29 years ago, Timbuk2 was founded in San Fransisco by a SF bike messenger Rob Honeycutt. What began as a commitment to craft and local manufacturing became a revolution in business practices as Timbuk2 modeled the way for US manufacturing of bags built to last a lifetime. Today senior product designer Andrea Chynoweth continues to create quality bags for adventurers of all kinds. In this interview with Andrea, we go behind the scenes at Timbuk2 exploring the roles of sustainability and spontaneity in the design process.
Tell us about yourself. Who are you? What inspires you? What drives you? What brings you joy?
I was born and raised in Chicago and moved to San Francisco to pursue a more bohemian and balanced life. I am most inspired when I see live music and shamelessly enjoy life. There is a perennial teenager-like quality to my personality - I’ve never fully grown up and I don’t plan to.
Tell us about your company. How does your own life mission fit into the company mission?
Since its inception nearly three decades ago, Timbuk2 has designed functional bags that enable urban seekers to enjoy spontaneous adventures. That is closely aligned with my personal philosophy, which is to get up everyday and live life to the fullest because each day is a tremendous gift. I live intuitively, always ready for life’s exciting experiences.
How and why did sustainability become an important value in the company and in your personal life? Tell us about how your company incorporates environmental stewardship into the business model, product design, distribution and customer experience?
Sustainability has been integral to Timbuk2’s core values since day one. Founder Rob Honeycutt began with a mission to make bags that last a lifetime, and we have persisted with that same ambition to this day. All of our bags are cleverly designed so they can last a lifetime, resulting in minimal waste. Furthermore, we manufacture over 70,000 bags per year domestically in our very own SF factory, and offer a rigorous recycling and repurposing service called the Timbuk2 Life Cycle Program. With this, we offer a lifetime warranty on all of our bags and make sure no bag ever goes to waste. We have truly succeeded in fostering a no waste attitude.
What is your favorite aspect of your job and why?
The spontaneity and imaginative freedom that come with working in the design industry. I love not knowing what each new day will bring and inventing creative solutions. I’m also a team player and at Timbuk2 we really stress collaborative efforts and letting different perspectives take shape in our designs. I enjoy helping people learn and watching them grow into their better selves, so this job has been very fulfilling in that way.
What’s next for you and your company?
My most immediate goal is to create a singular creative vision for the brand that extends from the product itself, into the actual lifestyles of our consumers. We really want to hone in on innovation and forward-thinking in order to connect with the people who relate to our brand.
What piece of advice do you have for people pursuing sustainability work with environmentally responsible companies?
GO FOR IT! You have to believe in yourself and take chances. Try the things that you most wildly dream of and don’t be afraid to stand out. Too often people talk themselves out of their greatest ideas, but you have to keep moving forward with confidence.
If you could preserve one place in nature, where would it be?
One place that stands out to me is the Ngorogoro Crater in Tanzania. It is the place where humankind is believed to have originated and later evolved into the modern human. I was able to travel there and witness its incredibly unique ecosystem, brimming with endemic plant and animal life, first-hand. It’s places like this that people should go and see to gain a deeper understanding and respect for the earth.
Who is someone you admire in the outdoor industry and why?
I’ve always admired Hap Klopp, the iconic founder of The North Face. He succeeded in creating an authentic brand that has a firm grip on the outdoor space, but has also become equally as relevant on urban sidewalks. It’s his vision and reach that I find admirable.
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