The flagship Away store is located in NoHo in New York. Courtesy of Away
Away's luggage is known as innovative to make traveling easier. Courtesy of Away
Austin was the first Texas location, but Dallas' design concept will be unique. Courtesy of Away
Away considers itself not just a luggage brand, but a lifestyle brand. Courtesy of Away
The brand just launched its new holiday collection, Luminous. Courtesy of Away
The Minis are also back for small travel essentials. Courtesy of Away
Just in time for holiday shopping, an innovative luggage company is popping up on Knox before opening its second Texas location full-time in the same location.
Away, the global lifestyle brand that has gained somewhat of a cult following for their lightweight and durable suitcases, is opening its first Dallas location at 3109 Knox Street in early 2020. The very first Away store in Texas opened in Austin at Domain Northside.
Before Away’s eighth United States store officially opens in Dallas permanently, the brand will operate a pop-up shop from November 29 through January 5.
At the pop-up, visitors will be able to shop Away’s lineup of luggage and other travel essentials. There will also be a giveaway for the first 100 customers. With their purchase, these early customers will receive a free personalized foil stamp luggage tag. Artists will also be on-site offering hand painted monogramming on select products every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 pm until December 22.
In anticipation of the opening, PaperCity talked with Away senior director of retail Will Williams to get the inside scoop on the new store.
Here is the exclusive Q&A:
PaperCity: What first inspired the brand? How did the founders get it started? What kind of backgrounds did they come from?
Will Williams: Our co-founders, Jen (Rubio) and Steph (Korey), first met when they started at Warby Parker on the same day. Jen was head of social media and Steph was head of supply chain. They have expertise in totally different areas of the business, which is probably why they make such a great team.
Now, as chief brand officer, Jen oversees everything from design to retail and marketing — and in her role as CEO, Steph is responsible for growing and leading the company.
The idea for Away came about when Jen’s suitcase came completely apart while she was traveling through the airport overseas. When she asked her most well-traveled friends for a recommendation to replace it, none of them could come up with a brand they loved. So she called Steph, and the two of them started talking about why that was and how they might be able to create the solution themselves.
PaperCity: What is different about Away compared to other luggage brands?
Will Williams: Away is unlike other luggage brands because we don’t consider ourselves one. We’re a lifestyle brand that’s focused on all parts of the travel experience by solving the pain points and unlocking the possibilities for transformation that can come with it. It’s what ultimately drives us and informs every decision we make.
Before Away, luggage retailers were talking about product features like zippers and wheels, but none were really talking about travel itself. We’ve always known that our vision is about so much more than just luggage, but rather about building a community around a shared love of travel and discovery, which is where our retail stores play such a big role as well.
Our business model is another huge differentiator for us. We offer our customers thoughtfully designed products at great prices because our direct-to-consumer model means there are no unnecessary mark-ups. It also means that we have a stronger connection with our community through constant, back and forth communication, and we can receive and react to their feedback more quickly.”
PaperCity: What are the kinds of travel problems you solve?
Will Williams: We know there are an endless number of problems travelers face, and our ultimate goal is to solve as many as we can, so people can focus on getting more out of their experiences.
For example, we heard from travelers how they hated when their suitcases couldn’t move over uneven pavement or terrible airport carpet, so we designed our suitcases with 360 degree spinner wheels for a smooth ride no matter the surface. We also know packing is a challenge for so many people, whether they bring too much or it’s hard for them to stay organized on the road, so we chose features like the interior compression system in our suitcases and created organizing tools like our Insider Packing Cubes.
Our customers look to us as their trusted source on all things travel, so we also get questions about which airline to fly, where to stay, or where to eat at certain destinations. We’re always eager to share recommendations across our community from all the travel experiences we hear about through our various channels, including social media, customer service and our in-house publication, Here Magazine.
PaperCity: Y’all started as direct-to-consumer. When did you open the first Away retail location and why?
Will Williams: Very early on, we really didn’t think physical retail would play as big of a role in our business as it does now, but we were quickly proved wrong. Shortly after launching, we opened our first pop-up in New York as a test and were blown away by how much our community valued in-person experiences. Today, we have seven retail locations across the U.S. and in London. With the opening of the Dallas pop-up and eventually the permanent store, that number will continue to rise.
We’ve found that our brick and mortar locations are a crucial point of contact with our customers to build deeper connections. Anyone who visits an Away retail location will see our brand brought to life and make a personal, tangible connection. Unlike our online customers, brick-and-mortar customers can touch and test our products, see how light our suitcases are or how easy the wheels glide, and speak with an Away team member who has a unique perspective on travel.
PaperCity: Why Dallas as the next store location? And how did you land in the Knox area?
Will Williams: As our Away community continues to grow in Texas, we felt Dallas was an ideal location because the city is filled with avid travelers and plenty of existing Away customers. We chose the Knox area because it’s so vibrant with all of the different restaurants, bars and other shops.
It’s pedestrian-friendly and charming, which makes the neighborhood feel like a destination in itself. As a brand, we want to make sure that no matter where we go, we can showcase who we really are, and this area felt like the right fit for Away in Dallas.
PaperCity: What will be different about this store?
Will Williams: We’ve designed all Away stores to serve as a space where our community can gather and travelers can really experience our brand. With the Dallas pop-up specifically, we want to give visitors a chance to escape the holiday chaos and pick out their must-have gifts and travel products for the season.
This space won’t look like any other Away store and was designed uniquely for Dallas. We partnered with interior designer, Sasha Bikoff to bring the pop-up to life, which is accented with bright, bold colors and a fun logo carpet. We wanted to give a nod to the vibrancy of the city of Dallas and the people who live here. When it opens next year, the look of the permanent store will evolve, but still retain elements unique to Dallas that customers won’t find anywhere else.
PaperCity: What are you most looking forward to for the Dallas expansion? And Houston?
Will Williams: I’m looking forward to being able to bring Away to even more members of our community and making those connections. Dallas and Houston are incredible cities and we’re excited to get to know new travelers in both locations. Being able to bring the in-person experience to our existing fans in the area and to watch as newcomers discover us for the first time through our stores, is something I’ll never get tired of.