It all started in 2005 with a withering wallet. Flowfold’s co-founder, Charley Friedman, was a young kite surfer working in a sail loft on the coast of Maine, learning the trade of making and repairing boat sails. After his hand-me-down wallet fell apart, he decided to sew himself a new one from scraps of sailcloth that were otherwise going to be thrown away.
His creation was minimalist and built to last. Soon after, he started making them for family and friends as gifts. By 2010, Charley was scratching together enough discarded material to make 1,000 wallets to sell on his own.
The following year, Charley joined forces with a couple of his buddies and officially set up Flowfold’s first shop in a basement on Peaks Island, Maine.
Flowfold’s operations soon expanded. Its product line grew to include backpacks, zipper totes, duffle bags and even recycled climbing rope dog leashes. And, today the brand employs nine people who show up to work in a new workshop in Scarborough, Maine.
James Morin, President of Sales and Operations, says Flowfold will continue to develop products their customers can use on a daily basis. He says they often call their customers “everyday adventurers,” people who have an active lifestyle and want products that can keep up with them.
“No one is climbing Everest with a Flowfold tote” James jokes, “but we’re okay with that.” Instead, the brand strives to create products people can use every single day, “from campsites to campus.”
In addition to new products, Flowfold is actively expanding its market.
“Most people still think we are a small company on an island in Maine,” James says. On the contrary, Flowfold products are currently sold in six countries and the company continues to grow their accounts. Most notably, Flowfold products hit the shelves of fellow Maine-born retailer L.L. Bean in 2015. Accounts with EMS, REI and Backcountry soon followed. (Garage Grown Gear discovered and started carrying Flowfold in 2015).
“When a company like L.L. Bean is willing to put your logo near theirs, [which] comes with 100 years of experience, that’s a huge stamp of validation that we don’t take lightly,” James says.
Flowfold doesn’t take environmental responsibility lightly, either. Not only are their products’ simplicity and durability impressive, but the company’s sustainability holds just as much integrity.
Remember that first wallet Charley made out of scraps of sailcloth destined for the landfill? Even to this day, they’re still turning trash into treasure. In 2016 alone, 40% of the material Flowfold used was reclaimed. That’s a lot of wallets. Like, 23,589, to be exact. Lined edge to edge, the wallets would be twice the height of El Capitan!
Additionally, Flowfold is proud to manufacture 100% of its products in the USA. It also partners with 1% for the Planet – donating 1% of sales to worthy environmental protection organizations.
As if that isn’t enough, in 2017 Flowfold began collaborating with Women United Around the World, an organization that provides training to immigrants to create one-of-a-kind, uniquely designed cross-body bags. Every bag is made in Portland, Maine from 100% reclaimed materials, and proceeds are donated back to the cause.
In geology, the term “flow fold” describes layers of rock that fold smoothly over time without breaking. To the folks at Flowfold, it symbolizes strength and flexibility. And they continue to exhibit just that – creating quality, minimalistic gear that’s built to endure a lifetime of everyday adventures.