“Travel is this amazing thing that really allows you to expand your horizons and immerse yourself in new cultures and experiences,” says Steph Korey, co-founder of Away, a new direct-to-consumer brand selling suitcases and other travel accessories. “Our goal with Away is to offer beautiful objects that empower people to travel more seamlessly.”
Korey and co-founder Jen Rubio are both former executives at Warby Parker and have experience turning well-priced products into a high-desire lifestyle brand. Away launched earlier this year selling a single hardshell carry-on suitcase, but for Korey and Rubio, the next step after launching their first product online was obvious: get it in front of customers offline.
The solution to this problem is Away’s first concept store (Korey and Rubio actively avoid the phrase “pop-up shop”). Away enlisted New York design studio Visibility to help transform an empty space in a narrow building near the corner of Houston and Lafayette in lower Manhattan into a showcase for what their new brand stands for. The basic idea was to create a place that celebrates two of the founders’ favorite travel destinations, Tokyo and Stockholm. To make this a reality, Visibility co-founders Joseph Guerra and Sina Sohrab divided the space in half with translucent screens and utilized the store’s two opposite entrances to create two shops that flow into one another. The Swedish side is bright colors and white tile reminiscent of a sauna, while the Japanese side is more mellow, with geometric wood furniture, all custom-made for the space.
“Finding the perfect space in New York City is always difficult, so when we first visited the site we were excited by the prospect that we had found a space with two entrances to work with our concept of duality,” says Guerra. “It became about what simple but impactful decisions can we make to ensure that the store provides a meaningful experience that elevates the suitcases.”
Because Away is currently selling just two products (the carry-on and a scarf-blanket hybrid they’re calling a “blarf”), they conscripted friends to suggest their favorite products that they pick up when visiting the two represented cities and then sourced them to sell alongside their own goods. These range from Japanese matcha tea whisks and face oil to strange Swedish caviar spread and bonded rubber raincoats. A handful of collaborators created special products just for Away’s first shop, including bicycle maker Tokyobike, candy company Sockerbit, and cosmetics brand Cap Beauty.
The store opens today and closes August 31st, but it will continue to evolve over the course of the summer. As the various goods from Japan and Sweden sell through, Away will be replacing them with new oddities and limited edition products, so the selection will morph with shoppers’ tastes. There will also be various programs hosted in the space throughout the coming months, including a speaker series, dinners, and live performances, all related to travel and building communities.