Blog — tyvek

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An update to the world’s thinnest wallet

When I introduced the world’s thinnest wallet almost 10 years ago it was just called a “SlimFold” because that was the only model. Then we introduced the “MICRO” to have a smaller footprint. Meanwhile, many Original Tyvek customers were finding that they liked to double fold it to reduce its footprint, yielding one thicker stack the size of a credit card.

SlimFold Minimalist Wallet Booth Photo

Many of you may know that I started selling the SlimFold at design street fairs in San Francisco, but what you may not know is that my main challenge during that time was to keep my samples flat and crisp.

See, once cards were inserted, the whole surface was reinforced by the cards but the seam in the middle would be sort of floppy. So people would fold it there and BAM- my sample was ruined... I even created a display stand and put a piece of plastic inside the wallet, screwing it to the stand so it couldn’t be removed!

SlimFold Minimalist Thin Wallet Display Stand

Well, it turned out that if you folded both sides towards the center and then folded it along the spine, it was totally usable. In fact, many folks preferred this method. I used it this way myself for a few weeks to make sure it worked well and then embraced it as an alternative. However, when we introduced the MICRO wallet, I found that inserting very thin rigid plastic improved the longevity of the Tyvek by evening out the wear over the whole surface. This plastic is actually included in all other models. So now I’m circling back and trying it in the Original Tyvek too.

Thinnest Wallet in the world minimalist original tyvek wallet

Original v 3.0?

In almost 10 years there’s only been one other design change to this wallet, which was to incorporate a slash slot into the ID window instead of a larger rectangle. So I guess this is version 3? or if you consider those minor changes maybe this is v1.2. Either way, it reinforces the notion that it’s a bad idea to name any product “Original”. A close second would be to name sizes with vague comparative size descriptions like Micro and Nano 😉

To get feedback from folks, I’m introducing them as a Beta. I’m especially interested in hearing from folks who have had Original Tyvek models before. For folks who single fold their wallets, my hope is that this will improve your experience by making it more rigid and improving wearing.

What about double folders?

This has been a concern of mine because folks who double fold the Original wallet are part of our core group of initial customers and I don’t want to disappoint anyone. But I think this will help serve the primary use case better. We now also offer the Nano minimalist wallet which has the footprint of a credit card so hopefully that will help ease the pain?

FAQ

Does it make it thicker?

The thickness difference is barely noticeable because the inserts are offset from where the stitching is… so you can’t really tell. In addition, the plastic itself is less than half the thickness of a credit card. In other words, the thickness difference is negligible and if I handed both of them to you, it would be tough to tel the difference except that the center seam feels stiffer.

I’m a double folder, which model is best for me now?

In terms of footprint, the Nano Soft Shell offers the credit card size. You just need to double fold your cash to put it in the pocket.

Otherwise, the Micro Soft Shell or Micro Tyvek wallet is a good option for anyone except those who carry tall foreign currency. In that case, The Original Soft Shell or Original Tyvek will work well but can’t be double folded.

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Introducing MONYOU Series Japanese Prints

I’m pleased to introduce the MONYOU Series- a limited edition collection of prints inspired by traditional Japanese patterns.
Monyou Japanese Prints

View MONYOU Collection

This distinct style is characterized by repeating geometric patterns which reflect those found in nature. The tradition dates back over 500 years when bold patterns were needed on flags to distinguish different groups on the battlefield from a distance. From there, they began to be used as family crests and as motifs on crafts.


Modern Material with a Traditional Twist

Featuring clean lines and bold patterns, this collection is a blend of modern and traditional. For example, patterns like this would commonly be found on washi paper. The texture in this traditional paper is often visible, adding a unique character to the print. Our modern Tyvek material achieves the same effect due to the random swirls of fibers that are used to create it.



Design Process


You may not have been aware, but one of my close friends Damon has been the unofficial Creative Director for SlimFold for years. I’ve always bouncing ideas off of him and he even helped shoot our first two Kickstarter videos! I was thrilled that this year he was able to contribute in a more official capacity on several projects. When it came time to do a new print run, I offered him three slots on the press sheet as a “blank slate”. He came up with several ideas which pushed the limits of how we produce the wallets in order to achieve them.

