Ever since Instagram launched in 2010, luggage companies have released high-tech spinners in a rainbow of colors that not only stand out at the baggage carousel, but also look great on your feed. But among the candy-colored Aways and Roams and Rimowas, one brand has set itself apart by making stylish luggage that you’d never guess is also made from recycled plastic water bottles.
When Paravel launched in 2016, fashion magazines and celebrities alike lauded the affordability and timeless good looks of the brand’s first bags. They looked like something a character from a Wes Anderson movie would own. But Paravel cofounders Indré Rockefeller and Andy Krantz, who met while working together at the Spanish fashion house Delpozo, always wanted sustainability to be synonymous with their brand.
Over the past four years, Paravel has upcycled 1.7 million plastic bottles for materials in its Negative Nylon and Ecocraft Canvas bags and travel accessories. The company has also started to plant trees for every order placed, and even started producing carbon-neutral suitcases in 2020 by offsetting emissions created during production, delivery, as well as the estimated emissions for the first trip you’d take. Now Rockefeller and Krantz want Paravel to be the first 100 percent sustainable travel brand.
We spoke to Rockefeller about how she and Krantz created the company. Read on for what sets Paravel apart from other travel brands, then check out which Paravel bags we think are worth adding to your luggage lineup.
Why did you decide to make luggage? From our start in 2016, my cofounder Andy and I wanted to offer a travel system that someone would be proud to use: bags that were gentle on the earth, affordable, long-lasting, and had a timeless look.
How have your goals changed since then?
From launch, we aimed to build a company that minimized its impact on the planet and were working to roll out a comprehensive sustainability program, but for the first year of operations, that effort was happening in the background of all our other business needs.
In early 2018, I traveled to Antarctica with the Nature Conservancy on a polar expedition where I got to see firsthand how this pristine, magnificent environment had suffered from the effects of climate change. The scientists onboard the expedition made clear that the next 10 years would be the most important window we had to mitigate the effects of climate change over the next 10,000 years. Hearing that completely shifted my priorities. We immediately set to work rethinking our supply chain, redesigning product in process, and reevaluating everything from our partnerships to our shipping carriers.
You aim to be the first 100 percent sustainable travel brand by the end of 2021. Exactly how will you make that happen?
Every aspect of our business has been designed to minimize any potential environmental impact. Every product detail, down to the recycled zipper, is chosen with the intention of making the finished item as sustainable as possible. Upcycling is core to our approach, and we transform materials that would otherwise end up in landfills, like jute coffee bags or plastic bottles, into something completely new.
We offset emissions associated with sourcing, assembling, and shipping all our suitcases and also offset an extra amount of emissions based on our customers’ average first trip with it. These programs have offset 4.7 million pounds of CO2 to date. We partner with Eden Reforestation Projects, planting a tree for every single purchase, and since December, we have planted 17,293 trees, which is over 80 percent of the trees in Central Park.
Because sustainability is about so much more than just using the right materials or getting the right certifications, we fold social issues like workers’ rights and environmental justice into our sustainability ethos too. We donate to the NAACP Environment and Climate Justice program, to help address the unequal negative impacts of climate change.
Other luggage brands have also started using recycled materials in their bags—Patagonia and Eagle Creek come to mind. How do you set yourselves apart?
There are many amazing brands innovating in sustainable design and ecoconscious business models. They inspire us to push ourselves and rethink our limits. In terms of the luggage and travel space specifically, Paravel is the only brand in its class weaving sustainability into our entire suite of products and practices. We offset the carbon output of our manufacturing and shipping, use low-impact textiles, reduce plastic pollution, ensure traceability and high ethical standards in our supply chain, plant trees, and even think about ways we can offset our customers’ travel behavior.
How do you make design decisions?
I imagine a world where travel is at its best and start from there. Sometimes that means looking to the past for inspiration, sometimes it’s looking towards the future, but most importantly, it’s looking at what our customers want today and meeting their needs sustainably. Everything we make has to have the lowest possible negative impact, first and foremost. I also make sure new styles visually complement our other products, because it’s important that they work together as a system. As a final test, I carry around every product prototype for months, making sure that it is functional, versatile, and hopefully attracts a “Where did you get that?!” or two from strangers.
What are your personal favorite features in your luggage?
I’m particularly proud of how we’ve been able to incorporate 1.7 million upcycled plastic water bottles and other recycled materials into our products, while still maintaining an incredibly luxurious look and feel.
Paravel luggage AFAR loves
Paravel bags come in a variety of styles—including canvas totes, foldable nylon zip-up styles, and roller suitcases—in complementary colors and sizes. These are just a few of our favorites:
- Buy Now: $255, tourparavel.com
- Dimensions: 21.7 x 13.7 x 9 inches
- Weight: 8.2 lbs.
It took three years for Paravel to launch its first wheeled carry-on luggage, but the wait was worth it. Available in a variety of colors (as well as two larger sizes), these hard-shell spinners are made with carbon steel bearing wheels that glide easily, a lining made from 15 upcycled water bottles, and vegan leather-wrapped steel handles that give the bag an upscale and timeless look. All Paravel Aviator suitcases come with a five-year limited warranty that covers wear and tear as well as structural damage to the bag’s TSA lock, trolley handle, wheels, and more.
- Buy Now: $295, tourparavel.com
- Dimensions: 15 x 8 x 15 inches
- Weight: 2.4 lbs.
Bigger than a tote, yet not nearly as bulky as a duffel bag, Paravel’s canvas weekend bag is spacious enough to fit two days of clothes, a toiletry kit, and a 15-inch laptop. Worried that it will get stained during your travels? The Ecocraft Canvas material (a blend of upcycled water bottles and natural cotton) is made with a silicone stain-repellent coating designed to allow spills to roll right off.
In addition to the top handles, you can also choose to go hands free by clipping on the detachable shoulder strap, or slipping it over the handle of your rolling suitcase with its leather straps. For $65 more, you can make it your own with hand-painted initials.
- Buy Now: $65, tourparavel.com
- Dimensions: 18 x 11 x 11.5 inches
- Weight: 1 lb.
Paravel’s foldable duffel bag can be used two ways: On shorter trips, it serves as a lightweight weekend bag that can hold about three days’ worth of clothing. On longer journeys, this magical bag folds and zips down to the size of a book so you can stash it in your carry-on for all the extra snacks and souvenirs you picked up along the way.
Even though it only weighs one pound, it unfolds to a roomy 18 x 11 x 11.5 inches. AFAR’s digital director Laura Dannen Redman calls it “the Trojan horse of weekend bags—I never quite know what’s going to pop out, since I just threw so much stuff inside.”