“We are not here to make bags,” says Enrique Hormigo, the Spanish co-founder (along with Samir Aghera) of Montroi, a Dubai-based company that makes soft leather bags and accessories. Going beyond embossed monograms, the brand works with a local artist to offer in-house painting details for clients, with 60% choosing to personalize their purchases.
Sitting on a long bench surrounded by bags, at first Hormigo’s statement is not particularly convincing, but he continues.
“We are here to promote nomadism. I come from a family of nomads. My grandfather worked for the Spanish army and traveled all over the world. He was born in Morocco. Every summer the family would pack up the cutlery and mattresses and send them to the summer houses – that’s just how it was done. Before I moved to Dubai, I was in Paris for five years.” For all his inherited and personal displacement over the years, Hormigo, comes across as a happy-go-lucky entrepreneur; he’s a man who feels at home anywhere.
His showroom in the Dubai Design District displays pieces that are meant to make travel easier. The concept isn’t novel but the products – soft leather bags made in Italy with discreet designs at midrange prices – fill a gap in the market. Montroi is gaining traction as the go-to brand for men who balk at the idea of spending big on a briefcase and frown at the idea of having to carry their laptop in the same bag as their gym clothes.
“Own less things and buy quality products that last longer,” says Hormigo. “I’m in a very Japanese mood,” he smiles, waving around the Dubai Design District space he chose because, as he says, “in Dubai we can be close to the East and the West.” It is decorated with sweeping ferns and unique finds like candlesticks from Buenos Aires and natural leather artisanal chairs from Sri Lanka that change color with age. “We had so many comments on these that we called the maker and shipped 50 of them. We didn’t do it to make money. We did it to share knowledge.”
Montroi, named after a village on the ancient Silk Route, also curates city guides – from Tunis and Beirut to the Amalfi Coast and Rio de Janeiro – and even hosts events that promote travel. Its showroom recently exhibited the work of a Mongolian nomad photographer. “It’s pretty simple: the more we interact with other cultures, the better the world becomes,” says Hormigo.
He practices what he preaches. Having just returned to Dubai from India, he is now packing for Paris. Despite his stylish bag collection, this nomad will travel light. His mind will do the heavy lifting.