Matthew Stuart, 32, a Baltimore boy, Gilman, Vanderbilt and Columbia Business School grad, travels a lot. He’s lived in China for four years. He splits his time between Hong Kong and New York and, for the life of him, he could not find luggage that fit the bill (should we say, bag?) in the department of style, weight, versatility and water repellency. Ditto his friend Jimmy Lau, whom he met when both worked in Shanghai. So what do enterprising fellas do? They put their creativity and education to use to design, manufacture and market their own line of luggage.
Stuart & Lau celebrates its formal launch this week in Manhattan. From Monday, July 18 to Saturday, July 24, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. the full collection is in the showroom of Black Lapel at 10 E. 38th Street, Third floor. If you don’t have time to run up, tell your New York kids, then take a look at the company’s cool website.
We asked Matt a few questions about leaving his deep Baltimore roots — his family’s horse Orb won the 2013 Kentucky Derby — to become a men’s accessories maker in Hong Kong.
What did you do in China?
I worked for Ralph Lauren in the Hong Kong offices, focusing on the brand’s store rollout strategy in Asia.
Why did you and your longtime friend and business partner Jimmy Lau decide to do a line of luggage?
We were both living mobile lifestyles in large, hectic cities – me in Hong Kong and Jimmy in New York – and at one time or another had carried all forms of bags and briefcases to get us from A to B. Yet, we were perpetually unsatisfied. It proved impossible to find that lightweight, weatherproof, versatile briefcase that could transcend location and style with simple, classic lines and small touches of individuality – an everyday carry, regardless of weather, occasion, or contents. Both being enthusiasts for product design, we had that eureka “let’s do this!” moment over coffee 16 months ago in New York, when we started designing the first briefcase and haven’t looked back since.
What makes Stuart & Lau unique?
Our tri-part value proposition — lightweight, weatherproof, and user-centric design — is a unique focus that no one else fully embraces. Other brands create one-off products that check some of those boxes, but we don’t see anyone else waking up every morning with that as their primary goal.
Who designs the product?
The functional nature of our designs originates from our shared experiences living in both Hong Kong and New York. We took into account the full range of motions and requirements that we encounter throughout the day and built solutions around those needs into the bag. To that effect, it’s a joint effort between Jimmy and me.
Where is the luggage manufactured?
We design and test our products in New York and Hong Kong, and then full-scale production is done in China.
How about the leather?
The leather is an extremely supple vegetable-tanned leather from the Horween Tannery in Chicago. They are known for producing some of the best leather in the world, and we think it really shows in person on the product.
Who will be attracted to this luggage?
We hope the characteristics have broad appeal, and customers who have traditionally carried heavier ballistic nylon or leather bags will value our lighter construction. Men in cities are natural customers, as they’re generally carrying.
When/Where will be it be introduced?
We introduced the line through our website earlier this year, and now our full launch is this summer. Later this fall, we’ll release a day bag, as well as two new color combinations across the entire range.
Will there be pop-ups this summer?
We have one happening this week in New York from July 18th to July 24th.
Will there be a line for women next?
At the moment, it’s not in the immediate plans, but we’ll keep it in mind.
What would you like to say to the hometown?
Looking forward to seeing you soon!
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