When Ashraf Abu Issa, the Qatar-based Chairman of Abu Issa Holding, couldn’t find the right luggage and other accessories that he needed for his international travels, he started his own travel store, Mosafer, Fine Art of Travel, first in Qatar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Johannesburg and recently opened in New York. Located in a former bi-level art gallery space on West 57th Street, the first impression of the store is sheer space: 3767 square feet on the ground floor and the soon to be completed 9149 square feet upstairs. But it’s not just how much merchandise he can display, it’s how unusual so much of it is.
For one, the HENK Classic retailing for $35,000 which is only on display in this store in the U.S. Created by frog design in California and custom made in Germany, the bag has a crocodile exterior (or calf leather, ostrich or carbon, lowering the price a bit to $20,000) and created to order interior with wood veneers of any color. The engineering is remarkably smooth with additional wheels that pop out and retract, side doors that open, compartments that open on top to store items that you need to access quickly, a Napa leather insert that doubles as a removable briefcase, etc. It’s a beautiful piece and once ordered, is delivered personally by the head of the company no matter where in the world the buyer lives.
Apart from this one of a kind piece, though, the store stocks other ingenious pieces such as the Blue smart bag, which locks via an app on your smartphone and with a GPS lets you know where it is, obviously a valuable asset if an airline loses it, a bulletproof bag and handsomely designed but tough backpacks lined with wire to prevent anyone slitting them open. There are gorgeous leather computer bags, briefcases and carry ons by the Italian company Piquando and every travel accessory, electronic or otherwise, that one can imagine, some produced in house. Abu Issa is also working with Turkish designer Günseli Türkay to create a line of travel clothes that not only allows you to travel in comfort but also look sharp enough to head to a meeting straight off the plane. And even with brands that other stores stock such as Tumi or Briggs and Riley, the sheer size of the store allows them to stock a company’s entire line instead of a few selections which other stores, pressed for space, do.
As a break from browsing, shoppers will also have a café in the back that is totally in sync with the rest of the store. The food will be multicultural and the name, The Silk Road, an homage to those who traveled that route…with far simpler accessories than they could today.