Deskside

How Away’s Founders Created the Perfect Suitcase

In just two years, the luggage brand has secured $31 million in funding and has its sights on major expansion.

By: Jodi Taylor
Photography: Weston Wells

There are many things we consider luxurious in life: fancy handbags, over-the-top vacations, even an expensive glass of bubbly. But luggage? Not until we came across Away. The brand’s founders, Jen Rubio and Stephanie Korey, have created beautiful luggage that we’re actually proud to show off in the airport. They didn’t just do it blindly, either—Rubio and Korey interviewed 800 different people (more on that later) about what they look for in luggage, and from there began their process of creating “the perfect suitcase.” Four wheels? Check. Hard case? Check. Built-in USB charger? Bet you weren’t expecting that. As if things couldn’t get better, the pair have taken the direct-to-consumer approach so that you can call your luggage fancy, and still be able to afford going on vacation. Here’s how they did it.

 

How Away got started:

Stephanie Korey: “Jen called me a year and a half ago, and her suitcase broke while she was at the airport. She texted friends asking for a recommendation of what to replace it with—all ten of them came up empty-handed, [saying,] ‘Don’t get what I have.’ [At the time], in the luggage space, you had two options: cheap crap that was going to break, or high-quality product that was going to run you close to $1,000. We said to ourselves, ‘Why can’t there be beautifully designed, super high-quality, built-to-last, very functional luggage that doesn’t cost more than the trip you’re going on?’

“The first thing we did was consumer research. We wanted to learn exactly how people travel [and] ended up interviewing 800 different people—men, women, full age range, all different career backgrounds. We took all those insights and said, Let’s approach it as if suitcases had never existed—let’s just completely reinvent that product.”

On their plans to expand from suitcases:

SK: “Right now we carry three sizes of suitcases. We really don’t think of ourselves as a luggage company, we think of ourselves first and foremost as a travel brand whose mission is to make travel as seamless as possible, so suitcases are just the start for us. We will continue to roll out more travel products that go through the same process as intense user experience interviews.”

 

The brands they are dying to collaborate with:

Jen Rubio: “The exciting part about what we’re doing is that no matter what vertical you’re in, or what kind of style you have, we made this beautifully designed minimalistic product that would fit at home everywhere you go. [The] brands that we look up to are Kith and The Standard—we really see so much opportunity to partner with people, not just in fashion, but across all different industries.”

Their favorite places to travel:

JR: “One is Marrakesh—it’s amazing and inspired our Morocco collection. Tokyo is probably my favorite big city to visit; it’s somewhere I go for inspiration and [has a] completely contrasting culture from where we live—it’s unlike anywhere else in the world.”

SK: “I’m half-Lebanese, so I have a ton of extended family that live in Lebanon, and Beirut is one of my favorite cities in the world. Lebanese people are the most welcoming ever, and it’s the one place in the world where you can swim in the sea and go skiing in the mountains in the same day.”

 

One thing that they cannot travel without:

JR: “I cannot travel without a sleep mask. I can literally fall asleep anywhere if I have that—I’ve embarrassingly done it in the middle of airport terminals, and in cars with a bunch of strangers.”

SK: “I can’t travel without good old-fashioned printed reading materials. Planes are that one time when your phone or computer don’t get connected, so it’s an awesome opportunity to catch up on reading things that are printed.”

If they could only bring one beauty product in their carry-on:

JR: “I swear by the CAP Beauty’s CAPtivator—they call it an energy mist. I get on the plane and spray it all over my face—it is the most refreshing, most delicious-smelling thing ever, and I’ve made a lot of friends on planes because of it.”

SK: “‘One product’ things are really tough because air travel is so dry, and I need at least half a dozen things, normally, to get around that, but if I did have to pick one, I would say I would bring a sheet mask because that is the ultimate moisturizing thing.”

Part of the series:

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