Founded in 1952 by Monte Goldman, the lifestyle brand Eastpak started its journey in the world of bags as Eastern Canvas Products USA Inc. The company was initially producing bags and packs for the US military, its early line of products including duffels, backpacks and safety equipment.
Starting with 1976, Goldman’s son Mark joined the company, and the direction changed dramatically. A free-thinking pianist fresh out of college, Mark brought a new vision to the company’s retail line, which was transformed into the consumer brand Eastpak. Noticing the popularity of army issue bags among college students, he decided to launch the first line of backpacks, duffels and shoulder bags for the consumer market.
The military-inspired line was an overnight success and encouraged Goldman to continue exploring this niche, which flourished into a business. In 1981, Norman Jacobs joined the company, and soon Eastpak became the brand of choice on the East Coast. In 1984, the company introduced its famous Lifetime warranty, and one year later it started using flashy prints and bright colors in their bags, Eastpak being the first brand to incorporate the wild style of the ‘80s into their consumer line.
This movement marked the brand’s evolution from outdoor and military bags to urban lifestyle and casual bags. Renowned for their quality and durability, the Eastpak bags were standing out not only through their bolder and more original style, but also through the brand’s provocative advertising campaigns of the mid-1980s. In 1986, Eastpak crossed the Atlantic, launching its distribution activities in France. Together with Kostia Belkin, Mark Goldman and Norman Jacobs set up a business that opened the doors for other successful European collaborations. In Paris, the products sold out within days of the launch, and the brand gained a foothold in the market almost instantly.
The marketing strategy of the company continued to improve, and in the mid-1990s, the Eastpak ads were almost as famous as the backpacks. In 1999, the first Eastpak wheeled luggage was launched for the consumer market, and one year later the brand was acquired by VF Corporation, the clothing and apparel giant owning brands like Kipling, JanSport and Lee.
In 2003, the brand started its designer collaborations, the first artist who joined Eastpak in this new journey being the Dutch tattoo artist Hendrikus Johannes Everhardus Schiffmacher. One year later followed a new collaboration, this time with the Belgian fashion designer Walter Van Beirendonck. Kris Van Assche, Christopher Shannon and Raf Simons are other renowned designers who put their own trademark on the Eastpak bags, reinventing and transforming the backpacks into genuine works of art.