Will & Bear have been a huge inspiration of mine since I first stumbled across their eye-catching Instagram a couple of years back. A small Aussie hat brand with a thirst for the outdoors, they love nothing more then packing their bags and hitting the open road. I was initially attracted to their sense of adventure and fell in love with their timeless designs, but after delving a little deeper I discovered that these guys weren't just cool, they actually give a damn!
Will (Loz) & Bear (Alex) don't just create rad headwear for other adventurers, they do so while putting Mother Nature first. Will & Bear have set the standard for running an ethical and sustainable business, with thoughtful practices in place since day dot. Not only are all Will & Bear hats made from 100% Australian wool and other natural fibres, but for every hat sold, 10 trees are planted and in the last 3 years they've managed to supply the planet with 100 Hectares of lush, green goodness.
As someone who has been following the Will & Bear journey for a while now, I can honestly say that I was pretty excited to have the opportunity to ask Loz a few questions about how & why they do what they do. From the ethics and sustainability which is the core of Will & Bear, to their latest adventure where Loz, Alex & Marty (the new home/office on wheels) have decided to pack it all up and run their business on the open road, as they make their way around Australia.
Meet Will & Bear
I’m a huge fan, but for those who haven’t heard of you can you introduce us to Will & Bear?
Will & Bear is a small hat brand with a love for the outdoors and life on the road.
We aim for our hats to feel at home in the Australian landscape. Their earthy colours mirror the natural surrounds of where we travel. Our shapes are based on traditional styles knowing we wanted to stand for simplicity while recognising what came before us.
The brand aims to inspire a life lived outdoors and a deeper connection to our environment.
Who is Marty?
The love of our life…haha
He is actually out van/home/office, a little while back we decided to try a new business model and work from the road. We spent 12 months setting up business and employees up to all work remotely so we could move into Marty and travel Australia while running the brand.
Why did you start Will & Bear?
It all started when we set out on a summer road trip around Tasmania, Aus. With the kombi van packed - there was only one thing to complete - find a good quality hat to shield the Australian sun. After looking in the obvious places we were left a little disheartened - sure there was hats out there but none that was reasonably priced, good quality and no brands that filled us with a sense of adventure or a thoughtfulness/give back ethos that was so important to us.
Not willing to give up we kept our eyes on the prize and one day we stumbled into a second hand store. There it was a vintage fedora hanging on the wall collecting dust. It was perfect! It carried the marks and scuffs of the previous owners journeys which seemed to only make it better. They were same as scuff marks on our leather boots and the dirt on the van. It was definitely well travelled - the bad news was there was only one. After many arguments about who got to wear the hat we decided to do something about it.
What has been the biggest challenge starting your own label?
At first it was the fear of failure or that no one would be into what we were putting out there, but 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, this rule has given us the confidence to give things a go and not let fear be the reason for our decision making.
Will (Loz) adventuring with her Rivers leather backpack - tan.
What’s it like running a business on the road?
Living and working from a van has it's ups and downs that's for sure.
But we have realised that we are most inspired when on the road and that all our best decisions are made on the road - it’s when we have the most clarity and time to reflect. Fewer distractions, time to think and the company of people close to us.
Running a business while living in a van with your other half and business partner doesn't come without it's challenges. But It's these challenges that we feel makes us better individuals, partners and business owners.
I guess we love being out of our comfort zone, living and working from the road requires you to constantly think outside the box and we see so much value in that mindset.
Which Will & Bear design can’t you live without?
William Brown, hands down. This was the very first hat we ever designed and has been our best seller in the range since we launched a few years ago. This product represents what we stand for, simple design.
Tell us about what makes Will & Bear ethical?
We make all out hats from 100% Australian wool and other natural fibres. That are natural, biodegradable, renewable and can be upcycled. It’s the perfect fit for our environmentally sustainable goals. From the start sustainability played a major role is our designs and every business decision we made so much so that it’s ingrained in the ethos of Will & Bear.
We also working with our partner Tress For The Future on our Plant A Forest Project, were One Hat Sold = Ten Trees Planted. By purchasing a hat from us you are helping counter the effects of deforestation, as well as supporting families and communities out of poverty.
You guys obviously love to travel! Where have you been that’s left you speechless?
Senegal, Africa was up there. It was one of those trips that makes you rethink your way of life and your impact. It was after this trip that we made the decision to redesign out lives and move back into Marty full time.
You’re now living the absolute dream & living in your van as you drive around our beautiful country. Can you tell us the plan, if there is one!
Haha this is the year with no plans, just the open road… yewww!
But after this 12-18 months is up (how ever long it takes us to travel the whole of Australia) we plan to do the same thing in the US and take the brand over there.
Check out Will & Bear