Case is a word that “contains a world”, Jacopo Pennone explains, Mow’s founder – which stands for “minimal organised wear” – and Unico’s creator, an object that is a radical rethinking of the laptop sleeve: waterproof and modular, 20-litre capacity and shoulder straps to use it as a small backpack. Launched in crowdfunding – where between Kickstarter and Indiegogo it has raised more than 450,000 euros –, Unico is a resistant, extremely functional bag, which is striking for its attention to detail, use of materials, internal and external stitching, pockets, the black consistency and the surprise of the orange interior trim. “For me, the case is guarding an object that has a personal value, protecting it from the risks of damaging or losing it and the fears that come with using and transporting it,” Pennonestates, who defines himself as “one of those people born with a light daemon”. Born in Liguria, a water and extreme sports enthusiast since he was a child, he left Italy at 23 – “Liguria squeezes you into a small strip of land”, he explains – and in 2005 he landed in China. At 27, he opened his first company in the textile industry.
When I ask him how and why Mow was born, Jacopo gives me two answers. The first is philosophical: “The real job is discovering yourself, your passions and learning how to express them”. However, the second is strictly topical, namely the fact that today “thefreelancers’ impact in the job market, coupled with climate change, pose new challenges to everyday life”. Hence the idea of a brand specialized in bags that adopt technical solutions, combining a water and extreme sports passion with professional requirements.
At the Mow’s origin, there is a quiet symbolic loss.
I burned a Mac with a backpack that was only water resistant, rather than completely waterproof.
This would not have happened if I had used a dry bag, which surfers know well.
Having to work everywhere and always be on call creates the need to transport your electronics safely. Imagine the ease of finding great temporary workstations with fast Wi-Fi on trips between production islands and beaches: Java, Bali, Thailand. Or at cafés in metropolises: Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, during the rainy season, between meetings... Using production techniques suitable for extreme sports such as scuba diving, rock climbing, sailing and surfing, we have brought innovation to everyday products. Mow was born from the need to wear functionality. Our first two creations are designed to protect our “movable working desks” at 360 degrees.
Before Unico, Riviera came.
Yes, it is a waterproof backpack with technical but functional shoulder straps, back and interior. For everyday life or extreme adventures.
Unico is a rethinking of the laptop sleeve, in a unique way.
In English a computer case is also called “laptop sleeve”. I think Unico has got the point with sleeves, protecting our digital devices whether from a stormy sea in South East Asia or the Mediterranean or a sudden rain shower in any metropolis in the world.
At the same time, Unico is not simply a laptop sleeve.
Most cases on the market are simple but not functional. Therefore, we designed and developed a backpack-case, which could change according to the needs of the moment: a simple bag, with a shoulder strap, a backpack, or a tote-bag. With loops, handles and an elastic holder it also offers an innovative way of attaching padlocks or bike helmets, umbrellas and documents.
Versatile, but modular as well.
Unico consists of water-resistant accessories, with infinite combinations.
Why this choice?
Modularity has been an excellent solution both to maintain a minimalist style and to allow versatility among the different uses. We have created 3 different accessories that transform this laptop case into a real backpack.
The accessories are a small bag, a larger one and an organiser. All three are carefully designed to be used independently. I have a particular fondness for the latter.
Designed to fit in the pocket, the organiser increases Unico’s functionality with elastic bands and dedicated pockets for cables, adapters, business cards, erasers, pencils, pens, files, documents, chargers, a tablet pocket. Bringing work and creativity organised at all times – safe and dry no matter what!
Unico is a potentially infinite concept. Will you add elements?
Our products are a constantly evolving path.
The use of coloured plastic inside the main bag amazed me, as did the elastic pockets.
As a designer, I am absolutely obsessed with details. Behind each seam there is an internal heat sealing, so that there is never a hole going from the outside to the inside of the backpack, not even one after a saddle stitch. The fabric comes from a Taiwanese company which we have developed a customised lamination with, that is as environmentally friendly as possible. The accessories come from Japan.
Does not the large customisation range scare lazy users?
The idea of being able to customise your product according to the needs of the moment is for us the strong point of the project.
I admit that at first, when I saw the accessories, I experienced mixed feelings. I didn't immediately understand how to fit the outer net, for example. Then I watched it on YouTube.
A small part of the market was perhaps disoriented by this approach, but we are happy to follow our customers personally, with video tutorials, advice and explanations.
Personalisation immediately makes you think of the community.
This is the great advantage of crowdfunding. The great exchange of communication has given us great ideas in order to improve the product itself.
What is it like working in fundraising?
For us, fundraising has been a kind of realization of a dream. Crowdfunding platforms offer a great tool not only for launching new products but for real market tests too. This is for both constructive and destructive comments.
Is it easy?
The sacrifices involved in organising a launch of a campaign are enormous.
What skills have you put in play?
From the product development to the logistics. From the digital marketing to the image and video editing and to converting your own promotions. For us, preparing a project takes months of hard work, while most fundraising is done in the first 30 days of the campaign. After that we start right away with production, fulfilment and post sales. Where anything that could go wrong respects Murphy’s law. It is a real battle.
I guess it is a great competition world too.
Unfortunately, along with multi-million-dollar campaigns, a lot of secondary interests have started. There are a lot of agencies that do not always operate transparently.
How important is the product communication?
Very important, as it is its storytelling.
Mow is a company that reflects your life, hovering between East and West.
Yes, it is. With two different teams. My job is following the two worlds as well. We had to build a more stable team between Indonesia and China, but COVID-19 blocked the good intentions. The changes are many, but we are ready to be chameleons.
Speaking of adaptation. In times of pandemic, how do you organise the supply chain of a global product?
Logistics in today’s interconnected world are very important, as it is the cost. Some projects have been abandoned simply because of the incidence of transport itself. A small change in cost could create a financial disaster.
What was your approach?
A short chain, starting from the supplier with a tailor-made logistics warehouse and ending at the last world customer’s door. So, we choose to minimise packaging and logistical movements while trying to be as sustainable as possible through ethical-buying.
Mow comes to innovate in a market where it seems there are more backpacks than we need. And all too similar each other.
The big brands launch a huge number of new items in a very short time, and the product seems to take second place to windows renewal. We started from the opposite concept.
A need, a solution, a design, a lot of research, different prototypes, a very long period of use and improvement of the product and finally the creation of content for the launch. The digital design is just one step along the path that through paper models, prototypes, a functional use for the launch, and many small improvements that follow, arrives at the final product.
The global lockdown has changed what we expect from a backpack too.
Unico is a product that is unconsciously part of it: designed for agile, short urban trips, bike rides, business meetings or short adventures. The limitations we are forced into globally will bring innovation.