthetic will no doubt stay the same, but just as our bespoke services and creative collaborations continue to push the envelope, so too does new technology, implemented alongside our traditional processes.

 

FUTURE-PROOFING

This month, a selection of key Centenary models will include a new four-wheel system for the first time. This is part of a plan to implement four-wheels as standard in all Globe-Trotter suitcases going forward, along with a new brand identity to be unveiled shortly.

 

Centenary may mark our anniversary and symbolise our 123-year history, but, like everything Globe-Trotter, it also embraces the future and all the exciting developments to come.

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