How NYC lifestyle start-up, Away, is changing the way we travel

The Luggage brand all over your IG feed is going global

“It’s about humanizing the travel industry,” says Dianna Cohen of Away, the direct-to-consumer company disrupting the luggage market, one perfectly designed suitcase at a time. As Away’s Brand Partnerships Manager, Dianna’s role – which she giddily admits to “nerding out on” – revolves around humanizing, from fostering and developing the company culture, and finding the other brands that align with their imaginative vision. In just over 2 years, Away has sold over 100K suitcases, focusing on a simple, straight-forward product in an industry laden with overpriced luxury and shoddy bargain buys. What started as a singular piece of luggage has expanded into a full-blown lifestyle brand, as yet another millennial start-up changing the game with its transparent and thoughtful approach.

Away was founded by Warby Parker alums Steph Korey and Jen Rubio, to bridge the gap between what travelers want and need in one streamlined, millennial approved package. Sleek, minimal design? Check. USB port to stay charged in between IG stories? Check. 100-day trial and lifetime warranty to boot? Check. Their mission is to create that home away from home feeling wherever you go, be it through their luggage, editorial magazine, podcasts or collaborative, curated experiences. Having just wrapped up their biggest feat yet – a boutique hotel takeover during Paris Fashion Week – the brand is setting its sights far beyond your packing list. Here, Diana invites us to the company’s palatial Soho office to talk company culture, how to tap into that #awaylife, and creating wanderlust through design. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

COOLS: What does the Away company culture look like?

We’re a travel company not a luggage company; everything we do from the product design to the experiences we build is completely dedicated to bringing people together and sharing experiences. At Away, we never push opinions of what you should do or where you should go, it’s about expanding our audience’s mind, and making sure they can meet as many people as possible. The ethos is really driven by community and creating amazing experiences.

COOLS: And considering the brand’s meteoric success, what do you think Away brought to the travel market?

To start, the price point is amazing. Our two cofounders came from Warby Parker – Jen was branding and Steph was in production. A lot of us also came from direct-to-consumer brands, with a collective mission around social impact. Can you name another luggage brand that’s visibly socially conscious? Where you know they’re really driven and every single person in the company is really behind it? For our social impact partner Peace Direct, every single person at Away offers some of their skill set to the company. There are so few brands that operate in that realm. They’re driven by the bottom line and the customer doesn’t feel that awareness.

What I feel makes Away so special in the industry is our focus on educating our audience on what travel should be and how it can broaden your horizons. It’s more than just a great product. I always joke that our customer service team is our first line of marketing; we have a 100-day return policy and lifetime guarantee. Every piece of luggage I had before this was ultimately destined for the trash; I never felt like there was a human there. It’s about humanizing the travel industry. Thinking about driving to JFK is a nightmare, and knowing that I don’t have to worry about my luggage and the charger is life-saving. It’s that thoughtfulness that differentiates us.

COOLS: The “humanness” really stems from the direct to consumer approach?

DC: Yeah. I think what’s really cool about the direct-to-consumer market is that people who have never thought about how to make experiences better, especially in travel, are thinking about it for the first time. Companies are reimagining wellness, the food at the airport, hotel exercise etc and asking ‘how do we bring this to people?’ Companies are thinking about more direct experiences and how to disrupt their industries. The conversations and collaborations the D-to-C model opens up is incredible. It’s very inspiring, the power to come together to create experiences that reach more people. We’re branching out to a lot of new verticals come 2018 to make Away more of a lifestyle experience.

COOLS: That lifestyle being centered around the company’s mantra “getting more out of every trip to come?” How do you translate that through a product?

In the product development stage, every detail from the handle to the lock is a conscious decision. We just launched the Rashida Jones edition, we launched a takeover at the Amastan Hotel during Paris Fashion Week and are really just trying to bring the Away culture worldwide. How do we make this feel cool, intimate and real? We never want to lose sight of that humanness. We think about how people actually travel, how they use the product, where they’re going with it and the places they’re rolling up to with it. We hope to elevate the travel experience to be synonymous with your daily life.

COOLS: In rendering luxury travel more accessible, how are you shifting the way people travel and their experience with the world?    

DC: Whether it’s the magazine we launched or authentic experiences we share on social, we’re bringing a culture and a lifestyle around the brand. We want to expand more into experiences, so our customers can really feel a part of the brand culture.

You want to get to your favorite hotel room and have it feel like home. Where you walk in and see your favorite candles, your favorite brands, everything that creates your happy place. That’s the core of what Away is. For Chez Away, we developed programming with Violet Grey, Diptyque, Sky Ting Yoga amongst others. Everything from the branding to the product design to the travel kits and the member cards, it’s incredibly collaborative here. We want the experience to feel regional and authentic too. Diptyque is perfect for Paris, but if we did a pop-up ranch in Utah it would be entirely different. Everything is always rooted in travel but working with likeminded partners.

COOLS: So you can feel at home no matter where life takes you?

DC: The mission is make travel more seamless. To bring people together and give them the perfect travel outfit, the perfect sleep spray or whatever it may be. Everybody travels, and everybody could be a customer, whether you’re a cool mom in the middle of Michigan or a young college student in London. There are so few products that transcend all cultures.

COOLS: The world is literally Away’s oyster?

DC: It feels like it’s just the beginning.

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