We’ve all experienced the sheer terror of the baggage carousel: Surveying piles of indistinguishable cases, hoping by some miraculous twist of fate that you’ll spot yours. The luggage purveyors at ROAM are vying to change all of that with the world’s first fully customizable premium suitcases: With the possibility to create over 1 million colorful combinations, your bag will never get lost in the monochromatic luggage abyss again.
ROAM is the passion project of Charlie Clifford and Larry Lein, who founded beloved high-end suitcase brand Tumi back in 1975 and collectively have more than 100 years experience in luggage land. Fed up with the ubiquitous aluminum saturating the market—thanks to giants like Away and Rimowa—the duo wanted to create a colorful alternative for consumers, all centered around customization. Their decidedly experimental venture gives individuals the power to create high-performance suitcases that have plenty of spunk and stand out in a crowd.
So, how does it work? First, customers pick the size of the suitcase from four available options: The Jaunt (carry-on, $450), The Jaunt XL (wide-body carry-on, $475), The Journey (medium check-in, $495) or The Globetrotter (large check-in, $550). Next comes the fun part, you select the color of nine features—including the front and back of the shell, the zipper and zipper pulls, the binding, stitching, wheels, carry handle and the monogram patch where you eventually add your initials. From there, the cases are created in ROAM’s San Diego factory and will land on your doorstep within three business days. The cases also come with a 100-day trial with a free return—should you stuff up your color scheme—and a five-year warranty.
Beyond aesthetics, the cases are as tough as nails. ROAM is currently the only luggage brand to use virgin polycarbonate made here in the United States. This material is both incredibly durable and exceedingly light—and stacks up well against its metallic rivals.
Below, the co-founder of ROAM Larry Lein shares his motivation behind customization and discuss the future of the brand:
Why did you start ROAM?
When my partners and I started ROAM, we saw huge gaps in the luggage market including quality, pricing and production. Despite the rise of new luggage brands, we saw an opportunity for world-class luggage to be sold at a direct-to-consumer value. Tumi and Rimowa sell carry-on sized luggage at $700 and Away sells at $225, creating a large gap in the market—ROAM fills that gap with a carry on starting at $450 with the excellent quality that meets or surpasses the best products in the market.
Finally, we were excited to have the opportunity to build our products in a U.S. factory, which no other major company does. Making in the U.S. also means that we can build our products to order, and give our customers the chance to design their own customized product.
What inspired you to make the luggage customizable?
Charlie Clifford and I built one of the great brands of the 20th century (Tumi) on the premise that everyone should be carrying black luggage. Now, together with the creation of ROAM we are doing the opposite by creating one of the great brands of the 21st century on the premise that your luggage should be colorful and customized by you to suit your personality and mood.
The consumer attitude has completely changed from the ’90s: The consumer of 2020 wants to stand out and use their personality in everything he or she does, wears and carries. Today, no one wants to be wearing or carrying a uniform. This is why we designed ROAM to be completely customizable—our customers can express their own personalities in the luggage that they design, and they know that they will own a piece of luggage that no one else will have.
The most practical matter is that consumers have gotten tired of trying to spot their luggage in an endless sea of lookalikes, we can guarantee that will never happen with a ROAM case.
Can you customize the interior compartments or only the exterior?
We just launched a year ago with a standard interior that offers outstanding packing functionality, but interior customizable options are definitely on our short-term development plan.
Why did you opt for polycarbonate? How does it stack up against aluminum?
Polycarbonate has become the fastest-growing material for luggage because it is extremely lightweight, flexible (for overpacking) and strong. By contrast, aluminum cases are extremely heavy. We are the only luggage company in the world that uses U.S.-made 100 percent virgin polycarbonate, which is the best quality polycarbonate available.
Do you have any plans to add smart features?
Battery chargers add weight and cost to a bag that we feel that most of our sophisticated traveling customers do not need or want. We do plan to offer a slim travel battery as an add-on option, so customers who do want one can get it.
What does your ROAM suitcase look like? Do you have a favorite color combination?
I’m a lifelong NY Mets fan (difficult to admit), so my ROAM case is blue with orange trim, but every one of my family members has designed her and his own case. I love that when we are traveling together, our luggage is easy to spot from a mile away, and while every design is different, it’s clear that we are a family.
What’s next on the horizon?
There are so many exciting new launches and products in the pipeline, including additional features on our existing products, new interior options and new accessory products. We hope to introduce these as soon as this fall.