Travel Loot

At Last! The Only Suitcase You'll Ever Need

by California Chaney
LOJEL's Cubo Small. All photos courtesy of LOJEL.

We all have one: a dusty, scratched, dented suitcase with one wheel falling off that we continue to drag through countless airport terminals because (a) we don't want to pay for a new one, (b) we don't want to add yet another could-be-mended product to landfill, even though (c) it's such a hassle to find a suitcase repair, especially considering that (d) the bag will just get thrown onto a conveyer belt by rough baggage handlers anyway, and (e) we'd rather spend our money on travel souvenirs or a flight upgrade.

Universal travel logic for a universal travel problem. Shouldn't there be a better travel solution somewhere in the universe?

There is: LOJEL.

Oh no, we hear you moan. Not another trendy luggage company that claims to be different but is exactly like every other millennial-targeting, full-of-hot-air "disruptor" out there. (We feel you. And we agree.) But LOJEL has a distinct, feel-good edge: a promise that you'll never have to toss your suitcase again.

This suitcase's journey is one man's quest to create the perfect travel bags. At 21-years-old Chih Chang Chiang was busy making leather bags with a simple sewing machine and selling them at local markets in Japan. Frustrated by the one-size-fits all model in the luggage industry, he decided to fix the problem himself, racking up 43 passport stamps in 180 days to test his prototype: a hard-shelled roller bag with re-engineered zippers, handles, and internal stabilizers to find the ideal weight-to-durability ratio. His craftsmanship didn't go unnoticed, and in 1989 the luggage brand was born.

On the left, Cubo Small; at right, Cubo Medium.
LOJEL suitcases are designed to repair, not replace.

In 2014, Chiang's grandson An Chieh took over the family business, working on the production floor, studying every aspect of the unique "inside-out" design and manufacturing process. In order to honor Chiang's original mission to "Let our journeys enrich life," An Chieh and LOJEL's creative team identify the evolving challenges that travelers face and work to resolve them head-on. Simplifying the journey, you might say, with innovation and sustainability as the cornerstones of the brand's ethos.

While many companies embrace the “dispose and replace” model after one zipper break, LOJEL's suitcases are built from a system of modular, standardized parts that allow travelers to repair their own luggage easily and quickly (and on the go!), minimizing waste that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Amazing, right? There's more: All their products are manufactured in an ethical, Global Recycling Standards (GRS)-certified facility in Indonesia, using only non-toxic, fossil-fuel free, and durable materials. The cherry on top is a ten-year warranty on each suitcase.

The company wants a long-term relationship with its customers, listening to their pain points and working them out for the long haul. I saw this firsthand when I met their design team at a product discovery event in New York and told them what I hate about my current suitcase: the tricks and secret compartments I wish I had, my airport pet peeves, my tendency to overpack. They wanted to know exactly what I liked, disliked, and would improve about their style prototypes. They were all ears.

Creative director Kenzo Yoneno set the tone when told the group, "I'm not interested in what worked before. I want to know what people need now."

LOJEL's end goal is not to be one-size-fits all. The company offers three luggage styles in a variety of colors: versatile Cubo and extra-secure Voja come in four different sizes; lightweight Alto comes in two.

All suitcases have wheels that rotate 360 degrees and bodies made from nearly indestructible thermoplastic that is heat-and cold-resistant. (Which means you can place your laptop and expensive wine in the hot trunk or the frigid cargo hold, and they'll emerge just fine.) The material is also scratch- and scuff-proof. (Away with you, annoying white streaks!) Alto and Voja have clamshell openings; Cubo has a flat-top, trunk-style opening.

Cubo's trunk-style opening allows for easy access.

Alto large.
LOJEL's Urbo 2 Travelpack and Cubo Fit.

I have Cubo Fit, a hybrid size between a medium and large, notable for its tall body. I love it because it's the Goldilocks of suitcases: not too small, not too big, just the right, slender shape that can fit even in micro hotel rooms. The flat-top opening means I never have to witness my stuff flying across dirty airport floors when TSA agents rummage through my bag from the middle (just me?), and the expandable body is great for my habit of returning with souvenirs for everyone I know.

In addition to suitcases, LOJEL makes clever foldable day packs, shoulder bags, backpacks, totes, and weekenders. Backpacks have smart pockets for passports, a suitcase strap to slide over luggage handles, and expand to accommodate too many travel snacks (just me?). Hip bags are made from 100 percent recycled and weather-resistant material. LOJEL also has an extensive line of accessories and organizers including travel wallets, wireless chargers, packing kits, Airpod cases, and dry bags.

Everything is affordable too. The suitcases range in price from $170 for the Alto small carry-on to $350 for the large Cubo. Smaller bags run from $50 to $140. If you're buying in bulk, look for the Bundles and Sets options to get up to $100 off.

LOJEL products have been tried and tested for more than 30 years to withstand the most reckless traveler: dropped, banged, and jerked, the wheels spun at the speeds higher than a sprinter could reach when she was late for a flight. The company recycles material left over in production into pouches and organizers. They feel responsible to the environment as well as to their customers.

A zillion suitcase brands can get your stuff where you're going. But it feels good to support a company that feels as responsible to the environment as it does to its customers. While it's not always a good use of time to reinvent the wheel, for LOJEL, it certainly is.

The ultra-secure Voja has a three-point lock system.

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