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Q&A with Bellroy's Andy Fallshaw

Ex-Rip Curl designer, wallet obsessive, and expert billycart builder Andy Fallshaw is now one of the designers behind Bellroy - a Bells Beach-based wallet company committed to streamlining your back pocket.  Bellroy's range of slim leather wallets is revolutionising the way we carry and we think this guy might be the reason why.

1. Why the name Bellroy? And why owls? 

We live between Bells Beach and Fitzroy, and if you know anything about those two places, you'll understand Bellroy a lot better. Bells is surrounded by world class surf and an active coastal lifestyle. Fitzroy is a semi-chaotic inner city suburb, full of slightly off-beat characters doing crazy creative things. So Bellroy speaks about these two worlds, where we can move between work and play, urban and coastal.

And owls? They're rad. As if that wasn't enough, they're also around the world but with local variations. There's that whole wise thing, but then they also have serious intent. Yeah, they're just rad. 

2. Bellroy started out with just a pair of designers, right? How many people are working at Bellroy now?  How many of those are designers?

Yeah, the seed of the idea came from Hadrien and me, and we're both designers. But we quickly brought in friends and family to help, and so it's been a team effort from early on. That team is mostly split between our Bells office and our Fitzroy office, but we then have awesome folks around the world working with us. How many? Haha, no idea! We have pretty loose edges, collaborating with loads of folks, so it's hard to say. I guess it's now more than a bus full though, and lots of them are designers or have a passion for design. 

 3. How long have you been working for Bellroy?  What were you doing before this? Have you done any training or have you built these amazing wallets based on experience in the field?

As an idea, Bellroy was seeded almost 5 years ago, and we've been working on it ever since. Our product design team have all come from other brands where they designed wallets and other carry gear, as well as some high end furniture design, brand building, and surf industry experience. So there were some lessons we came to the brand with, but we've had to rethink wallet design almost from the ground up, so there's way more we know now than we ever started with.

4. I’ve read that since building the company, you recruited mates to help build the brand… including, among others, a professional athlete! What do all these people have in common – apart from the Bellroy philosophy? (And what’s the professional athlete’s sport?) 

Haha, yeah, surfing was the early thread that tied it together, as we've all been dropping in on each other for years (and yes, a couple of our guys used to get paid to surf). These days we've also tied in friends from way more diverse circles. I guess the unifying theme is an aversion to apathy. Everyone at Bellroy really wants to make a difference and get great stuff done better. That means we work our arses off, but love doing it. 

5. How many days/months/years were there between commencing the design work to getting the first Bellroy wallet manufactured?  How would you sum up that time?

It was about a year, with concepting, experimenting, getting feedback and refining. That was a really exciting time, and also scary and uncertain and frustrating and awesome. During that time we really tried hard to get real feedback from design and business friends around the world. Not just "yeah, great", but more "if this idea sucks, and we put our life savings into this, should you have said something?" type thing. 

6. This is what I’ve heard: Bellroy designers are self-confessed geeks who spend hours arguing over stitching and the like.  True or false?

Doesn't really do it justice. True X 10.

7. What do you hope people say when they talk about Bellroy wallets? 

"I love that people care this much about a simple wallet." 

8. By all accounts, you're pretty experienced in the business world.  What are some of the big lessons that were learnt starting up Bellroy?

Businesses are way better when you genuinely want to stoke your customers. If you love and respect the crew you're designing for, your odds for success will massively increase. You can see it with Carryology.com and Bellroy and all the stuff we produce through our efforts – it's not work when you're stoking good crew. 

9. I hear that Bellroyalty are quite adventurous types – rock climbers, surfers, thrillseekers and so on…  What/where/when was your latest adventure?

Nah, we'll sound like douches if we write it like that. Needless to say there's constant adventures happening, but nothing as rad as our friends get up to…

10. Carryology.com is a beautiful piece of work. How was the blog born? Is it run out of Bellroy HQ? 

Carryology now has a worldwide team of contributors, with the coordination and some of the posts happening from our Bellroy Bells office (the office stack of bags alone is scary big). We're sharing millions of post views with a truly global audience, so it's been heartening to see it embraced like that.

The blog came about as we were thinking of Bellroy. We hated that there wasn't even a name for the category of 'Bags and Accessories', so we wanted to form something of a campfire for fans to gather around and share learning. We reached out to friends who design this stuff, scraped together some posts we thought would be interesting, and kicked it off on a shoe-string budget. The community has helped it grow from there.

11. Everybody asks us for women’s wallets and we assure them that Bellroy wallets are unisex. Why do you think there’s this perception? Are there some girlier designs on the cards?

Yeah, this is a fairly common talking point for us. Essentially, slim wallets is something we work crazy hard on. If you carry a wallet in your pocket, slim matters a lot. If you carry a wallet in your handbag, it doesn't matter quite as much.

Added to that, we don't do bling, and we don't do fast fashion, so you need to dig a more timeless style if Bellroy is for you.

So the unisex angle is an easy way to say both "do you carry it on you?" , as well as "do you dig a more minimalist aesthetic?" Thankfully there are girls and guys who tick those boxes.

So we can't imagine girlier designs, but we can imagine more diverse unisex approaches and some fresher colorways. 

12. What do you carry?

The pockets of Bellroy staff (and myself) are often filled with prototypes that we're busy refining. But the most common Go To wallets are generally the Slim Sleeve and Card Sleeve. Lots began with our larger and more featured wallets, but slowly whittled down the cards they actually need and have ended up closer to slim nirvana. 

13. What did you do after work last night?

 A surf at lunch time with the gang, then a quick skate blast and slack-line, then helped finish off a billy cart with my kids and a mate (who stayed for dinner and a bottle of plonk), then lego, kids to bed, more work, and booked some flights to SF. Haha, yeah, I'm shagged today.

14. What did your Mum used to cook for you on your birthday? 

We had to cook dinner ourselves (violins), so I'd normally run with bolognese sauce in a rolled pancake with melted cheese on top. The best.

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Bellroy wallets are available here and here.