How this design-obsessed travel brand delivers sustainable and affordable products

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Bellroy is a design-obsessed Australian brand founded in 2010 to fill a gap in the carrying space: carefully crafted products that are built to last, responsibly made with sustainable materials and are priced right at your fingertips.

Co-Founder and CEO Andy Fallshaw describes the launch Bellroy with a close-knit crew of travel and design enthusiasts looking to develop products that would help people move seamlessly around the world – whether that’s daily commutes, regular visits to airport security mazes, backpacking adventures or weekends away surfing and sporting trips.

Through Certified B-Corp status, purposeful business practices and sustainable materials development, Bellroy continues to show the world how ‘better’ looks. Each person’s journey is unique; Bellroy believes that brands should not define who you are, but should support you in pursuing the life you crave.

The team’s corporate philosophy was to ‘take the stairs instead of the elevator’; as a result, Bellroy has thoughtfully and steadily grown from one wallet to a global company selling in 150 countries, with over 82 carefully crafted products designed to be loved for as long as possible.

For more details, read on below the edited excerpt of my conversation with Andy.

Christopher Marquis: You mentioned that Bellroy was founded among friends who were looking for ways to make traveling and traveling around the world easier. Can you share more details about those conversations and what you discovered, as well as the creation of your first products?

Andy Fallsshaw: Throughout human history, travel, travel and exploration have played an important role in broadening perspectives and helping to catalyze personal growth. Stepping outside our comfort zones, both figuratively and literally, is central to how we grow and develop.

In 2008, a group of close friends and I found ourselves a little too comfortable with our existing careers. We wanted to drive our own growth in a way that could add value to the world. And as travel enthusiasts, we knew that what we took on our physical journeys, and how we wore it, made a huge difference to our confidence and willingness to go somewhere.

Our first step on this journey was to better crystallize the space we wanted to play in. And without a generally accepted term for this landscape, we thought “Carry” made sense. So in 2009, we launched a campfire called Carryology, which was to serve as a thinking space to explore how we move through the world, and all the things we bring with us for less friction and burden.

When our global campfire started, we started working on Bellroy. When we looked at this Carry space, wallets were the most obvious broken product category. They were bulky, cumbersome, and stuck in outdated paradigms. So in 2010, we launched Bellroy with five slim wallets. By reinventing wallet design from scratch, we were able to remove bulk, improve experiences and lay the foundation for a company that did things differently.

Marquis: How does Bellroy strike a balance between fashion and practicality?

autumn scarf: We have always loved the idea that people can celebrate rational, emotional and cultural values, without neglecting one value for the sake of the other. The better we design, the more those differences disappear.

So we start with our Bellroy culture, where fashion and style are celebrated as an expression of emotional and cultural values, and then genuine utility defends our rational needs.

With that Bellroy culture as a foundation, we subsequently designed an iterative development process within which coherent designs can arise. With in-house maker labs, our teams bring together designers, developers, pattern makers and engineers to conceive and develop products that start as an idea to explore, quickly transition into physical samples that we can interact with, then quickly evolve and get a solution until we are sure that style and function blend seamlessly.

That’s when our customers can see and experience these products, and when we’ve achieved our goals, that’s where the customer can weave their own stories and values ​​into the products. We believe that the best products are better on day 1000 than on day 1, because the product has become uniquely theirs and adapts to their own rational, emotional and cultural style.

Marquis: You describe your approach to creation as “taking the stairs, not the elevator” – how does this approach help Bellroy thrive in a world that places so much emphasis on fast fashion and instant gratification?

autumn scarf: Much of the fashion industry is based on a ‘push’ system. Brands guess what new things customers want, build inventory and push it to retailers who then push it to consumers. Most guesses aren’t quite right, so there’s excess inventory and unbridled discounts to clear the inventory. This doesn’t feel optimal for anyone, and certainly not for the planet.

By taking a more patient approach around a ‘pull’ system, we can avoid many of these broken paradigms.

