After making its mark in the industry over two decades ago, German brand DEGELER has become a favourite amongst jet setters who seek high-quality, functional and timeless travel products and accessories. From elegant briefcases to genius garment bags, perfectly practical backpacks and sleek weekender bags, DEGELER has envisioned its entire collection for exceptional ease of use. Made with premium materials and expert craftsmanship, these are the ultimate travel companions.
FOUR speaks to Frank Degeler, owner and Managing Director of DEGELER, to discover more about the brand and its history, while taking a closer look at some of its high-end products…
Tell us a bit about your background… How was DEGELER founded, and what drew you to the industry?
My journey in the luggage business began in 1993. After two years, I was entrusted as Key Account Manager for corporate customers, developing bags and personal leather goods under the customer’s brand. Over the years, I acquired top German brands such as Porsche, Lufthansa, Volkswagen and RIMOWA.
The more projects I led and accompanied, the more I noticed a recurring pattern when it came to the design and development of luggage lines: functionalities were only prioritised at the early stage. When it came to production, the associated costs were then realised and this often resulted in dropping most of the functionalities to reach competitive prices.
As a consequence of this experience, I founded DEGELER to create travel accessories with the highest demand for functionality and quality.
How has DEGELER evolved since its inception? What challenges and lessons do you think you’ve learned over this time?
The DEGELER brand started out very successful in the beginning, with retailers in Japan and Germany. The DEGELER bags were also offered in the Miles & More catalogue with Lufthansa as a distribution partner, which had a huge impact on brand awareness.
Since I was convinced that our products needed to be experienced live – felt and touched – I assumed that e-commerce wouldn’t be the appropriate sales channel. Little did I know how the e-commerce market would develop as DEGELER has been around even before Amazon sold more than books online. Thus, we have been missing out on e-commerce business as we participated too late.
How would you describe DEGELER, its philosophy and its products to people who have never seen them?
- The best combination of functionality and quality
- Timeless and puristic design
- The ideal travel companion
- Suitable for every occasion
- A family-owned business providing excellence in everything we do
What is your signature style, and how does that influence/direct your design decisions? Has this style changed over time?
Our signature style is rooted in creating purism and high-quality functionality, leading to timeless and long-lasting products. The durability of our products also has a beneficial side-effect: sustainability.
Over time, we have increased our focus on the customer rather than the brand. Contrary to many brands, especially in the fashion industry, that constantly surpass each other with their logo sizes, we rather stay decent in the background and try to improve our customer’s life while travelling.
How do products such as the SkyHanger® reflect this style, and what place do your signature products have within the market?
The SkyHanger® is the perfect example of our philosophy. Its design is timeless and puristic, while the nylon is super light and water-resistant. Our developed titanium hanger (100% titanium) is durable and functional at the same time. It can hold up to three suits and keep them perfectly in place. In summary, it’s the ideal travel companion for men in suits. You can discover more about what makes the SkyHanger® unique here and here.
Throughout the last years, more and more fashion brands have launched products for travel such as bags, backpacks and other leather goods, e.g. Mont Blanc. These players have far more monetary resources to create new products and produce higher quantities, profiting extremely from the economies of scale.
In addition, brand awareness and perception have become increasingly important when it comes to pricing, and people tend to rather buy the brand instead of the quality. Thus, our argument of high quality becomes less convincing to potential customers.
How does DEGELER draw from and incorporate local culture and work with local artisans, craftsmen, and components?
Even though it becomes more and more difficult, we keep our production lines in Germany. However, sticking to this ensures quality in everything we do, although this results in us being less competitive.
What have you learned or experienced as a designer through your relationship with local and global influencers?
Our products address a niche customer group which also requires a very specific selection when it comes to communication. While bigger brands have a very broad customer base, they accordingly can communicate through way more communication channels, such as social media. We learned that our customers tend to be business professionals who are frequently travelling as part of their job and can rather be reached by traditional media such as Manager Magazin, Frankfurter Allgemeine, FOUR etc.
What is the usual production process? How long does it take from inception to completion?
First, it’s the idea, then the prototype, market research, tenders and finally, production. Depending on the product, we need up to one year.
What designers do you compare yourself to, and how does DEGELER set itself apart from them?
Jil Sander and Helmut Lang come to mind – however, our products have design integrity PLUS functionality.
Do you have a favourite piece in your collection, and why are you drawn to it?
Definitely the SkyHanger® garment bag in combination with our leather backpack; it’s ideal for business trips. Every pocket is designed with a purpose – I can pack/unpack with my eyes closed. It’s a big time saver.
What iconic work are you most inspired by? Why and how does it influence you personally, with DEGELER, and through your relationship with your work?
Prada designed a nylon backpack in the 90s. Light and strong with a clean design. A masterpiece!
What have you been working on recently, and how are you influenced by design trends?
We developed a weekender carry-on bag. It’s light and available in three colours. These days we are working on new weekenders.
Design trends: I keep up-to-date with them enthusiastically. But at the end of the day, we stay true to our basic design elements: functionality, purism and discreet branding.
What direction would you like to see DEGELER moving in future?
We are growing our DEGELER brand to become a well-known brand for business travellers. We will continue to develop our designs internationally for all kinds of travellers and customers.
To find out more about DEGELER and purchase its products, visit the below links: