Today’s backpacks carry some cachet

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Today’s backpacks carry some cachet

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From left: Street fashion brand The Earth’s large capacity rucksack-style backpack, Rio Kairryu’s Bone Back Pack Brown Skin and Booq’s Mamba. Provided by each company

Backpacks are emerging as fashion icons beyond their functionality, with name brands like Kangol, Backpackers and Mandarina Duck seeing monthly sales growth of 30 percent or more while receiving wider exposure as department stores increase their inventories and choices.

According to Lotte Department Store, the number of backpack outlets has tripled in the past three years, with more than 100 stores selling backpacks and 70 of those being brand outlets.

The recently introduced Idealistic and Samsonite Red are gaining great popularity, and there is an aim to grow their sales by 200 percent.

While a backpack is the ultimate utilitarian accessory - carrying everything from computers to books to lunch - their surge in popularity can be traced to their emergence as fashion icons for young people.

Other factors are the spread of tablet PCs, smartphones and information technology devices, and their use by celebrities.

“As smartphones have proliferated, backpacks - which leave hands relatively free to use smart devices - are increasingly popular,” said a spokesman for Shinsegae Department Store. “Recently, various kinds of backpacks that match men’s suits have also appeared, replacing briefcases.”

Lotte Department Store forecasts the backpack market to be more than 300 billion won (282.6 million) after next year, triple its size in 2010.

Hyundai Department Store and Shinsegae Department Store opened select shops dedicated to backpacks to piggyback on their popularity.

Hyundai Department Store opened Kunden Shop in February at its Mok-dong, Sinchon, Ilsan Kintex and Ulsan stores. Hyundai says monthly sales growth has averaged 25 percent.

Shinsegae Department Store placed two backpack stores side-by-side as it renovated the fifth floor of its main store.

“Recently, backpacks are emerging as products that express individuality beyond just fashion items,” said a merchandise director at Lotte Department Store.

Meanwhile, Lotte Department Store is introducing men’s backpack brand Rio Kairyu through Oct. 28 at a temporary store on the sixth floor of its main store.

Rio Kairyu is famous for its unique design of a square shape that uses hard materials. The department store will offer its products at a discount of 30 percent to 40 percent.

There also are backpacks made of special materials as their types and designs become more diverse.

Premium laptop backpack brand Booq’s Mamba uses jute, a tough yet stylish, casual material suitable for men in their 20s and 30s.

Booq’s Mamba series consists of laptop backpacks and includes the Daypack, Career, Slim and Sleeve, at prices ranging from 49,000 won to 129,000 won.

Jute is a natural fiber usually used in expensive brands; synthetic nylon is commonly used in bags of low-cost brands.

Street fashion brand The Earth’s large capacity rucksack-style backpack uses durable Cordura, along with natural suede fabric to add an edge. Cushioned shoulder straps are comfortable, and the air-cushion back pad was designed to lessen fatigue.

There is a small mesh pocket inside the bag made to hold smart devices like tablet PCs.

Another Earth model has a toggle button for opening and closing. It uses natural cowhide on the outside and EVA material as internal filler, which allows the backpack to retain its original shape. There is also a separate compartment for laptops.

Backpack brand Targus offers five laptop backpacks: Slate, Transpire, Bex, Motor Backpack and Beetle Gamer. They combine sensible casual design with mobile-device protection.

BY KIM JUNG-YOON [kjy@joongang.co.kr]

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