FPM Milano Is On The Move

The discreet Italian luggage brand's arrival in North America ignites a global market voyage.
By Roxanne Robinson


Travel may be trending again, but traveling in style is evergreen. Post-pandemic revenge vacations and business trips have resumed, creating market conditions clear for luxury travel gear. Enter FPM Milano, the family-owned Italian luggage brand poised to make an impression in the North American market. Ac Magazine spoke with Earl Rotman, chairman of FPM Milano North America, about how the luggage brand expects to be a game-changer for the category now that it has touched down in the US and Canada.

Rotman, a Canadian lawyer-turned-banker-slash-investor, has been boosting the brand’s North American chapter since 2019, a boom travel year that abruptly halted when the pandemic hit. The businessman, who worked with brands such as J Brand, Waterworks, and Roots Canada, is also involved with the Milanese men’s brand Eleventy. “Some people look for apparel or accessories in Milan; I look for businesses,” he quipped. He discovered FPM Milano around 2016 but didn’t get involved until two years later. His success with the men’s fashion label prompted an offer from Fremder to introduce the brand to the North American market, which, according to Rotman, marks a return.

The genesis of FPM Milano and its new chapter is increasingly rare in today’s heritage European brand globalization scheme. Founded as Fabbrica Pelleterie Milano in 1946 by Enrico Fremder, who aimed to highlight Italian artisanal craftsmanship in leather goods, the brand offered handbags, briefcases, and luggage. While firmly established in Milan’s Brera neighborhood, FPM Milano created an initial presence stateside when it opened and maintained a Fifth Avenue store from 1956 to 1964.

After starting his career in the family business, Enrico Fremder’s son Beppi had a long career at luggage giant Samsonite, eventually becoming the chief commercial officer in charge of Europe and working in private equity. According to Rotman, when young Fremder contemplated his next move, he thought, “We have a great family company; why not build that?” and the dormant FPM Milano reawakened.

Crucial to FPM’s revival under Beppi was engaging award-winning Vienna-born, Milan-based industrial designer Marc Sadler, who created the core product line — the Bank collection — named thusly for its connotation of being like a vault to store valuables. Launched in 2015, it spurred offshoot lines such as the sporty aluminum Bank S and lightweight polycarbonate offerings such as the Bank Light. The brand debuts its lightest suitcase, the Bank Zip Deluxe, this January. Those kind of bragging rights are what Rotman says his customer reacts to.

“The brand resonates with the global traveler and connoisseur who wants to be in the know. The Bank earned its name because you can feel confident that your valuables will be protected by our superior construction when you travel. It’s reminiscent of a bank vault. Our product devotees enjoy that our luggage has curated distribution and, therefore, represents a unique fashion statement,” the executive said. Currently, the brand is available in 32 countries globally and in North America at Saks, Bloomingdale’s, Holt Renfrew, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Mitchells Group, Voyage Luggage, Fred Segal, and Harry Rosen, among others.

According to Rotman and Deonne Coghlan, FPM Milano’s North America brand director (who formally worked for Tumi as its Canadian specialty and travel retail director), the Bank is made differently than other luggage. “FPM Milano is not created from a single sheet of aluminum but from multiple layers to fortify stress points and it features hand-set rivets made from zinc-coated antirust iron. The materials undergo a meticulous anodizing process, protecting against oxidation and rusting,” he explained, noting that this process adds to longevity and ensures it maintains a sleek appearance.

“FPM Milano is luggage maker’s luggage. It’s the seamless marriage of Italian artisanship, design, functionality, and durability. The main distinguishing feature of all our products is the Butterfly Lock and the brand’s DNA. Other noteworthy designs include smooth-flow Japanese wheel technology, a telescopic handle that assumes any height, and the ability to individualize each case for a more bespoke experience,” Rotman explained.

FPM Milano has caught the attention of fashion brands as well. Recently, they added a Gucci collaboration to the line-up with a style that features the Italian luxury giant’s red and green stripe as a strap and counts Fendi and Chanel among its luxury private label customers.

While the Bank line offers plenty of high-end bells and whistles, FPM Milano even outdoes itself with its yearly special editions. For example, can’t leave your pilates equipment behind? FPM has a suitcase with a fully collapsible reformer. They offer a pet case if your canine or feline prefers to travel in style. Other special editions include a traveling mixology station, cook station, writer’s desk, and even a sleeping trunk, in case your hotel reservation goes awry. Rotman says more is on the way, too.

“We have an exciting new project in the lineup that will be revealed at the 2024 Salone del Mobile Milan design week. There really is no limit to our ambition to innovate and expand our offerings.”