By Diane Richardson, Playtime Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
One of my trusted colleagues, Jade Rhone, who keeps me up to date on what’s happening in the industry asked me to look at respected bag brand, Bellroy. So I did! And then I reached out to Bellroy’s Founder, Andy Fallshaw, and we proceeded to have a great call (Scotland calling Australia..) and got the lowdown on what the guys are up to…
About Bellroy, by Andy Fallshaw
Bellroy was always intended to be a bag brand. And yet, despite being around for 10 years, bags were introduced to our range just three years ago. Because, our greatest philosophy is to make an impact where we believe we’re best placed to do so. And it was glaringly obvious, back in 2010, that wallets were stuck in the past. Broken. And we knew we could fix them. Our team of product designers and engineers sat around a kitchen table in Bells Beach, Australia, to do just that. And so, Bellroy was born.
I had spent my youth seeking adventures around the globe, but like many co-travelers, was constantly frustrated by the bags I carried. I was met with friction, failure and the feeling that my stuff was holding me back. So, I started talking to some friends and family about the sort of brand that could solve some of the problems we were experiencing over and over.Andy Fallshaw
We made the decision there and then, to use our design nous to better not only the way we move through life, but also what that life looks like for all of us. Inspiring better ways to carry, and using business as a force for good.
We’ve come a long way since we first sat around that kitchen table 10 big years ago.
The first design, that set our course.
Drawing insights from our carry blog, Carryology, as well as collective knowledge about product design, engineering and business, and an optimistic spirit… we set out to show the world how slim a wallet could be.
When we first started looking at how to create slimmer wallets, we knew there was a fundamental tension – every time you separate cards, you add bulk (in the form of leather and air between each one). So to reduce the thickness, we rearranged the design to remove the excess layers of leather, keep most-used cards up front and store the rest in one stack. At the time, this concept was unheard of.
The question then was how to add intuitive access to that stack of cards, including linings, thin cords, and a pull-tab. The pull-tab was a clear favorite – smooth, innate, and flat when the wallet was closed. The first generation of our pull-tab used thin webbing to keep bulk down, with just a small fold of leather at the end to get purchase. As the design of the Slim Sleeve evolved, we increased our ambitions, wanting to eliminate the lining and any superfluous materials that weren’t fundamental to its use. We challenged ourselves to build a Slim Sleeve from nothing but leather and thread. And we did.
In its most recent iteration, we took the same principles and applied them to the most experimental version yet. The Apex Slim Sleeve removes the seams from the already minimalist construction in favor of heat-bonded panels that sit as flush and precise as can be (held with a magnetic closure). And features pre-molded edges that form around your cards from the moment you first slide them in. No breaking-in process, no stressed leather, no creases or bumps. It is the culmination of a decade of design experimentation, the physical representation of our progress since day one.
Fulfilling that original vision and launching into bags.
In true Bellroy style, it took us a few years to get our bag designs into the world. We wanted to make sure they had something to say, before we gave them the stage. After bedding down customer insights and design tricks gathered over the years, we felt ready and able to make a difference to the way bags were designed and made when we released our first collection of six styles in late 2017. We’ve spent the past three years delving even deeper into bag design, and brought it to a head with our Apex Backpack – the Bellroy concept car, if you like. And the bag that our founding designer, Andy Fallshaw, always wanted to design (and carry). It aims to solve some of the longest standing carry pain points. In one design. And we love that it’s finally out in the wild, helping its users go hard at their big, broad, boundary-pushing goals.
Using responsible business to put an extra B in Bellroy.
We always knew we wanted to use our business to do good things for the world as a whole. And in 2015, we joined the crew of B Corp certified businesses around the world, working to solve social and environmental issues.
We are rated highly by B Corp for limiting our impact on the environment, making products that last a really long time, sourcing our materials responsibly (and always seeking even better ways to do so), and creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.
What does that mean for our leathers?
We spent years refining and improving ways to source our leather. In 2015, we committed to sourcing our leather exclusively from tanneries with a gold rating from the Leather Working Group (LWG – the largest industry body working for environmental stewardship across the leather supply chain). This means that our tannery are regularly audited and are achieving or exceeding strict standards regarding water usage, effluent, electricity, pollution, labor, working conditions, and other criteria. It also means that we get superior quality leather with great durability and longevity.
And then, in 2017, we were voted the inaugural chair of LWG’s Animal Welfare Group. It’s a role we continue to fill today, working together with some of the world’s biggest brands (and we mean that) in the struggle for better traceability and animal welfare standards across the entire leather supply chain.
And our woven materials?
Last year – after years of researching, experimenting and testing – we launched a recycled materials program, transitioning our entire woven fabrics range to be made from recycled materials – for polyester, that means recycled PET plastic water bottles. And for nylons, discarded industrial waste such as carpet offcuts. To date, we’ve upcycled more than 2.5 million plastic bottles, and we are only just getting started.
We feel like that could apply across every part of our brand – we’ve been here for 10 years, learnt a bunch, failed a bit, adapted a lot. And we’re still at the beginning. We have so much more to do, and we’re working so hard to do it. We’re thankful to everyone who’s helping us along the way, and supporting us to ensure we can keep going.
At Bellroy, we aim to design with time as one of our main considerations – the way a product starts and lives on through time. We design soft goods that can be pushed and shaped by the way you use them. We design with materials that have already had a useful life, up-cycling them for a new journey. We use leathers that will soften and patina according to your interactions. We hope that the significant effort we put into this design approach will give you products that intertwine themselves with your life, becoming even better on day 1000 than they were on day one.Andy Fallshaw