2017 Travel Trends: Luggage Gets Smarter

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Jen Rubio (left) and Steph Korey in their SoHo concept shop.

The Smarter Suitcase

If they build it, you will pack: Away’s cofounders on their smash-hit luggage brand.

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The Away suitcase's built-in USB charger.
Away co-founders Steph Korey and Jen Rubio in NYC.

By Marika Cain
 
If Steph Korey and Jen Rubio are a little surprised by the success of Away, their new direct-to-consumer luggage, they don’t have much time to think about it. The well-priced line of suitcases debuted in 2015 and was on track for a $10 million year in 2016. The company recently raised $11 million in venture capital and opened a storefront in New York, with pop-ups in London, Los Angeles, and Berlin. Rubio and Korey have both made Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list. Vogue declared the Away carry-on “the perfect suitcase.” And Jay Z is an investor. 
 
The former Warby Parker executives – and avid travelers – launched their brand after Rubio’s suitcase broke while she was on the road and none of her friends could recommend a good replacement. “There was a void for simple, beautifully designed, exactly-what-you-need product,” Korey says of Away’s rock-star reception. Among the luggage’s features: a tough polycarbonate shell, a built-in USB charger, separate compartments for clothing and shoes, and prices starting at $225. 
 
Away isn’t the only brand looking to disrupt the $32 billion global luggage industry: Hard-side darling Rimowa has launched a line equipped with electronic bag tags; newcomer Raden incorporates a built-in scale and Bluetooth proximity sensors into its luggage; and there’s even a line of ride-on suitcases (yes, you read that right) on the market. Whatever the future of the industry, there’s no doubt Away will be a player. Building on their brand, Korey and Rubio launched a line of travel accessories last holiday season. “We want to make everything you need for travel,” Korey says. 
 
Kindred-spirit brands:
JEN: “We love other online-first, community-focused, direct-to-consumer brands like Glossier and Outdoor Voices.”
 
STEPH: “Our stores are concept stores around seamless travel. In addition to Away suitcases, we sell curated travel essentials that our team swears by. Some of my favorites include leather sneakers from Koio Collective. We’ve also partnered with Harry’s razors for a travel kit. I have to give a plug to my sister, [Virtuoso advisor] Kristen Korey Pike. She has planned all my friends’ honeymoons. That level of service, attention to detail, and thoughtfulness is something you can’t get from Hotels.com.”
 
Packing tips:
JEN: “Bring options! And lay them all out before you put them in your suitcase, so you have a mental/visual inventory of what you’re bringing. I pack my Away carry-on with my clothes (and more shoes than I need). I keep a pouch with plane necessities, like noise-canceling headphones, moisturizer, eye shades, a memory-foam neck pillow, and cords and cables, and pull that out when I board.”
 
STEPH: “Plan outfits in advance; bring versatile items that can transition from day to night, like a cashmere wrap or flat sandals; and always bring a bathing suit just in case!”
 
Window or aisle?
STEPH: “Aisle. I would almost rather take a middle seat than a window seat.”
 
JEN: “Window. A bit of perspective is important.”
 
 
More 2017 Travel Trends:
The Kinder, Gentler Airport
The Future of Hospitality
The Haute Homestay
The At-Sea Retiree
 
 Originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of Virtuoso Life.
Portrait by Jessica Antola.