We do not design seasonal series, but strive for ‘modern classics’ that can transcend transient seasonal trends. After launch, our products continue our iterative approach. We learn from how customers experience our products, we partner with highly calibrated users like our Carryology community, and we weave that knowledge back into even better iterations of our styles. For example our Bellroy slim sleeve wallet has seen more than 22 improvements since its release over a decade ago. It’s still a Slim Sleeve, but each generation gets a little better.

Marquis: The Bellroy Carryology community is also passionate about outdoor activities. Does Bellroy see himself as a steward of environmental causes?

autumn scarf: We strive to be stewards of better environmental practices, but always within the context of what we see as a Stewardship Loop. Our vision is a future in which people, animals and the planet can support each other in an improving process. We believe that focusing on one of these at the expense of the other will jeopardize the vibrancy of our shared future.

So yes, creating a better environment for all life is vital, and we never try to do this in a way that endangers the people and animals that a well-cared-for planet can nurture.

Marquis: When did Bellroy become part of the B-Corp movement and why is it important to be a part of it?

autumn scarf: We started exploring the movement in 2014 after an introduction from friends in Patagonia. We then obtained our first certification in 2015. Since then, we’ve recertified ourselves with each round.

While Bellroy’s focus on positive impacts was there from our very first brainstorms in 2008, when our brand found traction, we knew we would be better off if our efforts could be showcased to external and impartial partners. There are plenty of companies that mean well, but without outside controls, those intentions can be prioritized as other business goals are emphasized.

So we love how our B Corporation certification holds us accountable. But it is much more than just that. The B-Corp community includes many of our favorite brands and business minds, and the collaboration that comes from that collective is inspiring.

And perhaps something to mention is that many of the most talented people in the world want to do more than just earn an income. They want to be part of shaping a better world, and our B-Corp certification helps great talent know that we, as potential employers or partners, are focused on goals beyond profit.

Marquis: Can you tell us more about Bellroy’s process behind selecting suppliers and materials for future products?

autumn scarf: Our main environmental goal is for our products to be used and loved for as long as possible. When approximately 90% of the impact of our products is generated before they reach the consumer, it is critical that our products have a long and useful life.

For materials, we pursue this goal through the lens of ‘durability of performance’. Not only should their original impact be lower, but they should also perform on or above alternatives for a long life of useful service.

For suppliers, we start by identifying partners who are similarly motivated by goals beyond just profit. We want to see evidence of those Stewardship Loop values ​​reflected in everyday actions. Next, we not only identify the skills and expertise they currently possess, but also try to understand their progress and how we expect them to continue to improve as we build a relationship together.

A good example is US-based Natural Fiber Welding. Not only are they passionate and motivated do-gooders, but they are phenomenally talented and creative chemists and innovators working on a new generation of plant materials. While we are still in the early stages, we believe the shared journey together should be immensely rewarding and impactful.

Marquis: What inspires you and your team after more than a decade in business?

autumn scarf: Inspiration comes in many forms and is specific to each individual. But as we went through extensive research and literature, we found a North Star that really resonated with our team – tangible progress towards meaningful goals, together.

The audacity of that North Star comes from the excellent work of Teresa Amabilewhich we then tweaked with the suffix ‘together’ – because for most people working in engaged and vibrant teams really does feel better.

We work very hard to find smart people with good intentions who get things done. When your teammates are driven by similar values ​​and skills to execute them, it’s remarkable how often inspiration shows up right on time.

Marquis: What makes Bellroy’s design process different from other brands?

autumn scarf: There is a quote from Eliel Saarinen that we have always loved – “Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context – a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in a setting, a setting in a city map.”

As we struggled to do justice to that idea, we began to see our product design as a four-dimensional method. Instead of just looking at the three-dimensional shape of a design, we also wanted to think about the fourth dimension of time. What is the history of thought and the materials that make up a product? How will the design help with meaningful moments in the present? And what do we hope for the future of the product and the materials as they are shaped and reused by the consumer?

While we are incredibly proud of the uniquely iterative and flexible development process in which we design products, we believe it is this greater ambition of design in four dimensions that most distinguish Bellroy designs.

If we can help people transition between work and play, near and far, today and in the future, it feels like we are achieving that original goal of adding value to the world.

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