Our story

How it all began

Words

Olivia Kaferly

Photographs

Leda Paleari

It all started with a question: How can I travel with a suit without it looking like I slept in it?

Michael Kogelnik and Vinzent Wuttke started their early careers in investment banking, and therefore made frequent business trips. ‘’We always felt a bit frustrated by traditional travel goods and big-name luggage brands,’’ says Michael, VOCIER’s originator and head product designer. ‘’They used the same old material and construction, with only slight variations in style and quality. And not one of them really tackled our problem: a carry-on luggage that eliminated wrinkles.’’

Armed with a degree in industrial design in addition to finance and economics, Michael decided to resign from his day job to focus on the challenge of designing a piece of carry-on luggage that would not wrinkle a suit. ‘’I wanted to find the solution to the perennial problem of keeping clothes in good shape while travelling.’’ Once he had developed his first piece, he was able to persuade Vinzent to leave his comfortable job and join his mission of changing the world of business travel. To raise initial capital, they successfully appealed to a small group of private investors in Michael’s hometown of Vienna, and this enabled the two former bankers to focus on designing luggage prototypes and improving the now-patented system behind VOCIER.

What do luggage and F1 racing have in common?

No one ever said it was going to be easy. And indeed, it was tough going for a while. Prototypes failed and problems kept popping up in the designs. ‘’But I was determined to achieve my goal of creating the world’s most sophisticated wrinkle-free luggage system,’’ confirms Michael. To do that, it had to meet several criteria: it had to be light, compact and durable, due to restrictive international carry-on travel regulations; it had to be beautiful; and it had to accommodate the wrinkle-free objective.

Ferdinand Porsche reportedly once said, ‘’If you think hard enough about a product, it almost designs itself.’’ Michael can relate to this sentiment. ‘’You never know where your inspiration is going to come from; you just have to be open to new ideas and new ways of thinking of things.’’ After one particularly draining day, Michael came home and collapsed onto his living room chair and switched on the TV. A documentary on Formula One racing was showing, and within minutes of watching, he had a revelation about how to build the luggage system of his dreams.

Where’s the stress?

The F1 documentary detailed Colin Chapman’s design to use the engine of his Lotus team cars as a stress-bearing component of the vehicle’s construction, rather than relying on a traditional chassis design, and then placing the motor onto the chassis. It made perfect sense. After all, the engine is one of the heaviest and strongest parts of the vehicle. So why not use that strength as part of the car itself?

‘’I took that idea and applied it to the luggage,’’ says Michael. The aluminium tubes used for telescoping handles are usually simply mounted on the backside of a travel bag’s hard shell, and the hard shell itself is the structural component of the luggage. Those tubes, however, are actually the strongest part of the product, so Michael used these tubes to form the structural spine of the VOCIER C38. ‘’It’s kind of like a house versus a tent,’’ explains Michael. A house uses its walls for structural support, but a tent uses poles. A tent is much lighter and mobile than a house; similarly, carry-on luggage has to be much lighter and mobile than a closet. Three of Michael’s design objectives had thus been accomplished with his design revelation: compact, lightweight, and durable.

No corners. No pressure. No wrinkles.

Now to the wrinkles. What causes wrinkles? Two things: pressure, and a tight radius. If you can eliminate both, you can eliminate wrinkles, and this was always a goal for VOCIER.

Traditional bags wrinkle clothes because of their tight corners, and then the internal packing pressure that is placed on the garments. The design of the C38 avoids both by, first, gently rolling apparel rather than folding it, and then by avoiding the application of pressure. In the case of the C38, the shell of the luggage also functions as the interior’s garment bag, which then wraps around and is zippered shut. To avoid over-packing and placing pressure against the garment bag, the Zero Crease liner is actually suspended within the luggage and additionally acts as a cushioned compartment, into which all additional apparel and shoes are packed.

‘’From this foundation, I was able to create a luggage system that gently rolls suits – rather than folds them – around an interior compartment of the bag. This simply ensured that the fabric remained wrinkle-free,’’ says Michael.

Doing it with style

From the beginning, the idea at VOCIER was to combine utility with style. VOCIER luggage had to ensure that even the most delicate suit would arrive at its destination safe and wrinkle-free, ‘’But we also wanted our travel bags to be hand-made with the finest fabrics and softest leathers in Europe,’’ says Michael.

Admittedly, there were and are already enough purely utilitarian travel bags on the market that claim to keep clothes wrinkle-free. VOCIER needed to provide the ideal blend of proven practicality and international sophistication, especially for a discerning audience of business and recreational travellers.

 

A material point

‘’My epiphany while watching that documentary on F1 racing was the first piece of the puzzle. After we had the mechanics of the C38 solved, we needed to ensure the materials would live up to our overall concept. So, we set out to source the best materials from around the world,’’ asserts Michael.

In the end, it took 14 different prototypes before the business partners were satisfied with the C38’s functional design. Even then, they had to perfect the concept. The final luggage had to embody the same sophisticated style found in the world’s finest suits and apparel, while providing exceptional durability that could be backed with a satisfaction guarantee. ‘’So, we travelled the world in search of the right materials. By the end, we had sampled 40 types of leather, 25 kinds of fabric, and toured 5 different manufacturers before finalising the basic components,’’ states Vinzent. He concludes that, ‘’Every stitch on the C38 was agonized over. We changed our zipper supplier four times, just to make sure we got it right. Demos were built, tested and destroyed in an effort to evaluate their weak points. After more than 3 years of development and refinement, we were finally satisfied with the final product: the most stylish and upscale wrinkle-free garment bag on the market today.’’