[For this, the third installment of The Thought Kitchen's ongoing conversation about design, we sat down with Nau designer Peter Kallen to look deeper into the Fluent Traveler. For More of The Design Eye, check out the previous posts on the Succinct Trench and Lightbeam Jacket. —Ed]
The Thought Kitchen: So in designing Nau’s first line of bags, where did you look for inspiration?
Peter Kallen: Well, the Fluent Traveler was conceived to be the perfect long weekend getaway bag. It’s carry-on size, but we looked to those old doctors bags, the classic leather ones that have a great long zip and open up so you can get into their depths. I’m kind of a bag freak, and for whatever reason I think it’s important to have a series of bags that fit a variety of needs. This bag is perfect for the three- to four-day trip. It has ample room the main compartment, isolated pockets on each end, and a separate interior side pouch pocket that you can use to segregate stuff. As much as I don’t believe in segregation in most situations, I think it’s important in a bag to keep things organized when you travel. For the Fluent Traveler we built in those simple interior pockets, along with this great zip security pocket on the outside where you can put magazines, travel documents, snacks; the kinds of things you need to access in transit mode.
In terms of design, it’s all very integrated. We took the broad concept of a weekend bag, but stepped back from everything that was out there. We looked at some classic old luggage designs, dissected the doctors’ bag, then mixed up those ideas, sanded them down, and came out with this concept for our bag. Everything’s ‘grown-on’ to it: the handles come right off of the bag itself, kind of exoskeleton-like or frame-like; the snap-handle pads are like butterfly wings that are built into the handle. Even the zipper was considered: it’s a high quality YKK Excella zip, so it has a really nice glide and finish to it for a metal zip.
TTK: How does the Fluent reflect the application of Nau’s design aesthetic?
PK: There have been a lot of design considerations for this bag. You know, you think ‘it’s just a bag, and it holds so much stuff,’ but in designing the Fluent we wanted to make sure you could seamlessly interact with it. The scale of a bag is so important—when you’re in motion, and the bag is swinging and you’re moving— the scale, shape and weight distribution all needs to work together. So the shape of the bag itself has an organic feel to it, almost like a water droplet falling off a leaf. The footprint of the bag is narrower than the waist or the girth of it, so you won’t overweight the bottom, but you can fill the volume up in the center, and then it narrows up toward the top. That allows for more of a comfortable carrying profile, too, so when you have it against your body it kind of fits naturally. If you’re carrying it by your side, it’s not so massive that it keeps knocking you off of your stride.
TTK: So what makes this bag different from all the other bags in the overhead bin?
PK: It’s different because it has a frame made from soft materials that creates a soft structure, which I like. There are seams, and layers, and this exoskeletal detail that forms the handles, but it also adds this soft, structural element. It molds and melds with what’s inside of it. I think that this is a day and age when that style and sensibility is coming back to life. This bag represents that. It doesn’t have so specific an intention and vibe as a rolling bag; it just feels like a soft, more approachable bag that’s more malleable in all sorts of ways: to your look, to how you’re wearing things, to what you need to carry. It can be very casual, it can be very sophisticated. It ebbs and flows to meet your attitude and intent for that moment. It’s versatile, which ultimately creates more room for personal interpretation.