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Meet The Designer: Lee Renshaw - Founder & Designer of RISEGear - The Future of Smart Luggage

Posted by Moh Al-Haifi on

Smart Luggage, the next big thing in the travel & luggage world?

Smart luggage is becoming more popular than ever. New companies are constantly innovating in the luggage industry. What exactly is smart luggage you ask? Whether it is a built-in scale, a GPS location tracker, a built-in speaker or a portable charging system. Luggage that has features that make travelling easier and, as the name suggests, smarter, will make the cut. Is this really the future of the luggage industry though? We spoke to the designer and founder of RISE Gear to get some insights! 

RISE Gear is a luggage brand that is smart in its own and unique way. As there are still debates on what the formal definition of smart luggage is, we choose to categorise RISE Gear’s shelving integrated luggage under that horizon. It has been a few years, just over seven, since the inventor Lee Renshaw has created an easier and more convenient way to travel. This is especially the case for those who often live out of their bags due to the amount of travelling they do. Their products range in sizes and functions, but all have the one purpose; making it more organised and easier to carry your things whilst travelling.

Click here to view their unique and game-changing duffle bags and luggage. 

Who is Lee Renshaw?

The Canadian inventor, designer and entrepreneur Lee Renshaw graduated from Humber College in 2009 with an industrial design major. He is a firm believer and enthusiast of good design that integrates helpful functionality. He used to commute a lot during his studies, and to save money and time, he often used to sleep at a friend’s house. If you commute to work or school and often must sleep at someone else’s place, you know how much suffering comes with living out of a bag. For Lee, it was his school supplies and his duffle bag that he took with him everywhere. One day, he got fed up with his smelly and crumbled up clothes. Living out of a duffle bag wasn’t that convenient, so he decided to search for a better alternative. He bought himself a sewing machine and quickly learned how to sew. He then created a prototype out of his duffle bag that had a hamper to separate laundry from clean clothes once and for all. He also included built-in shelving that would not only keep his clothes organised but also wrinkle free! That was the first prototype for RISE Gear’s product range. He spent the next three years improving it and creating a plan to bringing it to market. 

Five years after graduating from Humber College, Lee won a premier award for Ontario Graduates. The award is for outstanding social and economic contributions made by those who graduate from Ontario’s 24 publicly funded colleges. Yes, that’s right, not just an award by his college, it is an award that many students from 24 different colleges compete with! Denise Delvin-Li, the Dean of School of Applied Technology described Lee as “a wonderful individual who has combined his exceptional talent and creativity with entrepreneurial acumen.” For this award, Lee received $5,000 in his name to help support current students.

ILee and Sean Renshawn 2012, his brother Sean (on the right) and he appeared on CBC’s Dragon’s Den pitching their patented luggage system, Rise and Hang, in their underwear! With their somewhat weird but daring approach, the two of them managed to raise $100,000 from the dragons. More than the money they raised, their appearance on the internationally recognised show was the perfect product launch strategy they could have wished for which drove their sales by an astonishing 2,500 percent.

Are you looking to purchase a new suitcase for your travels? Before diving into the interview, have a look at our collection of designer suitcases & luggage.

The Interview

We wanted to know what the future of smart luggage will be and what plans Lee and his brother Sean have in the future regards integrating smart functionality in their product range. What are the newest trends in smart travel? What can we expect to see more often in regards to smart luggage? And what should we get excited about in RISE Gear’s future? To get to the bottom of things and to get to know the designer and inventor of RISE Gear a little bit more on a personal level we asked him some questions.

1. What does your typical morning routine look like?

After my workout, I head to my “office” upstairs and check our social media and customer service emails so I always have a direct pulse on anything going on I should be aware of. This is followed by very briefly checking in with our various teams for an overview of the goals for the day ahead. After this, I usually try to take about 15-20 mins to let my mind wander for a bit on whatever I feel most important to me which often leads to new thoughts that I might not have had otherwise and I jot them down for later. This could be new designs, new marketing ideas or even just a website tweak. Really anything my mind sub consciously feels is important.

