28 September 2014

Very Well Designed - Bellroy Slim Sleeve Wallet

Bellroy is a company that takes a refreshing amount of care in making wallets. As unusual as it may be, this Australian brand takes great care in to reduce the size of the modern wallet in pursuit of more practical, comfortable and stylish minimalist design. Here is how they describe themselves on their about us page:
Bellroy exists to slim your wallet.
But just slim isn’t enough. We want our products to look elegant, be functional yet delightful to use, and offer a surplus in value.
With a narrow focus, constant learning, agile processes and creative thinking, we can continually improve the solutions and insights we share. If we do this well, you'll be able to move between work and play, having your pocket contents adapt along with you.
Our efforts should also be respectful to all stakeholders in the business and friendly to the environment. If that sounds kinda interesting, jump in to our community, join in some of the conversation, and perhaps even become a part of this evolving group that is Bellroy.
If personality and imagery are important to you when looking at brands, +Bellroy  deserves a lot of respect. They've nailed it. Everything from their website design to their product packaging shows a very creative and deliberate attention to detail. Of course, what matters most, is the quality of the product. This is a review of Bellroy's Slim Sleeve every day wallet.

I've had mine for about six weeks and am incredibly pleased with it. The premium cow leather is thin, but feel strong and of high quality. The colouring is smooth and consistent. I prefer natural tones with leather products so any fading would add character rather than show degradation, but I haven't really experienced any. Although the normal signs of use - dirt and colours from pants pockets, are starting to show, the vegetable dye itself is still very much in tact.

The beauty in the Slim Sleeve, and all Bellroys apparently, is in the design. These wallets are engineered from a single piece of leather which, when folded and stitched smartly, makes for a much more durable construction in a less wasteful and more compact finished product. The image above show all of the materials involved in making the Slim Sleeve and quick animation of what they call the nude approach can be found here.

The intelligence in this design is appreciated immediately. Coming from typical department store bifold wallets, I was instnaly amazed at how much smaller, lighter and more premium this wallet was. The style elements are noted only by the stitching and small pressed branding on the outside corner. As understated as it seems, the look is still incredibly distinct. The a simple bifold with cards stored in portrait rather than landscape and the two quick access slots in the inside instantly had me wondering why all wallets weren't designed in this way and what the point was of having any more than one or two individual card slots. As you can see, there are spaces to quickly access your two most frequently used cards, in this case, my two credit cards. All of my other cards can easily go weeks without ever needing to be pulled out. 

These necessary but unused cards stack and fit inside the two inner sleeves. The one on the right is expanded to hold the majority of cards, I have six there. That grey tongue you can see is a pull tab to make accessing these cards easier, relieving you of having to dig them out with your fingers. I'm not entirely sure how necessary this is, it's not that difficult to get them out, but it does add a design element which I really love. Also, I'm sure grasping them without it might stress the leather a bit. 

As far as numbers go, my full wallet, with everything I need to carry (and nothing more) measures about 1.5cm thick. To put this in perspective, this is thinner than the old wallet it has replaced when empty. Looking at the full Bellroy and the empty old one side by side leads me to shake my head at how wasteful and excessive we can be with our resources as a result of poor product design. 

Officially, the Slim Sleeve is meant to old between 4 and 14 cards and a few notes, bills or receipts. I've never really carried coins with me regularly, and in the odd circumstance where I need some change, my pocket it fine. I always have 2 bank cards, 2 credit cards, my driver's licence, my medicare card, my private health coverage, a grocery store loyalty card, my organ donor card, work ID,  and my automotive assistance card. Not all 11 of these are essential, but they do cover both emergency and convenience situations and I've never had any trouble slotting in a few receipts or folded bills if need be. 

I should mention that this isn't the only option +Bellroy makes, they have larger variation to account for passports, coins, and hidden compartments as well, depending on your needs. Believe it or not, but there are two styles that are even slimmer - the Card Sleeve and the Very Small which are essentially single sleeves for all cards or notes to be stacked together. For me, the Slim Sleeve hit the perfect balance between form and function. I do love the aforementioned quick access slots, and I just really like the look of a good bifold which closes everything up from prying eyes. If there's one thing I don't like, it's a wallet which exposes everything inside, which is why money clips and phone wallets will never be for me.

As time passes, one thing that can be said about people in this day and age is that mobility is becoming increasingly important. Whether it's for travel or everyday commuting, the desire to comfortably carry is becoming ingrained in modern culture. As far as function and practicality are concerned, there are few items that are more important than a wallet. There is also a higher standard we hold our companies to socially. In a world that is becoming increasingly shared and transparent, +Bellroy understands that we expect our companies not just to make quality products but to also do so in a distinguishable, responsible and thoughtful manner.

For more information on +Bellroy head to bellroy.com  and to check out their great blog +Carryology  which presents brilliant deisgners "exploring better ways to carry" click here