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Power Players: Finding The Magic in Baggage

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Like many inspiring entrepreneurs we’ve met, friends Jen Rubio and Stephanie Korey set out to create a product they didn’t think existed—in this case, the perfect luggage. The premise of their fledgling company, Away, is simple: Bring the price point down by cutting out the middle man, so customers can invest in gorgeous, durable luggage without selling the farm. The result? Three gorgeous pieces, clean and slickly designed, with four rolling wheels (which, any consultant will tell you, is clutch) and plenty of bells and whistles like a TSA-approved lock and a separate, compressed pouch for corraling dirty clothes, all for a lot less than you’d spend on a designer handbag. The company’s now in its second year and picking up speed—no surprise, as Rubio and Korey, both Warby Parker alums, have some serious business chops (so much so that their former bosses actually sit on their Board of Advisors). Below, the self-described “work wives” spill on going into business with a friend, disrupting an entire vertical, and all-star packing tips.

A Q&A with Jen Rubio and Stephanie Korey

Q

So…why luggage?

A

JR: Travel is exciting, invigorating, and expands one’s worldview and perspective—yet the industry is staid, dated, and full of uninspiring, missionless companies. Luggage is just our first foray into injecting energy into the travel industry. I was dumbstruck when my luggage broke and I realized that there was no brand in the space that was beloved or aligned with the way people truly travel, and that led us to thinking about what we could offer and how that could be our first step to reshaping an entire vertical.

Q

You guys met working at Warby Parker, how has that experience shaped your business?

A

SK: Warby Parker set a great example for how work should be fun. With that experience in mind, we’re really thoughtful about creating a culture at Away where we can set ambitious goals that we work hard to achieve, but have a sense of humor and good time while we do it all.

Q

There’s two of you, do you end up splitting up certain aspects of running the business, or just double-team everything?

A

SK: We totally split it up! Jen is our creative director and oversees everything having to do with our brand and creative. I focus more on the business side and work with the teams focused on operations, finance, and marketing. We make the really important decisions, like hiring, together.

Q

What was the process for designing the perfect piece of luggage?

A

SK: The process for designing the perfect luggage was really extensive. We did focus groups and surveys with a broad array of over 800 travelers to really understand how they pack, how they move, what they do in the airport, and what they do when they arrive. We turned all of these insights into physical product mandates. Our goal was to figure out, if suitcases had never existed, how we would create the perfect one.

Q

You guys have a pretty strong presence across all social networks, specifically Instagram (your #travelaway hashtag gets a lot of love). How big of a part does social media play?

A

JR: Social media is important, but because we view it as part of the bigger picture and not as just a marketing channel. What’s most important to us is connecting with our customers, building a community around what we value, and cultivating relationships. Social media allows us to do this in an organic, meaningful way.

Q

We’re guessing travel takes up a large chunk of your lives, any expert packing tips?

A

JR: Pack by category, not by outfit. It’s the only way that allows you to really take inventory of what you’re bringing. I pack all of my tops in one packing cube, bottoms in another, etc. I take everything that I’ll use on the flight—travel blanket, neck pillow, noise-cancelling headphones, facial mist, books, and socks (always bring plane socks!)—and put them in one bag, which goes under the seat in front of me. Everything else goes overhead and untouched.

Q

Favorite destination for combining business with pleasure?

A

JR: Right now, Berlin. The creative community combined with the burgeoning tech and startup scene makes for an amazing energy. There are beautiful, thoughtful new restaurant and retail concepts popping up all the time, and the international crowd is fantastic. My perfect Friday in Berlin: meetings with investors and brand partners, dinner at Panama (the new restaurant from the guys who own Katz Orange), drinks at Odessa, and then dancing into the morning—many times alongside the same people who I spent the day meeting with!

Q

What’s next for Away?

A

SK: We have lots of big plans for Away. We’ve always said we’re not a luggage company, but a travel brand, and our main focus is on how we can make travel more seamless. Stay tuned for a product offering that goes beyond luggage soon.

Photographer: Winnie Au
Fashion Editor: Laurie Trott / goop
Hair Stylist: Charles McNair / Jed Root
Makeup Artist: Ingeborg using Vapour Beauty
Special thanks to: Greecologies

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