Will & Bear
Four years ago, in a vintage Kombi somewhere in the depths of the vast Australian wilderness, Will & Bear was born. Exploring the natural playground through life on the road inspired Alex (Bear) and Loz (Will) to create a product that would not only be essential in different climates and conditions, but would also give back to the environment they so wholly loved.
Will & Bear is an Australian brand that provides beautiful, high-quality headwear to its roaming customers using only recycled or natural fibers like straw, cotton, and Australian wool. The factories their products are made in are proudly REACH and SGS approved, and have also been personally visited by the Will & Bear team.
Besides the ethical sourcing of its material and their obvious timeless designs, what sets Will & Bear apart from its competitors is what they do with their profits. Through their partnership with Trees.org they have established their Plant a Forest Project where for every hat sold, ten trees are planted. They’re currently planting in Senegal, West Africa, in an effort to combat poverty in the region by supplying jobs and waterways, and to inspire the restoration of forests.
“Why should I care if trees are planted?” you ask? Well, trees are natural air filters and water factories, and help to maintain climate stability and combat desertification and land degradation. Planting new trees also halts the loss of biodiversity and encourages species to return to that area. Everybody should care about the positive and negative effects their purchases have on our environment, and it’s brands like Will & Bear that we need to back.
Will & Bear was created on the road, for the road, with a philosophy of doing good with a product that looks good, too. If you’re on the market for a new wide-brim, cap or beanie, jump onto their website and sift through their pile of goodies!
Behind the Brand:
An interview with Lauren Williams, the co-founder of Will & Bear.
What made you start Will & Bear?
A few years ago we were on the road travelling Tasmania and that’s where it all sparked. Spending time in the lusciousness of Tassie and its thick nature, Will & Bear was born. We started thinking about how we could give back to the places that gave us so much, whilst creating a product that is needed, especially in conditions like being on the road.
What has been the most challenging thing you have uncovered since the beginning?
The admin! We’re both naturals at branding, marketing, and design but the huge amount of admin that goes along with running a business has definitely been one of the hardest parts. We are super grateful for Google and our smart friends who have a lot of good advice.
Within the ethical fashion community, there's a big question that we ask which is 'who made my clothes?'. In the scope of Will & Bear, who made your hats? Can you tell us a bit about them?
We have several manufacturers, from Inner Mongolia to PRC. All of which we visit yearly to maintain a personal relationship and ensure we are working with factories who operate ethically. This also helps us to understand their business practices so we can be confident that all our partners are Fairtrade, Reach and SGS approved. Our wool factory located in Inner Mongolia is a family run business that has been making hats for 50 years. Our straw factory in PRC outsources production to local communities where women can work from home. We were lucky enough to get to visit one of these women on our last trip. It was an amazing experience.
Why did you pick the fabrics or materials that you have chosen to work with?
Natural resources are being consumed at an alarming rate due to the extreme growth of fast fashion and we want to reverse this trend by celebrating slow fashion and contributing where we can to improve our environment.
As a business and individuals we’ve made a commitment to reduce our impact in any way possible, and so our very first range of hats were made from 100% Australian wool. Wool is a natural, biodegradable and renewable material that can be up-cycled. Since sustainability has played a major role from the start, from designs to every business decision we made, it is now a core value of ours and has been ingrained in the Will & Bear ethos. As an evolving brand, we have stayed true to this by only using 100% natural materials since the start, and we’re super excited to have our first upcycled hat coming out later this year!
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
“Replace the fear of the unknown with curiosity”. It’s actually a quote, not a direct piece of advice, but we took it just the same and remind ourselves of it regularly!
Why was it important to you to make your brand ethical?
As individuals, we wanted to make a positive impact on our environment, create a business that we as individuals would be proud to work for and create a community around those ideas. We designed a vehicle for change that you now see as Will & Bear and wanted to build something we could promote that aligned with our personal and business goals.
One tip you'd give to others who are wanting to start their own business?
Just start! Start by creating something you would be proud to represent. And don’t be scared to lean on the people around you. If it wasn’t for all the questions we asked and guidance we were given over the past 4 years Will & Bear simply wouldn’t exist.
Where do you envision Will & Bear in the future?
We would love Will & Bear to continue evolving and be a part of the wider fashion revolution.
What or who inspires you to do what you do on a daily basis?
Life on the road. When we’re on the road we have the most clarity, it’s where our best ideas and inspiration come from. This simple way of life brings fewer distractions, giving us so much time to think. It’s also incredible meeting new and interesting people, or just being out in nature.
We are currently based in Byron Bay but are planning to move into our van and live on the road full time while travelling Australia for the next 12 months. We’re so excited to see what inspiration comes along with it.
Do you have a morning routine? If so, what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
Loz (Will): Meditate or exercise to start the day is a must.
Alex (Bear): Surf or surf!
One book everyone should read? Why?
Drawdown. It’s the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to roll back global warming. A super inspiring read.
One documentary everyone should watch? Why?
All the Planet Earth docos! There is so much we don’t know about our planet and even the smallest insight into how it all works can help people think a little deeper about their impact.
Are there any other Movers & Shakers our there in your world that you think people should know about?
Outland Denim! We love watching what this amazing brand is doing. They are going to make a real difference in the fashion industry. Really proud of them!