item: Is This the Suitcase of the Summer?

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Wired millennials appreciate Away’s bright colors and charging capacities.

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Away’s cultish hard-shell rolling suitcases in signature colors. CreditCreditNina Westervelt for The New York Times

Save for Louis Vuitton steamer trunks, luggage has never had a particularly sexy connotation. (Recall Holden Caulfield complaining about his Gladstones banging the hell out of his legs.) The 1 percent of yore hired people to carry their belongings, and some celebrities still glide through airports with nary a suitcase in sight.

But about a year ago, amid the sea of black polyester-nylon that dominates most airports, I started noticing something new: sleek, colorful, grooved hard-shell rolling suitcases with built-in chargers.

They’re made by Away, a two-year-old luggage start-up with $81 million of investment. Fans include Rashida Jones, Karlie Kloss and Dwyane Wade, all of whom have designed limited editions with the company.

In December, at an airport in India, I saw a woman fight back tears when a gate agent told her that she might have to check her Away carry-on, owing to overhead compartments that were more compact than average. In April, at Away’s light-filled store in West Hollywood, I watched a woman storm in, demanding to know all the colors the carry-on came in because she wanted to add something “fresh” to the navy and black pieces she owned.

Cults have formed around merchandise like face cream and butt-lifting leggings. But rolling suitcases?

“Sometimes, when I really miss my luggage but I have no place to go, I’ll just open up my luggage on the floor and fill it,” said Shelley Bazemore, 60, a counterintelligence analyst in Maryland who served 21 years in the army. After reading about Away online and researching “like I was researching for a doctorate,” she bought six Away suitcases and half a dozen personal items

In 2015, Jen Rubio was working in brand marketing for the British fashion label AllSaints. She found herself traveling a lot for work, and while wheeling her black nylon “no name” bag through the Zurich Airport, a zipper burst, spilling her clothes all over the floor.

Thanks to some duct tape, the bag made it back to London, where Ms. Rubio lived at the time. She relayed her travel woes to her friend Steph Korey, who she met while working at Warby Parker. As young people are wont to do these days, they figured they could make something better.

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At Away’s recent pop-up shop in SoHo. CreditNina Westervelt for The New York Times

They interviewed hundreds of friends and associates and conducted anonymous online surveys before introducing Away’s first suitcase, a polycarbonate carry-on that came in four colors.

“The whole paralysis of choice was one of the things we wanted to solve when we started this,” Ms. Rubio, 31, said at their NoHo office the other day. “You go into a department store, you see a $600 bag and you see a $60 bag, and you don’t really know the difference.”

Away fills the space in the middle. Its most popular suitcase is the $245 “bigger” carry-on, which comes with an ejectable lithium-ion battery for charging smartphones, tablets and other USB-cord-addled devices.

The first iteration of the suitcase required a screwdriver to remove the battery, and last year, when airlines changed their rules regarding lithium-ion batteries because some of them had burst into flames mid-flight, Away scrambled to reach its early adopters and retrofit their luggage.

They weren’t able to contact everyone. Earlier this month, the actress Emmy Rossum tweeted, in all capital letters, about how United Airlines confiscated her Away suitcase and made her stuff her belongings in plastic bags because her carry-on wasn’t compliant with its rules. “Can anyone explain this to me?!?!” she asked the ether.

The company contacted Ms. Rossum and United to explain that the charger could have been removed. (Away also sent Ms. Rossum a new suitcase.)

Other luggage brands are also trying to entice a new generation of wired travelers. Tumi, which was founded in New Jersey in 1975 and named after a Peruvian ceremonial knife used for sacrifices, corralled a group of Instagram personalities to post about its bags to promote 19 Degree, its first aluminum luggage collection. It’s hard not to see the line’s rose-gold suitcase as millennial catnip.

In December, the German brand Rimowa, which hails from 1898, erected a temporary shop in Beverly Hills, Calif., and invited celebrities with large social media followings, including Pharrell Williams and Alessandra Ambrosio.

An Away suitcase in a millennial shade, on display at the company’s pop-up. CreditNina Westervelt for The New York Times

But most hard-shell suitcases from the fancier brands start at around $1,000, and Away says it offers the same quality for a lot less. Its suitcases range from $190, for a child-size carry-on, to $595, for a large aluminum check-in.

NPD Group, the market research firm, estimates that some 47 million suitcases were sold in the United States in the 12 months from June 2017 to June 2018. Since February 2016, Away has sold about 500,000, according to the company.

“They might have half a share point, but they’re pushing the whole market toward innovation,” said Beth Goldstein, an NPD analyst. “Their message is innovative. They’re making luggage cool and positioning it as a way to make travel easier.”

This may explain the preponderance of young professionals at Terminal A, Away’s recent temporary shop in SoHo, which offered cold-brew coffee on tap and a cheeky “departures” board. (The status of a fake flight bound for the fraught Fyre Festival: crashing and burning).

“I just need a true weekender,” said Ann Ellis, 34, who works in human resources at WeWork as she inspected a hunter green carry-on. “I’m tired of carrying my big Longchamp. It’s just too heavy.”

Nearby, Ivan Olivo, a 22-year-old employee of Virtue, Vice Media’s creative agency, tried to convince his roommate, Michael Martinez, also 22, to buy a suitcase.

“I had luggage, but I wanted stuff that matched,” Mr. Olivio said of his recent Away splurge: a carry-on, a check-in suitcase and a duffel bag, all in black. “The people who buy this all fit into a certain category that I identify with: young, working, educated, fun, but not too stuck-up. And they like to travel, obviously.”

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