We were lucky enough to catch Lauren and Alex (Will & Bear) as they passed through town on a supply run in their Volkswagen T3 synchro FWD, a van that had seen more adventures than most. It had a few spots of rust but the wood panelled interior, crafted bench tops and hand woven rugs made for the perfect home.
We met on the side of a river just out of town as the early morning sun filtered through the eucalypts. It had been a chilly night so everything was covered in dew - steam rose from the grass and the birds finished their morning feed; it was going to be another hot day.
It was the perfect setting to gain an insight into life on the road and the inspirations that led to creating the sustainably focused fashion brand, Will and Bear.
Lauren pulled up some stools and stoked the embers from last night's fire, as Alex headed off up the river only to return moments later with a billy full of fresh mountain water.
It was from these types of settings that Will and Bear was born.
What was the inspiration behind starting Will & Bear?
Will & Bear was born on the road.
Back in Tasmania a few years ago the inspiration for the brand was sparked. It was our time spent in the wild nature that is Tasmania that first got us thinking about how we could give back to the places we love so much.
A hat to us represents a life of adventure, a necessity to a healthy life outdoors and an item that, if designed well, only gets better with age - lasting a lifetime.
What was it that drew you to the nomadic van lifestyle? What are the best/worst parts of van life?
We’d been off and on the road for about one year in our van travelling for markets and events, and each time we came home we realized how much more inspired we were while on the road.
Living and working from a van has its ups and downs that's for sure! But when we’re on the road we have the so much more clarity: it’s where our best ideas and inspiration come from. Life on the road brings with it fewer distractions, time to think and the company of new and interesting people.
The constant changing environment in the van means you have to think outside the box, problem solve on a daily basis and immerse yourself in different cultures.
We have a mantra between the two of us and it is to treat every challenge as a learning experience. It's the constant challenges of living on the road that, we feel, makes us better individuals, partners and business owners. (We have to remind ourselves of this when we get into the sticky situations, like being bogged on the beach with the tide coming in!)
You two are partners - how do you find working together? What is the best/worst part about working with your partner?
Truth be told, running a business with your other half isn’t always easy! But it does give us the confidence - along with a bit of blind optimism - to keep pushing forward. Our personalities complement each other and we know that no matter what direction we end up going, we always go together.
Worst part = work life balance! Will & Bear is such a personal brand as it has been a two man show for so long and we designed the brand around our lives. This means that sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between work and personal. For a long time it was just work! BUT we’ve been practising switching off work lately (we’re not so good at it all the time!!)
Best part = having your best mate to lean on, grow with and enjoy the ride with.
What did you want to be when you were grown up?
Alex – An artist
Loz – What ever my big sister wanted to be at the time!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Alex – Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity.
Loz – Do what makes you uncomfortable as much as possible.
What advice would you recommend to other designers / people wanting to start their own business?
Just start! Treat everything as a learning experience and ask as many questions as you can. You’d be surprised at how many people are happy to help.
What's next for Will & Bear?
We've just launch our Keep it Slow campaign.
We're aiming to develop our next range from upcycled waste materials to help reduce our impact on the environment.