Working Together in Seattle
All 47 of us here at TOM BIHN — design, manufacturing, shipping, customer service, photography, web team — work in the same 16,000 square foot location. We collaborate, problem-solve and innovate in ways that are only made possible by sharing the same space. We think this results in a better bag for you, and it’s more fun for us too.
Photo: We took half a day off from our usual work to become CPR/First Aid Certified.
How We Began
When Tom was 10 years old, he asked his parents for help in getting the equipment he wanted for hiking and camping. They suggested two options: get an after-school job and earn money to buy it, or "just figure out how to make it yourself." Tom chose the second option. His grandmother had an old Singer home sewing machine which his brother Dan helped get running; Tom's mom taught him how to sew and his dad provided the foundations of the necessary engineering.
And the rest is history: Tom has spent the last 40 years designing and making backpacks, travel bags, and briefcases.
Photo: Tom sewing in his garage workshop, circa 1983.
You're as much part of this as we are. I mean, think about it: the fact that you buy our bags allows us to exist as a company. And that you use our bags and provide constructive feedback on how they either work or don’t work for you helps us to build a better bag. We literally couldn't be doing what we do without you. Thank you.
Our Own Way
Here's a few things to know about us and how we work:
Our company is big enough that we can do cool things like develop our own fabrics while small enough that it still feels like we’re one big family. Our capacity is limited and we don't have plans to significantly increase it. That means that you can expect many of our bags to be In-Stock while other bags are In Production. Read more about that here.
Our creativity is what drives us — and we make space for it. Doing stuff like working on new designs, developing new materials, improving existing internal procedures, programming our own software, updating the website, taking new photos — we do it ourselves because A) we’re kinda control freaks and B) we love our work.
We think experience counts. Tom has spent over four decades designing and making bags. In his early days, he often repaired bags made by other manufacturers. That’s a whole lotta learning over many years about what works — and what doesn’t — when it comes to bag design and fabrication. We use that experience to make a bag that will better serve you.
Back in 2013, we wrote down some aspects of our company philosophy and made it into a book. Some of the people we work with asked us to make a public version and in 2016, we did.
Here's an excerpt:
"Coworkers, boss, manager, customer, delivery person and anyone else you deal with during your work day: imagine yourself in one of their positions and try to see things from their perspective. Gain some understanding of what it looks like on the other side of things. And, hey, don’t just imagine it: if you wonder something, ask. Being curious is a wonderful thing to be: it frees you from the burden of thinking you know everything! Ask Bob our UPS driver: “How’s the holiday season busyness going so far for you?” or, ask him if it works better for him if we stack boxes “this way” versus “that way.” Most folks will be pleasantly surprised by how you're paying attention."
Read more: Our Company Philosophy
Honguyen: Sewing Supervisor-In-Training
Honguyen bakes amazing things. Amongst her specialties: cupcakes. Favorite song: "Happy" by Pharrell Williams.
Wing: Sewing Professional
Wing's passion is music and healthy eating (lots of vegetables!) She loves living in the United States.
Lucy: Assistant Shipping Lead
Lucy loves playing soccer, digging holes, and chasing her cat around the house.
Nik: COO, Designer, Programmer
Nik also loves playing soccer, digging holes, and chasing his cat around the house.
Matthew: Documentation Lead
Matthew loves games of all sorts. When he's not out exploring the city (and sometimes while he is) you can usually find him playing a game of some sort.
Ling Feng: Sewing/Joining Profesional
Likes to exercise to stay healthy. Philosophy: we never stop learning.
Hong Hai: Sewing Professional
Likes to cook. Signature dish: Bún riêu
Trung: Sewing/Binding Professional
Likes to play soccer and is passionate about traveling -- especially to Vietnam.
TianYing: Zipper/Floor Professional
Loves to shop, especially shoes and kids stuff!
Xue Xia: Sewing Professional
Loves to travel, especially to China.
Levi: Branch Manager
Favorite toy? Sticks he finds on the ground.
Trang: Sewing Supervisor-In-Training
Likes to learn new crafts, travel, and help others who are less fortunate.
Cody: Bag Expert
Former self defense instructor. Traded punching bags for travel bags!
Fiona: Happy Hiker
Fiona is now almost 2-1/2 years old! She loves playing tug, swimming and going on hikes.
