Aug 15, 2018

Brand Story: Tom Bihn

Written by Avantgarde
Reading time: 3 mins

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Tom Bihn (Twitter: @tombihn), named after its founder Tom Bihn, is a Seattle-based company that designs and makes bags and bag accessories. It was established in 1972, became official in 1982 and since has gained a reputation for creating world-class, durable and socially responsible quality products.  

The founder, Tom Bihn has often expressed through his blogs and interviews how he transformed his passion for bags and gears into a successful company. As a 10-year-old who couldn’t afford equipment’s made of expensive materials for his outdoor adventures, he took his parents suggestion to make his own gears. Through little help from his mother who taught him basics of sewing, father who taught him foundations of engineering and brother who helped him fix his grandmothers old sewing machine, Bihn started making his own outdoor gears.

In the early 1970s, he made custom-made down-filled jackets and sold them to his friends, family and teachers at school and in 1974, designed and made a pack, a sleeping bag and rain gear for his hiking trip to West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island.

The first Tom Bihn shop, a 275 square feet area was opened in December 1990 in Santa Cruz, California. Today, Tom Bihn has its own factory in Seattle that is combined with a showroom and retail store which is open to the public four days a week for just four hours. Apart from the store, Tom Bihn products are also available for sale on the company website.

The brand’s logo features a Farman F-121 Jabiru airplane that is symbolic of Tom Bihn’s father who was a pilot for Pan Am.  

Tom Bihn’s designs are inspired by his life, travels and also inspirations from customer’s life who post on the company’s forums, Twitter and Facebook accounts. The brands current bag collection includes bags for travel, laptop cases, backpack, checkpoint-friendly bags, briefcases, knitting bags, iPad bags, Organizers, Dog gear and other accessories.

Tom Bihn himself designs every bag and creates the first prototype which is then made by hand by his team using the finest quality materials. His approach flawlessly combines well-patterned designs, strong engineering and high quality fabrics to create products that provide functionality and endurance.

Along with being quality-conscious, the brand is also known to be environment-conscious. Tom Bihn was one of the first small businesses to take part in the UPS carbon neutral shipping program and were the first company to get their packaging certified in the UPS Eco Responsible Packaging Program. They use 100% recycled papers in the office, use minimum amount of packaging to ship their products and their shipping boxes too are made with recycled content. They also purchase carbon credits to offset the emissions generated by the shipping process and their main manufacturing facility runs entirely on renewable energy. Even the fabrics used by the company are made in the U.S. and Japan, where the Environmental Protection Agency has control over their production process and are continuously exploring ways to reduce the carbon footprint of their products.

Tom Bihn faces intense competition from several big brands but what distinguishes the brand successfully is its unmatched quality, effective customer relations and hand-processed designs which have helped in positioning the brand effectively.  

Tom Bihn’s marketing efforts are restricted to its interactions with customers through social media which include Tom Bihn’s blog, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram and other user forums. They rely on their product to bring in customers who end up turning into brands advocates. Through social media, they regularly update customers about company news, new offerings and other useful information while also providing customers with a platform to share their own experiences, travel stories, post pictures with their Tom Bihn collections and give their feedback.

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