Two travel aficionados and former Warby Parker execs are setting out to solve our biggest travel nightmares. Jen Rubio and Steph Korey were fed up with subpar—or maddeningly expensive—carry-on luggage. So earlier this year, the power duo launched premium travel brand Away with one goal in mind: make travel easier. They designed the ultimate carry-on, which you can pre-order now, though it won’t be shipped until February. The design decisions—durable double wheels, a lightweight outer shell, built-in phone charger, and lifetime-guaranteed zippers, coupled with a price tag that won’t make you gasp ($225)—are the design decisions based on an almost year-long research process of really understanding what would make a carry-on perfect for anyone and everyone. Amazingly, it seems like Rubio and Korey have hit the mark.
We got the inside scoop on how it all came together—as well as what’s next for the new innovative brand.
Why did you decide to make luggage?
“We are both travelers,” says Rubio. “Our interest in luggage stemmed from not having great luggage. I had a lightbulb moment when my luggage broke in the Geneva airport. Two of the four wheels broke—the ones across from each other—so I couldn’t even use it as a normal two-wheel roller. I went to this luggage store in the airport and asked for the best quality bag there and it turned out to be something like 700 euros. I’ve bought expensive bags before, but it seemed ridiculous to have to buy something that cost that much and have no relationship with the brand. I talked to Steph about it, and we realized that there wasn’t anything out there for people who travel in a more modern way. It’s not an industry that traditionally focuses on the customer experience or design or storytelling."
Photo courtesy of Away
How did you make design decisions?
“We went through a long consumer insights discovery process—we interviewed hundreds or maybe even thousands of people. We really wanted to make this bag perfect for everyone, so we asked everyone: What are your frustrations when traveling? People don’t necessarily know the answer to a question like, ‘What would make luggage perfect for you?’ But if you ask them about how they travel, that’s when you can glean insights,” says Rubio.
“We asked people about the most annoying things they encounter in the airport, and a lot of people said it was battling with strangers for an outlet. So we added charging ports to the bag. We asked about laundry, and one thing we heard a lot was that it’s sort of gross when your dirty socks are touching the shirt you’re wearing tomorrow. So we added an attached—but removable—laundry compartment.”
What are your personal favorite features?
“I love the wheels. It took seven iterations to get them perfect. They’re made by the Japanese designer Hinomoto. These wheels just don’t exist on luggage under $1,000—except for ours,” Rubio explains.
“My favorite part is the attention to detail,” says Korey. “Normally luggage uses cheaper zippers—because these bags have a lot of zippers—and they break. Our zippers, on the other hand, are super durable. We also use a very lightweight, durable shell. So it’s strong, but it’s not a struggle to get it into the overhead bin.”
Photo courtesy of Away
How will the storytelling aspect of the company work?
“We are a company that makes luggage, but for us this is a travel brand. Our travels are the heart of why we’re doing this. That’s why we put together The Places We Return To, which anyone who pre-orders an Away bag will get immediately. It’s a beautifully bound collection of travel stories from influencers from a bunch of different verticals. Places range from a chicken bar in Scarsdale to a breathtaking spot in Fiji,” says Rubio.
Photo courtesy of Away
What’s next for Away?
“Things are moving fast,” Korey discloses. “Our checked luggage will be available by the spring. We had a similar consumer discovery process for that. We knew it needed to be even more durable, so we did drop tests, like throwing it out of a third-floor window. It’s also incredibly light—we know that airlines have weight restrictions and that people want to check as much as they can.”
“Beyond that, we’re planning on eventually offering customers everything they need to have a seamless travel experience. We also have some temporary physical spaces in the works right now. There’s a lot happening this spring and summer!”
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