Adventure Often. These are the words that Loz (Will) & Alex (Bear) live by when creating their life and the sustainable and raw collection of Will & Bear hats. Packing up their lives and stuffing it in a van, the indie pair has set off on the adventure of a lifetime around Australia, while collecting inspiration for their next pieces and running their startup out of the boot. The Will & Bear brand is all about loving every moment you have, nurturing our incredible planet and giving back. Their kick-ass plant a forest initiative allows everyday Aussie to be part of their journey by not only feeling a sense of wanderlust when you don one – or many – of their designs but also plant 10 trees for every hat sold.
Today, Life Instyle chats with Loz & Alex/Will & Bear about what exactly goes into developing each and every one of their pieces and the inspiration BEHIND THE DESIGN.
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 were hats out there but none that was reasonably priced, good quality and no brands that filled us with a sense of adventure. 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 the same as scuff marks on our leather boots and the dirt on the van. It was definitely well traveled – 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.
Utilizing our background in design and finance set out to create a unisex hat range from the ground up. Our objective was to create a range that would gracefully carry the marks of the journey, that would compliment our simplistic but rough around the edges aesthetic & that wasn’t going to break the bank. The branding was going to stand for simplicity and our aim was to inspire adventurous living and a deeper connection to our surrounds. Our logo is a mixture of a feather and a tree which reminds of this. We aim for our product to feel at home in the Australian landscape. Our colourways are earthy and mirror natural elements. We believe less is more. Our shapes are based on traditional styles but we knew we wanted to stand for simplicity. That meant no out-there accessories, jewelry or feathers. Just simple leather bands with our embossed logo. We are committed to producing lasting garments with all natural fibres. Our first range was designed from 100% Australian wool. The fact that wool is naturally produced, biodegradable and renewable made this the perfect material for us to use. Its textural quality and breathability meant it has a tangibility that people connect with.
Process & Factory
There are over 100 steps in the hat making process. Each hat passes through many pairs of hands from the bale of wool to the final product. Our hats are handmade from 100% Australian wool by expert milliners in Inner Mongolia, PRC. They are a family owned business that has 60 years experience in crafting quality headwear. They are experts in their field, and the operation runs like a well-oiled machine. The premises are clean and organized. On our first visit, we described it as Willy Wonka’s factory for hats – a spectacle of steam and new and old milling machines clattering into action. The raw wool is milled, dyed, pressed and finished with our all natural details. We ensure all our partners are Reach, fair-trade, and SGS approved. Our commitment to continuing a thoughtful, responsible & sustainable business.
The Process – Handmade to Headworn
The raw wool milled to remove impurities and formed into the cone and then the bodies (or blanks) After the bodies are inspected for imperfections they are dyed and proofed ready for blocking. After drying they are ready for forming, Using aluminum casts, they are heat pressed to hold their permanent shape. After the forming process, they are steamed to soften for touch – it’s then stitched and bound. The finishing details are hand stitched for a personal touch.
Plant a Forest Project – 1 Hat Sold = 10 Trees Planted
We believe giving back is an integral part of operating a responsible and sustainable business. Forests are our natural air filters and water factories. They are our respite, and place of peace. They help keep the climate stable, support our waterways, and offer jobs and prosperity to communities. Unfortunately, 50% of the world forest are lost to deforestation. That’s why we have partnered with trees.org to plant ten trees for every hat sold. We chose Trees.org because they have demonstrated the transformative power of trees in addressing the global environmental crisis. Through their projects in West Africa, they have demonstrated that “people can leave a legacy of opportunity through sustainable practices; that leave productive lands for future generations”. We are really proud of our ongoing partnership with an organisation that can affect so many positive outcomes on a global scale. By purchasing a hat from us you are helping counter the effects of deforestation, as well as supporting families and communities out of poverty. Buy a hat, and plant a forest on us.
We aim to inspire adventurous living and a deeper connection with our surroundings. We aim to create products that reflect this – pieces that when hung on the wall at home reminds us of the many adventures to come & represents a hopeful future. We are an eclectic mix of wanderers & storytellers from all over the world. We share one common thread – a love for the outdoors and a life on the road. We draw so much inspiration from your stories and is the reason we continue this journey. We are looking forward to many adventures to come. Hopefully, see you on the road!