2. When was the first time you decided RISE gear is a risk you want to take and what lead to that decision?

I had come up with RISE gear during college for Industrial Design when I was constantly staying at friend’s homes to avoid the sometimes 2 hours + commute to school each day. The idea stuck with me for a long time, but I ended up getting stuck in a job that I didn’t feel like I was appreciated in. I decided that in order to feel fulfilled in my career, I needed to go out on my own and the idea for RISE gear had stuck with me all that time so I took the plunge and pursued it with the help of my brother Sean.

3. How has RISE gear evolved ever since your pitch at CBC’s dragon’s den?

When we pitched our business on Dragons’ Den we had only sold a hundred units and I had a basement full of inventory that we had no idea how to sell. We knew we had a great idea and a great product but were unsure at that time how to let people know about it. Sean had heard that the auditions were coming up and suggested that we should try our hand at it. So we did! We were hoping to get a Dragon that could help us with the marketing end of things and of course other exposure that being on the show would provide. Since very few pitches (even if they get investment) air we decided we needed to be good for TV. So we came down the steps in our underwear to get their attention right away and it worked!

After the pitch, we mutually decided with the Dragons that it was not the right investment and so we pursued it on our own. We’ve had a lot of great media over the years like the TODAY show, New York Times, Thrillist, Travel Man etc and all this has helped us to grow into a global company selling our gear all over the world. We’ve also launched a few new models since then. Our biggest successes have been our Riser Luggage Insert accessory allowing people to add our technology to their own suitcases and our Glider model which we built with deployable backpack straps we added on a hunch. There have also been countless tweaks and updates with each production run to remove weight, increase durability and generally make our products as easy as possible to stay organized on the go.

4. When designing products for RISE gear, what is your creative process? 

We try to look at a variety of things when designing new bags, but most of our updates have come from customer feedback. There is a wealth of knowledge and potential innovation when you listen to your customers. They are basically telling you what they want and what they don’t want you just have to know how to listen and identify the things they are trying to share with you. When people have a strong opinion about something, even if it is negative, it’s because they care enough about what you are doing to share their thoughts. We always listen to those people, good or bad, and keep note of what we are doing right or wrong and course correct if we need to. If they couldn’t care less about us then they wouldn’t say anything at all. We have many passionate customers who really care about our efforts to make travel simpler.

That being said we do have our eye on some interesting recent developments in the luggage industry and are working towards some very unique designs in the future!

5. How important is luggage design to the final product? How do you balance form, aesthetics and function and what’s the most important aspect for you?

At its core, RISE gear is a very practical and functional brand. We see our gear as a function with a simple design that provides a structure to aesthetically showcase with your clothes. This is much the same way as an iPhone is such a simple object but the apps and technology inside on the screen are what make it beautiful and useful. 

6. Have you thought of integrating technology into your products? If so, what are the technological aspects you would like to add in RISE gear’s product range? 

Absolutely! This is a growing segment of the luggage market and we intend to be a part of it. Things like phone chargers, weight scales and GPS are the beginning of it. We are working on some projects that will be incorporating the normal stuff plus a few other special technologies that we have up our sleeves!

7. What does the future of travel luggage look like? How will technological advances change the travel luggage industry?

There are two crossroads that are currently intersecting for luggage. More than ever, we’ve become a global economy with people and businesses working and operating with each other all over the globe and you also have the internet of things connecting people and objects with other people and objects all over the globe as well. The combination of these two trends is where travel luggage is headed as everyone and everything becomes connected to each other. 

8. How important is innovation in RISE gear’s strategy? 

Innovation is an important part of our strategy to ensure that we are offering a unique and extremely useful product. Since our brand is focused more on functional applications of travel we are aiming to make our gear more useful practically speaking, but the addition of integrating technology into products has created a huge opportunity for new innovations that we are eager to explore!

9. Is the travel industry something you are wanting to stick with as a designer, or have you thought of shifting to other industries? 

I have my eye on some other industries but more for fun projects like watches where I’d like to explore some different manufacturing methods and use of unexpected materials. That being said right now we have so much to do and accomplish in luggage that it currently takes most of my focus putting side projects on the backburner.

10. Are you personally or/and RISE gear open to collaborating with other brands and manufacturers to expand your product range? 

This is an area we’ve only just started to explore and is something we are very open to if there is the right fit for us and the designer’s vibe. We’d love to see other designer’s take on our functional forms with their aesthetic twist, especially with our Riser Luggage Shelves. Right now to us, this could be unique patterns or colour combinations since right now it is sort of a blank canvas that’s just waiting for something fun. We’d also be interested in custom exteriors for our shelves that add our functionality again to a designer’s aesthetic creation. We are especially interested in women’s exteriors.

