While many Aussie travellers are turning to van life for a nomadic lifestyle change, one conscious couple turned their road trip into a brand with a vision.
Driven by a sense of adventure while travelling Australia in their vintage Kombi five years ago, Lauren Williams and Alex Knorr developed a love for the landscapes and communities they visited.
However it was their desire to preserve them for future generations that underpinned a journey of a different kind. After being inspired by life on the road, Will & Bear was born.
Inspired by the journey
“With life on the road, we trawled op-shops, met incredible humans and fell in love with the landscapes we explored. Simplifying your life into a small van that you share with another person helps you detach from things you don’t need. Van life keeps us conscious of every decision we make,” Lauren said.
In 2018 Lauren and Alex restructured the business so everyone could work remotely. The Will & Bear team run different facets of the business from all over the world, while the founders work from the van.
“We always feel our most inspired and challenged on the road, so we got rid of the idea of a need for an office and went on the road in our van full time,” Lauren said. “It gives us a business advantage as our mindset becomes that we can take on any challenge, be agile and think outside the square.”
Slowing down the production line
The van life also led to some major sustainability commitments from the brand. Since embarking on their journey, Will & Bear has embraced much of their production methods from the slow fashion movement.
They use 100% Australian wool (which is biodegradable and renewable), upcycled salvaged wool (offcuts from the fashion industry) and have experimented with using recycled paper for straw hats. They also have a new range coming made from hemp & recycled organic cotton.
“For us, the idea about caring for the planet is the most powerful thing for us to perpetuate. By selling a product that acts as a vehicle to do so, gives us the opportunity to hand over the power of change to our customers and the community.” Lauren said.
One hat sold, ten trees planted
Through their ongoing partnership with Trees For The Future, Will & Bear pledge to plant ten trees for every hat sold. This means that your hat purchase will offset 580kg worth of carbon from the atmosphere. To put that into perspective, that’s roughly the equivalent of a round trip from Sydney to Byron Bay, in a van of course.
“Originally, when we heard of the work that TFTF were doing, it made nothing but sense to be planting more trees. At this point in the early stages of business, our lofty dreams to stand up for mother nature and her part in the equation of business went from feeling impossible to suddenly being possible”, Lauren says.
Reforestation projects in Senegal, Africa.
Since the brand’s inception in 2016, they have planted over 200 acres of forest in Senegal, Africa. In the tropics, we lose 50 football fields of trees every minute. Yep that’s right, every, single, minute. And in Senegal, a long tradition of monocropping (peanut farming) has stripped the earth bare leaving nothing but barren land. The local communities of Senegal struggle to make ends meet from just one crop a year and if that crop fails, they go hungry.
“They’re literally relying on peanuts. When we heard these figures and devastating ways of living we knew that something had to change and believe it’s essential to support these developing countries in meeting environmental and humanitarian goals. So we’re making a change one hat and ten trees at a time.” Lauren said.
The road ahead
And in a year where we’ve all had to consider our actions and the impact we have on others and the community, brands that have a purpose beyond themselves will be the trailblazers of change.
Will & Bear is one such brand already on their way.
Need more inspiration?
From slow travel guides, off grid getaways and farm to table dining spots; to eco living tips, sustainable brands and wellbeing essentials – This Weekend is a sustainable living guide that’s good for you and the planet.