Retail in Asia


LOJEL embarks on ambitious expansion in Hong Kong with its first global flagship in 2024

Established in Japan in 1989, travel essentials brand LOJEL has seen its footprint expand to Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Middle East in the 1990s, offering user-focused carry solutions for every day and travel. 

An acronym for its brand’s vision, “Let Our Journeys Enrich Life,” LOJEL had been in the midst of further regional expansion when the pandemic altered its course. In 2023, however, the brand moved to accelerate its strategy, particularly in Hong Kong, where it opened four new stores in key territories. Coming in 2024 is its first-ever global flagship boutique, set to debut at Causeway Bay’s Fashion Walk.

SEE ALSO: Cult fashion label Ganni embraces global presence, furthers Asia ambitions

In addition to an aggressive retail roll-out, the company has set its sights on three highly ambitious sustainability objectives to be accomplished by 2026, including attaining climate neutrality, incorporating 50 percent recycled or sustainable materials in all products, and obtaining B Corp certification.

Retail in Asia speaks to Jose Muñoz, general manager for Hong Kong, Macau and Mainland China, to talk about the brand’s evolution and strategy in Asia. 

Source: LOJEL
RiA: LOJEL was founded in 1989. Can you share a bit about the brand’s journey and the LOJEL customer?

Jose Muñoz: LOJEL was indeed founded in Japan in 1989 by our CEO’s grandfather, whose family comes from a long history of manufacturing high-quality luggage.

From the 1990s to the early 2000s, LOJEL extended its footprint in Asia from Japan to Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Middle East through some key distribution partnerships. In 2013, our current CEO took over the company and assembled a team to strengthen the brand and expand globally. I joined the team a few years later, in 2015.

Having successfully reinforced our position as a well-known luggage brand in APAC, we began to look beyond travel and consider all aspects of modern mobility. This years-long transition led us to redefine ourselves as a comprehensive carry essentials brand, expanding from luggage to bags and daily carry items.

Today, LOJEL is present in more than 15 markets in Asia, Oceania, and North America while our team has grown to encompass over 20 different nationalities. This symbolises our vision of diversity and human connection. All of this while remaining a family-owned business, which gives us full control of the company’s development and expansion.

Jose Muñoz, general manager for Hong Kong, Macau and Mainland China. Source: LOJEL
RiA: How do you describe the LOJEL customer?

Muñoz: The LOJEL audience comprises a demographically diverse set of users defined by common attitudes or behaviours toward a broad spectrum of movement.

On the one extreme are [who we call] the “efficient minimalists” who are motivated by productivity and organisation, and on the other are the “culture mavens” who draw inspiration from city energy, social encounters, and spontaneity. Everyone is somewhere in between, exhibiting either trait, and their personalities can differ between their daily commutes and when they travel. We do our best to address these overlapping concerns for people, wherever they’re from.

RiA: LOJEL is aggressively expanding in Hong Kong and Greater China – can you tell us about some of your key store openings in 2023? 

Muñoz: Our expansion and company growth was suddenly halted due to the pandemic in 2020. We had big plans back then and it was not easy to survive through those three years, especially in Hong Kong. Back then we had two stores, Chatham Road in Tsim Sha Tsui and Tower 535 in Causeway Bay that we had to close in 2021.  

Once the pandemic restrictions were lifted, we started moving quickly to reinforce our presence in Hong Kong, especially in retail. We opened our first store in K11 Musea in April; the second store in The One in July, the third store in The Wai, one of the newest malls in town, in October, and the latest store was just opened on December 15 in YOHO Mall.

LOJEL’s new store at The Wai in Tai Wai, Hong Kong. Source: LOJEL

This is following our direction to expand our brand presence to all key territories, from popular shopping areas such as Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay to major residential areas such as Yuen Long and Sha Tin. 

The most exciting store is yet to come. In early 2024, we will open our first global flagship store at Fashion Walk in Causeway Bay. This 4,000-square-foot retail space will combine what makes the LOJEL brand: a sustainable carry essentials brand whose mission is to spark human connections through our local community, and outstanding customer experience.

That will mark our fifth store opening in 10 months. It was certainly a difficult undertaking, but it was made possible by the recent deployment of a regional team for Hong Kong, Macau, and Mainland China—one I’ve had the privilege to lead—that helped us accelerate our local development.

RiA: LOJEL has ambitions of achieving B Corp certification by 2026 – can you tell us about some of LOJEL’s sustainable initiatives and how you plan to get there?

Muñoz: We aspire to become the most sustainable user-centric carry essentials brand—inspiring movements that create meaningful impact for our communities and our planet.

We want to use B Corp as our definition of a sustainable business and guidance to reach our mission, given it is one of the highest standards that can classify a brand as “most sustainable”. The road to becoming a B Corp includes several initiatives covering the key topics: governance, community, environment, customers, and workers. 

Our team is currently working diligently on learning more about our impact and how we can do better. Our key initiatives include: increasing the lifespan of our products through refurbishing/repairs, shifting materials to more sustainable alternatives, donating non-sellable stock to those in need in the US, Hong Kong, and Singapore, and progressively offsetting our emissions to be climate-neutral by 2026. 

These initiatives are just a start for us. We’re aware we’ve got a lot more work to do to reach our mission but the team is motivated and committed to getting there.

Source: LOJEL
RiA: What sets apart or defines LOJEL’s products?

Muñoz: Companies would often describe the quality or main features of their products as a representation of who they are. We think a bit differently. LOJEL differentiates its products through three key ideas, with a fourth driving them all.

Less, but better. Too many products are unnecessary and disposable. This is why we focus on only making versatile, durable, repairable items that are timeless. The Iloj Leather collection was inspired by the goal of carrying the absolute minimum with us every day.

[LOJEL products are] user-centric. Our product development is always driven by the needs of our target audience; we carefully consider our customers’ opinions while we are constantly observing their behavior. This way we can react to create what our customers will need by the time they need it. 

Third, modern movement. The way people travel is constantly evolving—we do not move the same way as we did in the past. But we continue to learn what works from yesterday’s lessons and today’s insights. The versatile modularity of the Eblo bag collection allows people to adapt to changing needs throughout the day, as well as to different environments.

On top of these three ideas, the road to sustainability is long and complex, but LOJEL is committed to making the right decisions by following three key ideas: finding more sustainable materials, finding ways to recycle our products, and changing our product offer if it cannot meet such criteria.

SEE ALSO: In conversation: John Hardy’s blueprint for ‘conscientious luxury’

Source: LOJEL

A prime example of all of it is our best-selling Cubo collection. For many years we observed that there was a missing solution for those travellers going to some countries like Japan or Hong Kong, where hotel rooms are often not that spacious. This limited space can make packing and unpacking quite inconvenient. Our team determined that a top-shell opening was the perfect solution to solve such issues compared to all traditional luggage which open like a book.

This innovation made Cubo a hit since we launched the collection back in 2016, and today, LOJEL remains the pioneer of this “box” opening design. This is one of the reasons why we recently launched an upgraded version of it, where 50 percent of the materials are sustainable, the product has been reinforced with additional features that respond to customers’ needs, and that adapt to the way people travel nowadays.