The much anticipated Pakt One travel bag's story is one of trial and error and successful multi-layer collaboration. Launched this morning on Indiegogo, the bag's story is filled with interesting advice for designers thinking about putting a professional crowdfunding campaign together—for a market overcrowded with product and made up of people who truly don't want to buy anything.
After working as a design consultant for many years, Malcolm Fontier became frustrated by profit-driven creation—designing products he felt were unnecessary to bring into the world, besides for the purpose of making money. This experience sparked his decision to start producing his own line of wallets and bags with his wife in 2007. The couple's goal was to design objects that actually added value to people's lives through function and environmental responsibility, which eventually led to the production of their minimalist travel bag, the Getaway, in 2011.
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Fontier's bags were aesthetically defined by their functionality and distinct color palette, but when looked into more closely, they carried an environmentally friendly backstory with them—modestly hidden beneath the surface as an additional design decision instead of a main selling point. Unfortunately, after just a few years, Fontier's company dwindled away simply due to a lack of sales.
Fast forward to 2016: All of a sudden Malcolm's inbox was flooded with requests to purchase the Getaway Bag in particular. Little did Fontier know, the bag had gained many fans throughout its existence, most notably including vloggers Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists. The Minimalists had purchased the Getaway bag back in 2013 but eventually used it in their 2016 Netflix documentary, Minimalism, which as you can guess focused on their minimalist lifestyles. The duo's many fans took note, leading to a outburst in demand for the Getaway.
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Malcolm kept turning the requests away until he eventually realized the Getaway's high demand meant a relaunch shouldn't be out of the question. But Fontier knew he needed to approach this relaunch in a different way than he approached his initial business venture—one that would ensure stability for a small company in today's fast-paced, overcrowded market.
This realization brought about an epiphany that perhaps marketing was where he fell short the first time around. "The fact that we didn't sell enough at the time yet a couple years later thousands of people are inquiring about it makes it clear that the original bag was a design success but a marketing fail. It also highlights how important marketing is even when you have a strong design, which is pitfall I think a lot of designers have fallen into."
Lucky for Fontier, celebrity endorsement and branding strategy were just a few clicks away. After many back and forth conversations with the Minimalists, it was decided that the dream team would assemble to successfully market the well-loved bag under a new identity: The Pakt One. On the branding side, Fontier reached out to longtime friend and Sprout CEO/Principal Jordan Nollman, who eagerly joined the team as a Design Partner.
"As a person who's spent a lot of time on the road and in the air, I designed the bag I always wanted, and the fact that The Minimalists agree speaks volumes. I'm excited to bring back an even more useful, durable, and beautiful version with their help." —Malcolm Fontier
As Creative Director, Malcolm worked closely with Sprout to finalize the bag's design. To solidify the supply chain, Sprout worked with a Hong Kong-based firm to procure samples and coordinate production. Then, a promotional video was created that features the Minimalists as celebrity spokespeople.
Wait: doesn't designing products in general go against the basic principals of minimalism?
It's true: designing products for minimalists is a contradiction in and of itself. When addressing this contradiction, Frontier expressed the importance of experience. "Even minimalists need experiences, and if you leave your house, you need a bag," he stated. In other words, just because someone is living a minimalist lifestyle doesn't mean they're holed up in their home all of the time—they still need to have life experiences that require ownership of a core set of products.
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"It may seem counterintuitive for a minimalist to introduce a product, but some consumption is inevitable—the key is to be intentional. This bag has added immense value to my life, so I'm pleased we're able to share it with the world." —Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists
As designers, we especially understand the clear difference between minimalism as an aesthetic and minimalism as a lifestyle. We all have that friend who collects minimally designed objects for their home and isn't afraid to admit they're just "going for the minimalist look." But there are people out there actually wanting to lead a minimalist lifestyle through making a conscious effort to declutter and own as little objects as possible.
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Instead of shunning people who aren't ready to dip their toes into the true minimalist lifestyle, Fontier and his team chose to focus on those that are ready, which in turn appeals to both categories of consumers. According to Fontier, designing for people who actually want to lead a minimalist lifestyle is all about material and design quality. He recalled a moment in the Minamalists' documentary that particularly stood out to him in this regard:
"[The minimalists] interviewed Juliet Schor and she said, 'We are too materialistic in the everyday sense of the word, and we are not at all materialistic enough in the true sense of the word.' This statement grabbed me when I heard it, and it captures the way all of us think about this project. There are way too many throw-away products in the world, and the last thing we want to do is create another." If minimalists need to limit themselves to one product in each major category, Fontier's goal is to provide the best minimalist bag option for them.
But there are so many minimal bags on the market. Why exactly is this bag so special compared to the rest?
In part, yes, it's the strong branding and marketing strategy Fontier has created through the power of collaboration. But let's not forget the bag is actually a high quality design—and as with any quality design, it's all in the details.
Fontier's limited edition Getaway bag originally gained popularity because of its innovative dual compartment, zip around body style. Designed to provide easy access to belongings on the go, the updated version, Pakt One, adds thoughtful features to help save time and hassle while in transit. The most notable design details include:
– A first-of-its-kind TSA pocket to quickly stash items that have to be removed at security
– An internal laptop pocket accessible from the top of the bag that uses packed clothing for extra cushioning
– Accessory loops that allow you to clip items like a water bottle or sunglasses on the outside where they're easy to find and won't spill or get crushed
– No logos or branding on the outside of the bag
– Available in three colors and constructed with durable, technical and animal-friendly materials
The Pakt team has also partnered with another project Fontier is working on called Seahive, which focuses on using design to fight the problem of plastic waste in our oceans. The Pakt One will be used as an initial case study, as it will be a product brought to market with zero plastic packaging. Malcom says Pakt will, "pave the way for Seahive to consult other brands on reducing or eliminating plastic packaging from their own product lines."
What's next for the Pakt One team?
Malcolm + The Minimalists
After going live at 5am this morning, the Pakt One has already reached its $50,000 goal by around 400%—by over 760 backers! If the journey Fontier has been through and the learning lessons he's experienced prior to this campaign were any indicator, we could have seen that one coming.
Want to get in on the action? Early backers of Pakt One's Indiegogo campaign will be able to purchase the bag for a reduced price.
Emily is a freelance writer based in NYC with an interest in all things design, specifically the design process. When she's not writing about design, Emily can either be found taking care of her 31 houseplants, going on "nature" walks in her neighborhood or studying Japanese. Before going freelance, Emily was an Editor at Core77.