Luming: Sewing/Assembly Professional
Luming's ideal evening: movies and homemade cookies.
Mike: Operations Manager
Mike loves to cook and play outside as much as possible.
Kat: Bag Expert
Kat loves cats, musicals, zombies and most nerdy pursuits of happiness.
Fong: Sewing Supervisor
Fong's philosophy: experience gratitude for happiness and health and don't take it for granted.
Ben: Materials Manager
History major. Builds his own motorcycles. Was a Naval Aircrewman.
Irma: Fabric Cutter
Irma likes to take vacations. Her favorite song is Despacito by Luis Fonsi.
Aravelia: Quality Assurance Lead
Velia's favorite movie is Alice in Wonderland and her favorite song is “Everything I do” by Bryan Adams.
Ying: Sub-Assembly Prep
Ying loves to spend time with her family and grandchildren. And she loves watching Chinese suspense/dramas on tv.
Edelmira: Sub-Assembly Professional
Favorite place on earth: Rincon de Guayabitos in Nayarit, Mexico.
Chun: Sewing/Assembly Professional
Chun is an expert on Seattle's best Dim sum restaurants.
Zhong: Binding/Sewing Professional
Zhong's favorite color is pink. She loves the weather here in Seattle, even when it rains!
Lulu: Quality Assurance
Lulu's philosophy: living in the present moment and being happy are the most important things in life.
Thuy: Sewing/Joining Professional
Thuy loves to travel, near and far. Her favorite destination: Hong Kong.
Yanhua: Sewing/Assembly Professional
Yanhua loves listening to classical Chinese music.
Kim: HR & Office Manager
Kim believes in karma and random acts of kindness.
Kasper is a 2-1/2 year old Irish Wolfhound mix going on six months.
Tao: Binding/Assembly Professional
Tao is an accomplished knitter. To relax, she cooks, specializing in amazing seafood dishes. Specialty: salt and pepper shrimp.
Yeah, you! You're part of our crew, too.
Tim: Warehouse Lead
Although Tim lives in the city, he'd someday like to live on a small farm.
June: Production Emeritus
June retired as Production Manager here at TOM BIHN in 2013. She's a legend here and still comes back to visit sometimes.
Di: Sewing/Joining Professional
Believe it or not, Di's hobby is sewing! When she's not at work, she likes to sew clothing.
Kieu: Lead Bartacker
Kieu likes to go on urban walks. The secret to her good health? Eating lots of vegetables from her own garden.
Ichiro is a happy and vocal Lab/Husky mix. He's most at home hiking in the mountains but is pretty ok with hanging out at the factory.
Tam: Binding/Bartack Professional + Machine Mechanic
Tam loves to watch soccer, travel, and listen to a wide variety of music.
Darcy Gray: Chief Creative Officer and CEO
Most unusual hobby: hiking at night.
Lisa: Sewing Supervisor
Lisa likes traveling to other countries, working in her garden and playing with her grandchildren.
Canh: Sewing/Joining Professional
Canh is masterful at making delicious Phở and Ca Kho To. We're trying to get her to share her recipes with us!
Dau: Sewing/Assembly Professional
Dau loves traveling to and throughout Vietnam and reading about its history.
Matt: Shipping Lead
Matt moved back to Seattle after 5 years in Southern California. Matt is cold all of the time.
Sheng: Sewing/Assembly Professional
If Sheng's not at work, she's probably playing tennis or doing Karaoke. In high school, she played in championship tennis matches.
Mo-Fong: Sewing/Assembly Professional
Mo-Fong is an adventurous traveler and especially likes to visit countries she's never been to before.
Tom Bihn: President, Founder, Designer
Tom's favorite book is Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean, and he plays the accordion.
Yin Mei: Sewing/Assembly Professional
Mei likes to play Candy Crush. She's an accomplished cook and her specialties are baked chicken and cakes. She loves watching Korean soap operas.
Candi: Sewing/Binding/Fabric Spread Professional
Candi plays the piano beautifully. She likes reading books about animals and wildlife.
Juanna: Binding/Sewing Professional
Loves to sew her own projects at home. She's also an excellent cook.
Esther: Sewing/Label Placement/Plant Care Professional
Esther is an avid reader. Her favorite book is Shogun: The Life of Tokugawa Ieyasu by A.L. Sadler.