In the first of our new series that goes behind the scenes at the Globe-Trotter factory, we talk to David Crookbaine, who joined the company at just 16 years old.
PHOTOGRAPHY: KENSINGTON LEVERNE
My role at Globe-Trotter is factory manager of suitcases, and I’ve been doing it for 13 years.
It’s a very varied role. I have to liaise with the office, sales and retail staff and, of course, the factory staff as well. It involves having to be ready for any eventuality because you never know when a VIP will want a case at the drop of a hat – it’s an adrenaline rush when those come in but the team work well together and it can be a nice break from the day-to-day.
I joined Globe-Trotter in February 1985, when I was 16 years old.
Jobs were hard to come by back then. I was looking through the job book at the careers office and the Globe-Trotter advert stood out. I got an interview at the original factory in Clerkenwell and started work the next day. The factory was completely different to this one; it was an old Victorian building spread over four floors. There was raw material on the ground floor and they had an old lift system that would transport it to the top floor where it would be cut, bent into shape and riveted. All the machines ran on one shaft, which ran the length of the building, and once you hit the switch to start the belt drive all the machines came alive at once – a health-and-safety nightmare these days! The noise was like a steam train and it was all you heard all day. If you were working on the floor below you could hear all the noises above, and you got to know which machine was being worked on just by the sound.
I came into this industry at a young age with no experience.
But I don’t think anyone can be experienced when it comes to Globe-Trotter. Even people from a manufacturing or luggage background find this is a completely different product. My first job was doing the scoring machine. From there, I moved on to more technical roles such as doing the riveting, bending and putting the locks and handles on. Within around 18 months I’d learnt most of the roles in the company. Later, I was offered the production manager job – which was my first full managerial role – and I did it for a year before being offered the factory manager position.
We still use a lot of the same machines we did 120 years ago.
If we didn’t use the traditional machinery it wouldn’t create the same effect. When people walk around the factory, they have that ‘wow’ moment and say things like, “I didn’t think anything was made like this any more.”
The process of making a Globe-Trotter suitcase starts with a flat sheet of fibreboard, which we cut with a guillotine.
We have two guillotines, both manual, and one of them is even older than Globe-Trotter itself – it’s about 145 years old! Once it’s been cut we then have to bend it using machines that heat up to 230°C. If you try to bend it without heating, it would just crack. Once it’s been bent into shape we put the rivets on (a technique that’s done by eye) as well as the handles and the locks, then it goes to the lining stage. Once that’s complete we put the lid and base together – and at this stage you can really see the case come together – then it goes through a rigorous 35-check inspection. After a final inspection it’s packed up and ready to go.
The best thing about working for Globe-Trotter is being associated with a proper British heritage brand.
There’s not many of them around anymore and it’s nice to see that it’s stayed true to itself. It’s got character, it’s got history and we stick to our principles.
My all-time favourite collaboration was one with Basso & Brooke.
We produced just six cases, all painted in psychedelic colours. They always stick in my mind because we only did it once and it was completely different to anything else we’ve made. It was quite a difficult one to do, so a real learning curve – I probably hated it at the time!
In my spare time I like to take my golden lab Theodora for walks in the countryside.
Invariably we end up in the pub. As for holidays, I like to go skiing in the winter and in summer I just like to go somewhere hot, chill by the pool and go for walks along the beach.