Nature lovers Lauren Williams and Alexander Knorr launched their hat brand, Will & Bear, to trade at Life Instyle Sydney last month.
All Will & Bear’s hats are handmade in Inner Mongolia from 100 per cent Australian wool. The raw wool is milled, dyed and shaped by hand, and then finished with a natural leather band.
After spending the past year building the Will & Bear brand, Williams says they decided to take the plunge and launch their hats to the wholesale market.
“We felt we were ready to open ourselves up to meet new wholesalers that we wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to be in front of,” she explains.
“The reaction was well beyond our expectations—we now have close to 50 retailers within Australia and two in New Zealand.”
The duo found inspiration for their company while on a road trip, and Williams says many ideas come to them while driving in their Kombi.
“Most of our good ideas come to us when we’re in our van,” she says. “We are both nature lovers and wanted to build a community that helps give back to the places we play and inspire others to get outdoors and engage with their environments away from sedentary lifestyles.”
This love of nature led the pair to partner with trees.org to plant 10 trees for every hat sold. “Trees help keep the climate stable, support our waterways and offer jobs and prosperity to communities. Unfortunately, 50 per cent of the world’s forests have been lost to deforestation.
“We chose to work with trees.org because not only do they plant trees but their Forest Garden Program is a simple, replicable and scalable approach with proven success.”
Running a brand as a couple means it can be difficult finding a work/life balance, but Williams says being able to use the Kombi as their second home and office gives them freedom to travel together while working.
They will spend the next year on the road visiting markets, tradeshows and events to get the brand out there, and Williams says they still have lots to learn.
“We made a rule very early on at Will & Bear to take everything as a learning experience and not to pretend to be experts. We are constantly learning and making mistakes, so this rule has given us the confidence to give things a go and not let fear be the reason for failure.”
By Ruth Cooper