There’s nothing like having a stylish piece of luggage. We’ve seen Gwyneth Paltrow carrying her silver Rimowa checked suitcase covered in travel stickers, Karlie Kloss walking through airports with her Away suitcase, Amal Clooney carrying Bric’s, and Marion Cotillard carrying her vintage-esque Goyard suitcase. Right before the pandemic, in 2019 July burst on the scene and the luxury luggage brand is slowing making waves in the US market.
Birthed in Melbourne, Australia it takes a lot for products from Down Under to catch Americans’ attention. But Founders and co-CEOs Richard Li and Athan Didaskalou have created stylish and versatile luggage and weekend bags that excite due to their sleek looks, sturdy build, silent roll, and German shell. You know that feeling when you drive a new car off the dealer parking lot and it rolls smoothly. From your first roll with your July, you know you’ve got something good. And, you can’t beat a lifetime warranty with a 100-day trial.
A passion for travel
Back to these sleek bags in a minute. Richard and Athan’s journey to July is a notable one. “We both came from entrepreneurial backgrounds, having founded businesses. Before that were ahead of the curve on DTC and customer experience. Richard founded Australia’s first and fastest growing DTC furniture business, Brosa,” shares Athan. “And Athan, ex- Strategist from global agency network Ogilvy, founded Australia’s largest online coffee retailer, Thieves coffee. That experience taught us about the importance of brand ownership and what that promise means to customers, and that building a successful business needs strong foundations in operations and supply chain,” notes Richard.
For the duo, it was travel at first sight. “We both love to travel, but Athan in particular, he used to hustle and collect expensive and vintage suitcases from luxury brands back in the day. Obsessed with the nostalgia of what travel and its accessories meant. Now most travel accessories are cheap and disposable – how many adapters or travel pillows have you bought? They almost become impulse purchases now each time you’re at an airport. We wanted to be in a category we loved, and one where we felt we could make an impact,” says Richard.
“Richard’s strong manufacturing and supply chain history from his furniture legacy meant we could make things better than anyone else. We both have an eye for design, and we believed we could take some of the nostalgic magic of travel we loved so much and infuse it into a product people would fall in love with today. The aluminum bumpers on our original range, and our trunk collection, are both tributes to that sentiment,” shares Athan.
The name is unique but leaves one wondering: why name a brand after a month. “That’s an easy one,” says Richard. “We named July after the best time of the year to travel. The Northern Hemisphere has their summer holidays in July, and us Aussies always migrate to warmer weather during that month, trying to get the best of a European summer. If we’re not overseas getting some sun, you can be sure half your social feed is. Quite simply, July represents a good time abroad, what better feeling to associate with a travel brand.”
We’ve all seen Rimowa pieces. The German brand has 120 years of luxury luggage history, while Samsonite and American Tourister are known for their durability and quality. But there’s nothing wrong with healthy competition and this is how Richard and Athan saw entering July into the travel market. For them July’s ethos and style brings something to the world of travel bags that other brands can’t offer.
“Travel accessories typically fall within two distinct categories: cheap and cheerful that are seen as disposable after a couple of trips, and luxury pieces that only few can afford to access. Both of these titans of the industry have their legacy tied up in decades of scale. One is mass produced and widely distributed with a high price tag that rewards their distributors, the other is a luxury product afforded only to the few, inaccessible to most. Our opportunity is simple: affordable luxury that lasts a lifetime. The DTC model provides the foundations to succeed in the luxury space, and makes it accessible. We are giving all people the opportunity to own luggage that lasts a lifetime,” believes Athan.
Not terribly expensive there is something for every budget. The Carry On Light handbag is $245, is light in weight coming in at 4 pounds, it comes in a German polycarbonate shell, is vegan friendly, and comes with SilentMove™ Series 2 360° double spinner wheels. And, it doesn’t hurt that it can be purchased in nine different colors from black, to sand, and moss green. “Through the pandemic we designed the world’s lightest double-wheel carry on, at 3.8lbs – a title previously held by the global luggage incumbent. We like to see whose feathers haven’t been rustled in a while and go after them,” says Athan.
In the Carry-On family there are three other options. One being the Carry-On Trunk with its glazed polycarbonate shell, zipperless access to open and close the trunk with two latches- and here’s the best part: the ejectable battery back with FastCharge USB-C.
There are three bags in the Checked family, from the Checked Trunk, to the Checked, and the Checked Plus. Sets range from the Carry-On and Checked, to the Classic Family Set with three bags- one Carry On, Checked, and Checked Plus. The first thing you notice about July is that the suitcases are smooth, shiny, and sleek- and this is no accident notes Richard. “We look at how we can disrupt categories within travel by bringing some design thinking to the DTC model, and not just refreshing colors. The Trunk is a great example of this. Trunks are a symbol of exclusivity in travel, and we wanted to make the sexiest thing on the carousel. Glazed polycarbonate is what we called the material, and we (and our customers) love it. The 80/20 split packing style, the zip-free access, the shape of it that just exudes luxury. We enter these categories to say ‘we can design and make it just as well for a fraction of the price of the luxury houses.”
Suitcases can be personalized with a person’s name or initials added on, and this can be done in a myriad of colors and font styles- even in Chinese characters, as well as in English, Spanish, French, and other languages. “Personalized products truly mean it’s in your own language, and since we started offering multi-lingual support we’ve seen a heap of non-English personalizations. We use a special ink that is almost as durable as the cases themselves, and we have a lot of special things coming up in the world of personalization and July,” says Athan. It may seem that your personalization won’t stick but au contraire notes Athan. “All personalized luggage is custom-printed and Inked™ by July. This special printing process ensures pixel perfect creations will last as long as your case does. No wearing off. No fading. Completely weatherproof. It’ll stay with you for a lifetime of travel.”
While the pandemic halted travel completely in the early days, it didn’t stop July. The quiet time gave them time to design and regroup. “We put our heads down and stayed in the design room,” says Richard. “The silver lining about travel being down and out meant that we could focus on creating new products. Our team was supported and stayed with us to keep the energy alive. Through that pandemic we created three of our best selling products: the Trunk range, the Light range, and the Carry On Pro case.”
But now that travel is back, and “with a vengeance,” he notes, “People are not only looking to get back out into the world, but maximize the opportunity and spend more to see and do more. They’re experience driven, and want to do it with people they’ve never met before. They are not afraid to invest in products that help them express that desire to see the planet again. July has never been busier because of it. Every new person who tries a July excites us.”
Sights on the US
There’s something about the US that Australian businesses strive on in terms of entering. The American market is larger and Australian CEOs want their products to do well here. “It’s where the audience is,” says Athan. “Some of the biggest travelers in the world, both domestically and internationally, are the Americans! Much like any Aussie expat, as an Australian brand we’ve always wanted to go to the US to share our story and be a part of that American energy. We make products that are world-ready from Day 1, so it makes sense that we’d grow into the US, the biggest travel market in the world.” According to the brand, July has had a 1,500% YOY growth in the US market.
The pandemic halted a US team and US office but they’re working on it. “We are in the middle of setting up our team there across marketing and operations to better deliver more July to more people. We believe our design-driven products, and our personalization tech, are what Americans will fall in love with for July. We’re unlike anything you’ve ever seen, and we can’t wait for you to try them,” note both founders.