Max Barenbrug knows how to get around. Growing up in the Netherlands, he spent much of his free time in his family’s garage, wrenching on bicycles, motorcycles, and cars. As a design student in Amsterdam, he focused on mobility—a suddenly trendy word that describes our ceaseless quest to find better, smarter, and more sustainable ways to move ourselves and the things that we care about.
In 1994, Barenbrug’s vision of a better baby stroller—the idea that would, less than five years later, form the foundation of the multimillion-dollar global brand that we now know as Bugaboo—was conceived as a project for his graduation from the Design Academy Eindhoven. It’s not a surprise that Barenbrug’s approach was rigorous. The signature elements of the Bugaboo design—modularity mixed with style—disrupted the stroller industry entirely. Now Barenbrug, the company’s chief design officer, is applying the same principles to luggage.
Bugaboo Boxer, which launched last year, is a system more than a suitcase. Designed with the frequent business traveler in mind, the base is a wheeled chassis on which a series of three interlocking cases (a hard-shell check-in case, a carry-on, and a laptop sleeve) rests. And, oh yeah, you don’t pull it behind you—blindly bumping into fellow travelers as you ramble through the terminal. This is a suitcase that you push, steering with one hand. When you reach your destination or the overhead bin, the wheels tuck away and the handle collapses.
Here, Barenbrug and Bugaboo chief marketing officer Madeleen Klaasen discuss the evolution of the brand and why they’re exploring new ground after 20 years of success in strollers.
So, why luggage?
Max Barenbrug: Mobility is part of our product DNA and our design DNA—getting from point A to B while making your life easier and helping you feel unburdened. Those are the core characteristics of all our products and the inspiring elements for developing a new product. We had accomplished this with strollers, and we saw in the suitcase market a need for this same relief.
Madeleen Klaasen: We’re committed to helping the experience of consumers on the move, changing it from a burden to a blessing. This line of luggage upholds the same values as our strollers—it’s about innovation. We want to strike the right balance of expected functionality and bring something new to the industry.
What’s innovative about the Boxer?
MB: Most of the luggage that exists today is similar. It’s four wheels. The sizes are roughly the same. You pull it behind you.
One of the first things we learned was that pulling is not ideal. When you pull your luggage, you might not realize it, but half the time you actually end up carrying the suitcase. With our concept, you push the suitcase as you would one of our strollers. And when you push, you don’t have to carry anything.
What else did you learn from designing strollers that you applied here?
MB: Modularity. With our stroller base, it’s easy to connect a seat or a car seat and offer a whole new layer of convenience. We thought, Why not do that with suitcases as well? Why not make a frame where you can connect several things?
MK: It’s about the reinvention of the wheels. It helped set us apart in the stroller industry, and now in luggage. Furthermore, we want to make sure we provide the best quality. The products we make last a long time. If you want to change the industry with a new approach, it has to be proven that it works and it lasts.
This article was created and commissioned by Bugaboo.