I have often thought that we, as F1 jet setters, should be tasked with testing to destruction the products of the world’s luggage manufacturers. In the same way that car manufacturers take their new models to Death Valley and Finland for R&D, we put bags through the most extreme conditions known to travellers.
I have gone through three Porsche Design suitcases – three! And Porsche Design is among the sturdiest (and stylish) of luggage. It’s meant to be a pull-along 911, the most reliable sports car money can buy. Nevertheless, two handles have snapped off, a wheel has gone AWOL, the lining has torn, a zip has broken… Hence why they keep getting replaced (fortunately under Porsche Design’s very generous warranty).
F1 personnel are no ordinary crash test dummies. We take 100 flights a year, drag our bags through every major city from Sao Paulo to Shanghai, and across the muddy car parks of Silverstone. Our luggage gets a hard life and the grand prix calendar (unlike the flashy notion of F1 racing) is not 100 percent suited to luxury brands and their tactile materials. But you don’t have to settle for a plastic Samsonite just yet.
Dominic Reilly, who was until recently the Head of Marketing for Williams, feels the same way. After 15 years on the global beat he saw an opportunity to make stylish leather goods that were durable and high performance.
“I have a six-year-old daughter that I had barely seen, and my paternal instincts began to take over,” explains Dominic as to why he left his job at Williams after eight and a half years. “There’s a very positive affiliation for luxury brands and F1; it’s international, prestigious, there’s the attention to detail. I felt this wasn’t being exploited.”
Dominic identified luggage as an area of interest and undertook a six-month night course in luxury goods at St Martins while continuing to work at Williams by day, and then established his new company, Dom Reilly. When Dominic announced he was leaving, Patrick Head recognized the project’s potential and asked to get involved. “Patrick agreed to invest some money, and share his business experience and engineering ideas. He’s been something of a mentor. He looks at things completely differently to you and me. He sees loads, stresses, and weights in a much deeper way. I’d love to spend a day in his brain.”
In addition to full-grain Spanish leather bags and accessories, Dom Reilly is supplying custom-made luggage to the Williams team and this, unlike the exclusive travel kit of other teams, is available to the public. In fact, Reilly maintains an office at the team’s HQ in Grove, so it’s as if he never left.
The F1 philosophy of making marginal gains in every area has been applied to the Dom Reilly range. For example, Dominic claims to have the smoothest running zips in the business, using highly polished elements that are inspired by F1 gearboxes. His laptop and iPad cases use Confor Foam, which is used in F1 cockpits and absorbs 97 percent of impact forces.
The temptation might have been to then bolt on lashings of carbon fibre and titanium to drive home that F1 message, but Reilly resisted, finding those kind of products “a bit cold and not to my taste”. Instead, the range is handsome and timeless.
Dominic says he’s loving the new job. “It’s a different pace of life, inevitably, because few industries are like F1. But I’m learning something new everyday.”
Accessories start at £50, rising to £395 for that Confor Foam leather laptop case, £895 for a highly engineered briefcase (seen below), and £1,400 for a leather helmet bag – the preferred carry-on for the gentleman racer.
See http://www.domreilly.com for the full collection.