Ever since Patti Cazzato, 55, became its first woman CEO in 2014, the 29-year-old San Francisco brand hasn’t been the same - in a good way. Prior to her taking over the helm, its business centered around its messenger bag, which was an icon. “Every company needs to have an icon,” says Cazzato. “But for me, it’s more important to take Timbuk2 beyond its icon, and turn it into a lifestyle brand.”
Timbuk2’s first woman CEO Patti Cazzato makes sure the brand’s bags are as stylish as they are useful
With more than three decades of retail experience - she was senior VP at Gap, then at Levi’s, and also ran her own eco-friendly apparel line, Clary Sage Organics - Cazzato recognised the need to attract new demographics. “We don’t want to alienate anyone. Not a traveller, not a tech person, not a woman.”
Since her arrival, the brand has been making luggage and duffel bags for travellers, multi-compartment backpacks for “tech people who need a lot of functionality inside their bags”, and launched a luxe collection of women’s bags, Femme, in 2015.
“One thing I noticed when I joined was that there was nothing that I, as a woman, would wear. So I got together with the head of our design team - she’d worked for Vivienne Westwood and Levi’s - and designed the Femme line.” Another five-style collection for women has also been planned for a January 2018 launch.
What makes the company flexible and nimble: It still operates almost like a start-up, says Cazzato. For new design inspirations, everyone is encouraged to give ideas, however outlandish - “we don’t say no to any”. The design team, a group of former high-fashion designers and industrial designers, keeps updated on trends in the marketplace, the arts and music scene, and youth culture. For example, in response to Coachella and the outdoor concert trend in the US, it designed a bag with a hydration system and straws, plenty of pockets for everything one might need to bring to a concert, and a poncho for rainy weather. It has also created a backpack pannier for cyclists, a dog carrier backpack named the Muttmover, a messenger bag especially for new dads, camera bags, and a bag that holds a cooler for a six-pack.
Cazzato says: “We do all kinds of funny items like that, on top of our regular collection. Our customers also give us tons of feedback through social media and our large customer service department. For example: ‘I bought a bag, and you guys have a strap that goes on the right but I am left-handed. Can you make sure the clasp goes both ways?’ And we’ll fix that by the next season.”
Timbuk2 is also known for its customisation service.Founder Rob Honeycutt was the first in the world to implement an online customiser, and has taught the ways of customisation to Nike ID (a personalisation service offered by Nike). According to Cazzato, all custom orders are made in the brand’s San Francisco factory, which receives online orders in real time. The bags are then made immediately and will be ready in seven to 10 days, an almost unheard-of speed for such a service.
The darnedest thing: Singapore’s online store gets the highest percentage of customisation requests in the world. We either love to customise, or we are the fussiest.
This story first appeared in the January 2018 issue of Her World.