Globe-trotter globetrotter luggage frames


A Globe-Trotter suitcase is unique in the world because of the baseboard used to form its body. Made of 14 sheets of paper and glue, it is compressed under pressure into a vulcanised material that is lightweight yet extremely sturdy.

It is a process that was invented in the 1850s and has rarely been copied due to the difficulty and expense of replicating it. Today, there are very few imitators of Globe-Trotter and the company closely guards the source of its production. Although there are few that would want to go through the process of recreating a Globe-Trotter, they could start to do so if they could find an appropriate source.

Globe-trotter globetrotter luggage suitcase


During my visit to the Globe-Trotter factory in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, I watched a suitcase being made from start to finish.

The board is the only item not made in the factory – everything else is woven, printed or shaped on site. Although a suitcase can theoretically be made in a few hours, the leather corners of the case have to be soaked, pressed, left to dry and then pressed again – which takes five days. Unless pre-pressed corners happen to be available for a particular style, the construction time is therefore 5-6 days.

Globe-trotter globetrotter luggage england


Around the factory there is an interesting mix of old and new machinery. Unlike some factories that boast of old machinery but would rather have new – they just can’t afford the investment – Globe-Trotter has only retained pieces that are functionally superior.

There is a Victorian guillotine, for example, that is used to cut the linings of the cases. Its iron weight creates a much sharper, reliable slice than a modern equivalent. The presses for those leather corners (above) are also iron and have WW2 stamps on them (Globe-Trotter made military equipment during WW2 and was therefore allowed to retain machinery that would otherwise have been melted down). And sewing machines dating from the 1920s are used to stitch together the four layers of leather in the suitcase handles.

Globe-trotter globetrotter luggage factory 2


“I’ve tried four times over the years to find a modern machine that could do the same job,” says Jeff Vaughan, MD of Globe-Trotter. “The last time I even spent £25,000 on having one specially commissioned. But they all failed. So now we buy them on the secondary market whenever we can, and keep them all for parts.”

Globe-trotter globetrotter luggage sewing


The actual making of a suitcase is fairly simple, with the board being moulded into shape and then set around a wooden frame. Corners and some exterior sections are riveted together by eye, the lining is carefully cut and glued in, and then a metal strip is wrapped around the exposed edges. The addition of the handles and internal straps completes the job.

Globe-trotter globetrotter luggage


As with many English factories, expertise has been increasingly brought in-house. Handles used to be made by Wellwyn, a local operator, before it went bust, as did the wooden frames. The latter are now made by a Globe-Trotter carpenter, who also made many of the worktables around the factory.

One final, interesting fact. The board retains a small amount of moisture when it is first used, in order to help it mould into shape. That moisture will gradually leave the suitcase (hence all the linings being made from breathable materials). As the moisture leaves, over a decade or so, the suitcase becomes stiffer and stronger. My Globe-Trotter then, despite being six years old, has its best years to come. Nice to know.
  

Globe-trotter globetrotter luggage factory Globe-trotter globetrotter luggage3
Photos: Luke Carby

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Asher

I’ve admired these for some time, but am skeptical about their ability to survive the baggage mill when traveling. As someone who’s owned one for several years, aside from aging nicely, how does it handle? I’d be worried that with only a few sheets of paper that punctures would be possible/likely. Any thoughts? If that does happen, what does Globe Trotter offer in terms of repair? Thanks!

Scott

very cool! Simon, do you know if the company makes a steamer trunk? If not, do you know of any company that makes a quality trunk?

Rups

Simon unrelated question .. could you recommend a type of hat to wear with a classic navy blazer? panama in the summer perhaps, but in the spring / autumn / winter?

Rob o

Have you tried Louis Vuitton for trunks?

Scott

No I haven’t,but I’ll investigate that option,thank you.

Peter

Very interesting, very cclearly written, and very nice photographs! Which factories have old machines, but cannot afford new?

Peter

Do you mean Scot-Nicols?

Donk93953

When will globe trotter add TSA approved locks?
I don’t have access to a G-5, hence I must travel commercial.

Scott

I have my eye on the navy case with black corners from the original line,size 33″. This is such an iconic brand and the product is practical,very well made, and beautiful as well. I’d say that Globetrotter is british manufacturing at it’s best,well done ladies and gentlemen and thank you!

Henriette

Hi! Nice story about Globe Trotter: it is the company of my brother in law :-), if you ever get to Holland do visit my secondhand designer bags shop!

Ron Sewell

I bought my 3 globetrotters about 45 years ago when I started as a merchant navy officer. They are as strong and durable today as the first day I bought them. I have just had to replace a leather handle on one but only because some unknown drugs officer slit the underside of the old handle leather, presumably checking for any drugs concealment. I added straps to the outside myself all those years ago as they better coped with the battering of airport carousels. They travelled the world with me extensively for 10years. And will surely last my lifetime and beyond. They are a truly unbelievably tough product. I would not be without mine.