At first glance, a luggage company that bills itself as a “global lifestyle brand” may lead to copious amounts of eye rolling. A suitcase is just a suitcase, right? When it comes to that basic Samsonite your parents had, it was very much “just a suitcase.” The same is probably true of what you’ve purchased more recently at Macy’s or Marshall’s. It’s black. It’s basic. It gets the job done. Until it doesn’t.
And while we may all dream of rolling through Logan with a cartful of colorful Vuitton suitcases, à la Serena van der Woodsen, the price tag of such posh luggage makes that an unrealistic fantasy for most of us.
Such was the conundrum for Jen Rubio and Steph Korey. After Jen’s suitcase broke while in Zurich, she turned to Steph to help find a replacement, and they got discouraged with the options: boring, black and basic, or so pricey an American Express Black card was needed to finance the cost.
So they decided to solve the problem.
You’d have to live under a rock – or have completely cut the cord to broadcast TV – to not have heard about Away luggage. The commercials are compelling. They make Away sound so sane, so necessary: like, “Duh, how come no one thought of this before?”
But even if you are familiar with the brand, the idea that a suitcase company is a “global lifestyle brand” may have you doing the aforementioned eye roll. If that’s the case (pun intended), you don’t really know Away.
For instance, did you know that before they sold their first suitcase, they partnered with a non-profit that works to promote peace in conflict areas around the world? When you make a purchase from Away, you’re helping to support Peace Direct.
Sure, a lot of companies direct a portion of sales to nonprofits, but does that quality them for lofty, self-assigned monikers like “global lifestyle brand?”
What if that company has nearly 700,000 followers on social media? Away does. Not bad for a suitcase, right away.
How about a slick magazine devoted to in-depth travel stories? And retail locations in Europe and the U.S., including one in Boston’s Seaport District?
Away has all of this.
Yet Away is, in fact, a suitcase company. A wide-reaching social media presence, juicy magazine and stellar philanthropic efforts can only go so far if the product behind the punch is lacking. So what’s so special about Away’s line? We’re so glad you asked.
Let’s talk about The Bigger Carry-On, Away’s best-selling product in the U.S. Like its smaller and larger siblings, The Bigger Carry-On is a slick-looking, hard-sided number. It is designed to “fit in the overhead bin of most major airlines,” according the website. And like its smaller sibling, The Bigger Carry-On includes a lithium battery. Charge it before you leave the house, and when your flight is inevitably delayed, you won’t be tethered to a wall when your device dies (if you can actually find an outlet). You’ll be tethered to a suitcase that is the envy of your fellow travelers instead. The battery can be easily ejected to alleviate the dreaded security checkpoint process. The lock is also designed to meet TSA requirements. This is a bag that is made by travelers for travelers.
A stellar product, nonstop social media activity by devotees of Away, and glowing reviews helped fuel rapid-fire growth. “When it comes to travel bags and suitcases, Away is the brand you need to know,” raved Travel and Leisure in May of 2016. Much more recently, in October 2019, ThePointsGuy.com said, “…if you’re in the market for a suitcase, now is definitely the time to invest in Away luggage.”
Away luggage made its debut with a single product, The Carry-On, in February of 2016. They started with 1,000 square feet of space and four employees. By May of that year, Away opened had its first retail store. In September of 2016, Away announced that they had secured $8.5M in Series A funding from a host of high-profile venture capitalists.
As sales grew, so too did Away’s team. In April of 2017, they hired their 50th employee. By January of 2018, they were at 100 employees, and by April of 2018, Away was shipping to nearly 40 countries. Additional retail stores were opened, additional funding secured. As of May 2019, Away had more than 200 employees and a valuation of $1.4 billion after securing an additional $100M in funding.
When asked if an IPO was in their future, the owners coyly sidestepped the question.
“Global lifestyle brand” indeed.
Photo via Town & Country.