Personally speaking, I am always open for a new challenge and would love to collaborate with anyone that was interested!

11. Where do you see Smart Luggage or technology integration in luggage going in the coming 5 years and how will it help our travelling experiences? 

Smart luggage will have a huge impact on the way we travel over the next 5 years. As the mainstream luggage companies catch up on the obvious technologies, things like GPS tracking will become status quo. Whats interesting to me are the kinds of non-obvious innovations that will hit the market like your suitcase hailing a taxi and checking into your hotel when it knows you’ve arrived. Who knows, maybe your luggage will forecast the weather and scan your itinerary and tell you what to pack from your wardrobe!

12. What can we expect from RISE gear in the near future? Any new products, categories or industries you want to explore? 

You can expect a new focus on our Riser Luggage Shelves with various patterns and colour combinations as our core product (and eventually maybe even some cool tech incorporated as well) and being able to add them to various styles of bag exteriors, like how our Risers are added to our Glider carry-on model, that better suit our customer’s individual tastes and ways they like to travel.

Thanks to Lee and Sean Renshaw

We would like to thank Lee and Sean Renshaw for their time and cooperation. Want to find out more about RISE Gear? Check out their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube and Pintrest pages and let them know that you enjoyed this interview! 

Read more

Smart Luggage, the next big thing in the travel & luggage world?

Smart luggage is becoming more popular than ever. New companies are constantly innovating in the luggage industry. What exactly is smart luggage you ask? Whether it is a built-in scale, a GPS location tracker, a built-in speaker or a portable charging system. Luggage that has features that make travelling easier and, as the name suggests, smarter, will make the cut. Is this really the future of the luggage industry though? We spoke to the designer and founder of RISE Gear to get some insights! 

RISE Gear is a luggage brand that is smart in its own and unique way. As there are still debates on what the formal definition of smart luggage is, we choose to categorise RISE Gear’s shelving integrated luggage under that horizon. It has been a few years, just over seven, since the inventor Lee Renshaw has created an easier and more convenient way to travel. This is especially the case for those who often live out of their bags due to the amount of travelling they do. Their products range in sizes and functions, but all have the one purpose; making it more organised and easier to carry your things whilst travelling.

Click here to view their unique and game-changing duffle bags and luggage. 

Who is Lee Renshaw?

The Canadian inventor, designer and entrepreneur Lee Renshaw graduated from Humber College in 2009 with an industrial design major. He is a firm believer and enthusiast of good design that integrates helpful functionality. He used to commute a lot during his studies, and to save money and time, he often used to sleep at a friend’s house. If you commute to work or school and often must sleep at someone else’s place, you know how much suffering comes with living out of a bag. For Lee, it was his school supplies and his duffle bag that he took with him everywhere. One day, he got fed up with his smelly and crumbled up clothes. Living out of a duffle bag wasn’t that convenient, so he decided to search for a better alternative. He bought himself a sewing machine and quickly learned how to sew. He then created a prototype out of his duffle bag that had a hamper to separate laundry from clean clothes once and for all. He also included built-in shelving that would not only keep his clothes organised but also wrinkle free! That was the first prototype for RISE Gear’s product range. He spent the next three years improving it and creating a plan to bringing it to market. 

Five years after graduating from Humber College, Lee won a premier award for Ontario Graduates. The award is for outstanding social and economic contributions made by those who graduate from Ontario’s 24 publicly funded colleges. Yes, that’s right, not just an award by his college, it is an award that many students from 24 different colleges compete with! Denise Delvin-Li, the Dean of School of Applied Technology described Lee as “a wonderful individual who has combined his exceptional talent and creativity with entrepreneurial acumen.” For this award, Lee received $5,000 in his name to help support current students.

ILee and Sean Renshawn 2012, his brother Sean (on the right) and he appeared on CBC’s Dragon’s Den pitching their patented luggage system, Rise and Hang, in their underwear! With their somewhat weird but daring approach, the two of them managed to raise $100,000 from the dragons. More than the money they raised, their appearance on the internationally recognised show was the perfect product launch strategy they could have wished for which drove their sales by an astonishing 2,500 percent.

