For many busy travelers (especially for those of us who work in, or are clued into, fashion- or retail-adjacent industries), it's difficult to imagine a time when Away didn't exist. But the so-called Warby Parker of luggage has only been around for just more than two years. It launched in 2016, with the help of $2.5 million in seed money and survey responses from 800 frequent flyer focus group respondents, the business running out of an office on Mulberry Street with four employees.
In that time, Away has, for lack of a better pun, taken off, picking up $31 million in venture capital and expanding far beyond its initial, now-ubiquitous product ("The Carry-On") with additional suitcases, personal items and interior organizers — plus four brick-and-mortar stores, a digital and print magazine (Here), a podcast ("Airplane Mode") and even a pop-up hotel ("Chez Away," in Paris' 1st Arrondissement).
Now, Away is looking ahead — half a decade ahead, to be exact: On Monday, the travel retailer announced plans to create 249 jobs over the next five years across product, customer experience, creative, editorial and more in what it's calling a "major expansion." (Right now, Away's workforce has more than 150 employees.) So far, that will entail relocating its headquarters this fall from its current digs at 419 Lafayette Street to a 56,000-square-foot space 0.7 miles away at 82 Mercer Street.
The move and expansion has been encouraged by Empire State Development, a state-wide umbrella organization for New York's economic development public-benefit corporations, which will provide Away $4 million in performance-based tax credits through its Excelsior Jobs Program, which encourages businesses to expand in and relocate to New York. That's a lot of civil jargon! If you'll recall, though, this is the very same organization that, last April, allowed Glossier to both move headquarters and hire an additional 282 people. Clearly, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has his eye on millennial-targeted, digital-first direct-to-consumer businesses.
In a statement provided to Fashionista, Steph Korey, co-founder and CEO, said:
Just over two years ago, we started Away in an 1,100-square-foot office on Mulberry Street with a team of four. We've grown to more than 150 employees since then, and from offering one suitcase to more than a dozen products that are making travel more seamless for our customers around the world. This move represents a significant step for Away, and we're humbled by the support of New York as we continue to grow in a city that's as global as our customers.
As we await for Away to fully take over the travel market by 2023, we might as well spend that time brainstorming the product category it's likely to enter next: Picnic baskets? Duffle bags that Transformer-ify into private jets? An entire airline? The world is their oyster.