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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pan American merchandise still popular

DOVER –Though well past its heyday, the legacy of the Pan American World Airways brand is still thriving.

Named after the iconic airline, Pan Am Brands on Industrial Park Drive has been working since acquiring the brand in 1998 to keep the trademark alive.

Pan Am, identifiable by its blue globe logo, was one of the most iconic airlines at a time when travel-by-flight was not the commonly used mode of transportation that is has become today. Founded in the 1920s as an airmail and passenger service, the airline soon became the company credited for many flight-related innovations.

According to Brand Manager Stacy Beck, Pan Am was known not only for its glamorous flights with highly trained pilots and attendants, but also for shaping the international airline industry with its use of jet aircraft and flight features after which flight vessels of today are modeled.

Despite Pan American World Airways serving as one of the principal United States international air carriers for many decades, the company was forced to declare bankruptcy in the early ’90s. Though the airline itself eventually came to an end, the iconic globe logo affiliated with the glamorous lifestyle that Pan Am embodied has lived on.

“We found that while the airline business was tough, there was really such a strong affinity for the brand itself,” Beck said. “The innovativeness, style, and timelessness of the airline has transformed itself into the brand.”

Pan Am Brand’s current line of business is distributing a collection of luggage, handbags, carry-on bags and travel accessories adorning the former airline’s famous globe logo.

“Our goal is to get the logo back out there and remind people of Pan Am,” said Beck. “It’s just another creative way to keep the history and heritage of that brand alive.”

Though much of the products Pan Am Brands is selling are replicas of bags that were handed out on the airline’s flights decades ago, Beck said the demographic of those purchasing the company’s products has surprised her.

Older generations are buying the luggage for nostalgia reasons, she said.

“Everyone stops at our (trade-show) booths, and whether they buy or not, they have a life touching, monumental story to tell about Pan Am,” Beck said.

Luggage isn’t just being sold to the generations of people who were alive for the airline’s heydays, however, as Beck said younger generations are eager to purchase the Pan Am gear as well.

“They find it retro,” she said.

The luggage and accessories are not strictly replicas, as some of the products have been transformed to compliment the functionality of more modern totes.

“Like the airline, we wanted to stay innovative,” explained Beck. “So we have things like messenger bags and bags that are designed to exactly fit laptops of today.”

Although the Pan Am Brands facility is relatively small, with only six employees creating the brand team, the group has managed to squeeze in seemingly endless amounts of Pan American World Airways memorabilia.

Beck, who was wearing a Pan Am watch on her wrist, works in an office lined with handbags, model planes, and even a 1966 Mattel Barbie adorning a classic blue Pan American World Airways stewardess outfit. When walking in to the Pan Am Brands office, one is faced with a glass display case filled with items such as towels, cups, silverware and ashtrays, all stamped with the famous globe logo.

Two items that will bring buyers as close as possible to the real thing are sets of cufflinks and window art. Beck said the cufflinks, currently being licensed, are made from plane and jet material straight from vessels that are no longer airborne.

“Some have imperfections and dings because they’re literally cut right out of the plane,” said Beck.

The window art is pulled from the planes as well, cutting out large panels of metal encompassing Pan Am plane windows for use as a wall ornament.

Though staff at Pan Am Brands is working countless hours to get the airline brand out in the public eye, they will receive some assistance this fall with the release of a new television show.

“Pan Am,” a drama about the pilots and flight attendants who helped to make the airline one of the most glamorous ways to travel, is set to debut on ABC in September. The show will feature actors Christina Ricci, Kelli Garner, Karine Vannasse, Margot Elise Robbie, Michael Mosley and Mike Vogel.

“We’re very cautious about making sure the integrity of the brand is kept in tact,” said Beck of making the deal with producers affiliated with Sony Pictures Television. “We were sure that the integrity would be preserved.

For us, it was another way to keep the story out there of what Pan Am meant to generations.”