Are you looking to purchase a new suitcase for your travels? Before diving into the interview, have a look at our collection of designer suitcases & luggage.

The Interview

We wanted to know what the future of smart luggage will be and what plans Lee and his brother Sean have in the future regards integrating smart functionality in their product range. What are the newest trends in smart travel? What can we expect to see more often in regards to smart luggage? And what should we get excited about in RISE Gear’s future? To get to the bottom of things and to get to know the designer and inventor of RISE Gear a little bit more on a personal level we asked him some questions.

1. What does your typical morning routine look like?

After my workout, I head to my “office” upstairs and check our social media and customer service emails so I always have a direct pulse on anything going on I should be aware of. This is followed by very briefly checking in with our various teams for an overview of the goals for the day ahead. After this, I usually try to take about 15-20 mins to let my mind wander for a bit on whatever I feel most important to me which often leads to new thoughts that I might not have had otherwise and I jot them down for later. This could be new designs, new marketing ideas or even just a website tweak. Really anything my mind sub consciously feels is important.

2. When was the first time you decided RISE gear is a risk you want to take and what lead to that decision?

I had come up with RISE gear during college for Industrial Design when I was constantly staying at friend’s homes to avoid the sometimes 2 hours + commute to school each day. The idea stuck with me for a long time, but I ended up getting stuck in a job that I didn’t feel like I was appreciated in. I decided that in order to feel fulfilled in my career, I needed to go out on my own and the idea for RISE gear had stuck with me all that time so I took the plunge and pursued it with the help of my brother Sean.

3. How has RISE gear evolved ever since your pitch at CBC’s dragon’s den?

When we pitched our business on Dragons’ Den we had only sold a hundred units and I had a basement full of inventory that we had no idea how to sell. We knew we had a great idea and a great product but were unsure at that time how to let people know about it. Sean had heard that the auditions were coming up and suggested that we should try our hand at it. So we did! We were hoping to get a Dragon that could help us with the marketing end of things and of course other exposure that being on the show would provide. Since very few pitches (even if they get investment) air we decided we needed to be good for TV. So we came down the steps in our underwear to get their attention right away and it worked!

After the pitch, we mutually decided with the Dragons that it was not the right investment and so we pursued it on our own. We’ve had a lot of great media over the years like the TODAY show, New York Times, Thrillist, Travel Man etc and all this has helped us to grow into a global company selling our gear all over the world. We’ve also launched a few new models since then. Our biggest successes have been our Riser Luggage Insert accessory allowing people to add our technology to their own suitcases and our Glider model which we built with deployable backpack straps we added on a hunch. There have also been countless tweaks and updates with each production run to remove weight, increase durability and generally make our products as easy as possible to stay organized on the go.

4. When designing products for RISE gear, what is your creative process? 

We try to look at a variety of things when designing new bags, but most of our updates have come from customer feedback. There is a wealth of knowledge and potential innovation when you listen to your customers. They are basically telling you what they want and what they don’t want you just have to know how to listen and identify the things they are trying to share with you. When people have a strong opinion about something, even if it is negative, it’s because they care enough about what you are doing to share their thoughts. We always listen to those people, good or bad, and keep note of what we are doing right or wrong and course correct if we need to. If they couldn’t care less about us then they wouldn’t say anything at all. We have many passionate customers who really care about our efforts to make travel simpler.

That being said we do have our eye on some interesting recent developments in the luggage industry and are working towards some very unique designs in the future!

5. How important is luggage design to the final product? How do you balance form, aesthetics and function and what’s the most important aspect for you?

At its core, RISE gear is a very practical and functional brand. We see our gear as a function with a simple design that provides a structure to aesthetically showcase with your clothes. This is much the same way as an iPhone is such a simple object but the apps and technology inside on the screen are what make it beautiful and useful. 

6. Have you thought of integrating technology into your products? If so, what are the technological aspects you would like to add in RISE gear’s product range? 

Absolutely! This is a growing segment of the luggage market and we intend to be a part of it. Things like phone chargers, weight scales and GPS are the beginning of it. We are working on some projects that will be incorporating the normal stuff plus a few other special technologies that we have up our sleeves!

