© Bugaboo – Designer Jaap den Boer points out a new luggage revolution

It’s undeniable that Jaap den Boer has always had a thing with wheels. Following his graduation from Delft University of Technology with a nifty wheelchair design, he took on a job at a design company in the rural east of the Netherlands specialised in products on wheels, and eventually landed a job at a wheelchair manufacturer. Whilst honing his skills as a designer, Den Boer also relished in being able to make a social contribution with his work, a perspective he aims to maintain in his field of expertise to this very day. In his current capacity as senior product developer at Bugaboo, the amiable Dutchman has pitched in ideas for a rather revolutionary modular luggage system that redefines travel for a specific demographic. Superfuture sat down with Den Boer to talk about how the Bugaboo Boxer collection redefines travel.

Could you elaborate on how Bugaboo’s initial product, the iconic stroller, evolved into the new suitcase line?  Well, our initial mission was to create a product that could move infants from A to B, but then we realised that we should also focus on designing additional products that enable people to transport goods, and moving luggage was the obvious next objective. One of our previous trainees had designed a four-wheel prototype, and we thought it was a very inspiring design and we took it from there. However, the prep time was quite lengthy. As you can imagine, we needed to find out first what exactly people’s luggage requirements and needs are, in order to come up with a good product. So, we traveled extensively across the planet, visiting far flung places such as New York City, Tokyo and London. Our marketing department arranged for interviews with different people in these cities, and this resulted in a list of useful pointers. We then started to draft various luggage concepts, and eventually we decided to design suitcases. It was an intensive development process, and it took about six years before the Bugaboo Boxer was actually launched.

Can you talk us through the team that has worked on the Bugaboo Boxer? Okay. There’s my colleague Mark van Zijl, a product engineer, and myself as lead designer. We’re the ones who’ve worked on the Bugaboo Boxer project right from the start. Over the years the number of team members has fluctuated between a total of six and ten people. The project was divided into segments, and as such, we allocated each part of the suitcase to a different specialist. The majority of the team comprised of Bugaboo‘s own staff, but occasionally we hired external freelancers to get specific things done. Next to the design aspect, it was my job to supervise all activities within the project.

Do fill us in on Pure, the material that’s used for the cabin case. Why did you decide to use it for this new product?  Our research department came up with the material after we asked them to look for something suitable to work with. It’s sourced from a supplier, and just like polycarbonate, the material we use for the large travel case, it’s incredibly strong. But Pure has the advantage that it’s even lighter, so ideal for traveling, and to be honest, also worthwhile to consider using for other products.

We’re curious to know what the profile and lifestyle is of Bugaboo Boxer’s target demographic? I’d say we target the savvy kind of traveller who’s out and about a lot whether it’s for business or pleasure. Someone with an adventurous streak, likely also a trailblazer when it comes to consumer goods, but definitely a person who’s appreciative of the fusion of design and innovation that we offer. It’s a modular luggage system, so it meets all travel requirements. You’re not required to purchase the entire set, just pick the elements that you need. I think this versatility really appeals to this target consumer group.

You referenced the valuable endeavours of Bugaboo’s marketing department. To which extent have they contributed to the creation of the Bugaboo Boxer? As said, they’ve planned that global research tour which provided us with truly great insights consumer preferences. For example, traditional luggage on wheels needs to be towed, but this activity often creates strained shoulders. So, thanks to the extensive marketing research we started focusing on pushing instead of towing our luggage-in-the-making, and this has become a signature element of our design.

As a company, it’s a must to adhere to sustainable production these days. To which extent is this suitcase collection manufactured as such? Well, our products are made from high-quality materials, and designed as such that they can be easily repaired or renewed, instead of throwing it away. This can certainly be said of the Bugaboo Boxer’s suitcase elements. All suppliers we work with are certified, meaning that they work with the highest standards in production, but they also maintain an ethical approach in doing business. Mind you, it’s not just a modular luggage system, but the suitcases also have a modular construction so that if a specific part is broken, it can very easily be repaired. By the way, it’s actually our goal to have a fully sustainable production line by 2025.

The Bugaboo strollers have seen quite a few guises thanks to collabs with other designers and brands. Is a similar cross pollination envisaged for the Bugaboo Boxer? As a matter of fact, our first collab collection of luggage accessories with Australian lifestyle brand We Are Handsome is already available. It’s marked by a bold and exuberant print on the inner bag and cabin case lining, featuring a toucan set against a backdrop of tropical leaves.

© Bugaboo