When designing the first product for his luggage brand, Anson Shum literally thought inside the box – an old hat box to be exact. The piece, part of Shum’s vintage luggage collection, inspired the entrepreneur to create luggage with a circular silhouette.
“I’ve loved collecting vintage luggage since I was young,” says Shum, co-founder of Ookonn. “I went to all the antique markets and bought these beautifully handcrafted leather pieces. But looking at that hat box, I wondered if we could make it a little more modern and convenient to carry. Then it would have been nice to use.”
The result of this is Ookonn’s first set of carry-on pieces.Shum has created a circular carry-on bag that marries the old with the new. While the silhouette echoes vintage hat boxes, it is married with modern day conveniences: TSA locks, 360-degree spinner wheels and a light but sturdy polycarbonate shell.
“I’ve been working in fashion and luxury for 12 years, and have had plenty of opportunities to travel. But while I can find a lot of beautiful options for clothes and accessories, there are not that many for luggage,” Shum remarks. “Most luggage brands in the market are business oriented. So I wanted to see if I could create a luxury brand that would generate excitement.
“Back in the day, it was not very easy for people to travel, so functionality was very important. But travelling is now much easier and more commonplace. Function is not so important for a short-haul flight, which is something many Hongkongers do every two or three weeks. So I thought I could design something a bit more playful.”
Customers can choose from several customisable options, including different luggage covers, luggage belts, and changeable handles. There is also the ability to personalise your purchase with a monogram, echoing Louis Vuitton.
Ookonn sells online to cut costs, and its bags sell for between HK$2,280 and HK$2,780 for basic models.
“Online business is more relevant to my target audience. Ookonn is a lifestyle brand targeting millennials. While we get customers from different age groups, the feeling and foundation of the brand is for a younger audience in their early 20s to early 30s. While online is important, it is only one part of the business model, since we are launching in Hong Kong and China. But for other markets, perhaps we can collaborate with several bricks-and-mortar multilabel stores.”
What is also remarkable about Ookonn’s genesis is the support it has received. Shum, who worked for Hong Kong-based Bluebell Group as a marketing and communications director before Ookonn, received an unexpected response from his employer after handing in his resignation notice.
“When I resigned last year, I told the company of my plan to start my own label. They were so nice to me, and asked if there was any way we could work together. I showed them my business plan, and they offered to coach and mentor me.
“Eventually nearing the end of my employment period, I did a formal presentation in front of all the shareholders. And the week after, I was told that Bluebell wanted to invest in Ookonn. It was a surreal moment. I think they decided to invest because of the product, the business model, and obviously the fact I have built a good relationship with them.”