7. What does the future of travel luggage look like? How will technological advances change the travel luggage industry?

There are two crossroads that are currently intersecting for luggage. More than ever, we’ve become a global economy with people and businesses working and operating with each other all over the globe and you also have the internet of things connecting people and objects with other people and objects all over the globe as well. The combination of these two trends is where travel luggage is headed as everyone and everything becomes connected to each other. 

8. How important is innovation in RISE gear’s strategy? 

Innovation is an important part of our strategy to ensure that we are offering a unique and extremely useful product. Since our brand is focused more on functional applications of travel we are aiming to make our gear more useful practically speaking, but the addition of integrating technology into products has created a huge opportunity for new innovations that we are eager to explore!

9. Is the travel industry something you are wanting to stick with as a designer, or have you thought of shifting to other industries? 

I have my eye on some other industries but more for fun projects like watches where I’d like to explore some different manufacturing methods and use of unexpected materials. That being said right now we have so much to do and accomplish in luggage that it currently takes most of my focus putting side projects on the backburner.

10. Are you personally or/and RISE gear open to collaborating with other brands and manufacturers to expand your product range? 

This is an area we’ve only just started to explore and is something we are very open to if there is the right fit for us and the designer’s vibe. We’d love to see other designer’s take on our functional forms with their aesthetic twist, especially with our Riser Luggage Shelves. Right now to us, this could be unique patterns or colour combinations since right now it is sort of a blank canvas that’s just waiting for something fun. We’d also be interested in custom exteriors for our shelves that add our functionality again to a designer’s aesthetic creation. We are especially interested in women’s exteriors.

Personally speaking, I am always open for a new challenge and would love to collaborate with anyone that was interested!

11. Where do you see Smart Luggage or technology integration in luggage going in the coming 5 years and how will it help our travelling experiences? 

Smart luggage will have a huge impact on the way we travel over the next 5 years. As the mainstream luggage companies catch up on the obvious technologies, things like GPS tracking will become status quo. Whats interesting to me are the kinds of non-obvious innovations that will hit the market like your suitcase hailing a taxi and checking into your hotel when it knows you’ve arrived. Who knows, maybe your luggage will forecast the weather and scan your itinerary and tell you what to pack from your wardrobe!

12. What can we expect from RISE gear in the near future? Any new products, categories or industries you want to explore? 

You can expect a new focus on our Riser Luggage Shelves with various patterns and colour combinations as our core product (and eventually maybe even some cool tech incorporated as well) and being able to add them to various styles of bag exteriors, like how our Risers are added to our Glider carry-on model, that better suit our customer’s individual tastes and ways they like to travel.

Thanks to Lee and Sean Renshaw

We would like to thank Lee and Sean Renshaw for their time and cooperation. Want to find out more about RISE Gear? Check out their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube and Pintrest pages and let them know that you enjoyed this interview! 

Read more


Meet The Designer: Leonhard Pfeifer – Designer of ‘Avon’ collection made by Woodman - "Buy less, choose well, make it last."

Posted by Moh Al-Haifi on

Born in New Zealand, Leonhard Pfeifer studied Industrial Design in Australia and worked across a wide range of industries before establishing his design studio in East London. He has worked on developing collections of stand-alone pieces and furniture for design-led retailers and contract markers across the world since 2003. Leonhard gets inspiration mostly from nature, but also from everyday life. He [...]

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Born in New Zealand, Leonhard Pfeifer studied Industrial Design in Australia and worked across a wide range of industries before establishing his design studio in East London. He has worked on developing collections of stand-alone pieces and furniture for design-led retailers and contract markers across the world since 2003. Leonhard gets inspiration mostly from nature, but also from everyday life. He [...]

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Meet the Designer: Inesa Malafej from ETC.ETC. – Designer of ‘My Writing Desk’ made by EMKO

Posted by Moh Al-Haifi on

Inesa Malefej has been working with her husband Arunas Sukarevicius since they began their design studies at the Vilnius Academy of arts. “etc.etc.”, a small design studio in Denmark, was founded by the two while continuing their studies at the Royal Danish Academy.

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Inesa Malefej has been working with her husband Arunas Sukarevicius since they began their design studies at the Vilnius Academy of arts. “etc.etc.”, a small design studio in Denmark, was founded by the two while continuing their studies at the Royal Danish Academy.

Read more