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The Next Big Thing in Luggage

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (MainStreet) -- If you've paid attention while walking the airport terminal recently, you've likely noticed luggage no longer looks the way it did 10 years ago, let alone two. From larger metallic hard-sided traveling bags to carry-on trollies that glide effortlessly on four wheels, luggage trends seems to move at a swifter speed these days, like mainstream fashion. That could mean you'll be swapping out your luggage a lot more often in the future.

The arrival of Tumi (TUMI) on the NYSE drew attention to its highly versatile premium luggage, a staple of business commuters and luxury travelers. Long known for its utilitarian black bags of ballistic canvas, the brand has expanded its accessories to include wallets and sunglasses. It's also grown its aristocratic Townhouse Collection, originally designed by David Choo, to include the pricier Arrive. Arrive features chrome detailing, calfskin trim and HTLS Polyester fabric and can turn heads in a Holiday Inn without turning up noses at the Plaza Athenee.

A revived Mode Creation Munich, owned by Korea's Sungjoo Group, may be making fashion's new it bag.

Recently Tumi debuted its Dror for Tumi collection, designed by Dror Benshetrit of New York-based Studio Dror. It includes staple pieces from hard-sided packing cases and carry-ons to backpacks and messenger bags priced from $495 to $795. Its Dror Extended Trip Packing Case, available in onyx-colored polycarbonate, offers a four-wheel design with patented expandability via a series of spring hinges that can take the bag to 14 inches from nine. The bag appeals especially to business travelers who need a carry-on that can grow throughout a trip, avoiding the need for an entirely different bag.

Tumi has faced growing competition in recent years from Germany's Rimowa Luggage, a staple on almost any baggage carousel these days identifiable by its sleek aluminum and polycarbonate four-wheel design. With its price tag between $395 and $595, the bag has an affordable appeal with an array of designer options, including the super-lightweight Salsa Air, Salsa Deluxe, Topas and Bolero collections. The bags come in a variety of colors, from bubbly Prosecco to futuristic Ultraviolet and Titanium, and have limited five-year warranties and a unique hotel repair program in which select hotels worldwide offer 24-hour repairs right in the building.

Those looking to discover the next Louis Vuitton or Prada need look no further than MCM, the resurgent Mode Creation Munich brand (formerly Michael Cromer Munich) born in Germany in 1976 and once as fashionable and recognizable as the LV logo. A wane in popularity after its '80s heyday led its ultimate sale to Korea's Sungjoo Group, the manager of Asian licensee agreements with brands such as Gucci, YSL and Sonia Rykiel. Since 2005, Sungjoo has revamped the ailing MCM in a big way with its logo, inspired by King Ludwig I, and signature pieces recently sported by style icons from Dita Von Teese to Justin Bieber. It looks to be fashion's new it bag.

With more than 70 stores worldwide and U.S. outpost inside New York's Plaza Hotel, MCM has expanded to include not just hard-sided trunks and luxury travel goods but a full line of handbags, select apparel and handful of footwear options, including a showstopper men's high-top sneaker designed by Michael Michalsky. Look for additional seasonal standouts such as a chunky monogram backpack (updated with black leather trim and stud embellishment) or men's Jet Setter Weekender Bag (with generous sizing and monogrammed leather available in charcoal gray or brown) -- it'll put buyers a step ahead of the usual fashion names for 2012.

For those preferring more steadfast fashion labels, Louis Vuitton has no shortage of luxury bag options for the season, from its collection of hard-sided, rolling and soft-sided travel bags. Their collection of hard-sided luggage offers a timeless travel statement that, while perhaps the prettiest bag you'll find on the market, is also one of the priciest: It costs from $4,200 to $7,950. Their soft-sided bags, such as the Pegase 60 ($3,900), offer two color choices for monogrammed canvas, a two-position handle and an easy-to-attach protective sleeve that keeps the bag clean while in commercial airline transit.

And for those who scoff at any luggage piece that can be bought at your local high-end mall, there's Dutch-made Henk, available at Harrod's enviable Luggage Shop in London. Their bespoke bags include the Attache Case and made-to-order Travelfriend. They come with a choice of calfskin leathers imprinted in crocodile or ostrich motif and interiors ranging from zebra-print leather to Prussian horsehair and a high-tech fiber that can be polished off with a sterling silver accessory button (for an extra $1,543). With a price tag on par with a subcompact car (from $38,618, depending on your options), the luggage lives up to its promise to be "the ultimate carrying experience."

Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.

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