We made no compromises to the design vision and spared no expense creating these wallets. We’ve traditionally done 1-colr print jobs and utilized screens to achieve different variations. This allowed us to use PMS spot colors and achieve colors that are deep, vibrant, and exact color matches. But these patterns required a 4-color print run. By working closely with the printer, we were able to achieve exact matches across all of the colors and still achieve the deep colors we were after.
MONYOU Flower Pattern

Next was the cutting. With the color break on the fold of the Aqua Star pattern, registration had to be perfect. I coordinated with the local die cutter before the print run to set things up so we’d have a shot at pulling it off.
MONYOU Star Pattern

View Star Pattern 

There was a very real possibility that none of these patterns turned out well once we printed them. Or that they would get destroyed in the process of cutting them. I’m happy to say that our production partners were able to deliver on all of them.

MONYOU Wave Pattern

Though Damon now lives on the East Coast and contributed his designs from afar, he was able to stop through California for a few days and we did a photo shoot together. From concept all the way to the final images, this project is Damon’s creative vision. I’m glad I could help bring it to life with this project.

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Designed and made in California

It’s been interesting to hear how the reaction to the fact that we make our products in California has changed since 2009. Initially, it wasn’t surprising because we were really small and just selling things at booths in local design street fairs. Folks weren’t expecting these things to be coming in on container ships.

Over the next few years, people got used to the fact that more and more of their products were made abroad. So folks seemed to find it refreshing to hear that we still made SlimFold wallets in USA.

Made in USA Minimalist thin Tyvek MICRO wallet
Recently, with the rise of Amazon, private labeling, and drop-shipping, more and more small companies have been importing their products. And the reaction from other business owners and some new customers to the fact that we don’t has been one of genuine surprise and confusion. The first thing they say is, "Why?”

So I thought I’d reflect on that a bit and explore just a few of the reasons that companies make things locally...

Marketing
For many companies the answer begins and ends with marketing. They want to be able to say they make their products in a particular place and try to make the economics work. For leather handbags to say they’re made in Italy, companies have gone so far as to make their products in China but not connect the handle to the bag. Then this “final assembly step” which technically defines its origin is done in Italy, along with sewing in the “Made in Italy” tag. 

Product Quality
While I am proud that my products are made in the USA, the fact that they’re made here has a bit more to do with the organic nature of how I partner with local shops to bring my products to life. 

Bob's Foam

I tend to solve design problems by applying advanced production techniques and I’m continually amazed by the local companies I discover who have the equipment I’m looking for and the expertise to get amazing results with it. In this way, the product design and quality is usually enhanced by this collaboration with the actual makers.

By integrating these local companies into the late stages of prototyping, and often using the same providers for both prototyping and production, the transition into manufacturing is seamless and quality remains high. 

Contributing to the Local Economy
For whatever reason, most of the companies I end up working with are Father-son teams… or in one case, a daughter who became the CEO. But I don’t see it as doing any favors for these companies. Instead, they’re almost extensions of my team who I depend on at least as much if not more than they depend on me.

Is it important to you?
One of the reasons I’ve begun to think about this more is based on customer feedback. There are some customers who would rather pay a lower price, so interpret the fact that we make our products in California as a needless extra expense for them. I can understand this and also wish more folks would be able to afford and enjoy what we make. 

As it stands now, making these products locally is integral to the design process and location of the labor can’t be substituted 1:1. So the existence of the products is an extension of the design process, which happens to take place in California. More like growing grapes for a wine in a particular place than the formula for coke which can be made anywhere.

That’s not to say it would be impossible to transplant our process and manufacturing somewhere else, but we’re currently focusing our efforts on developing new products instead.

So that’s my current thinking on why we make stuff here. Just like I don’t see myself as doing any favors for our local partners by making our products here, I hope you can also see the value in the products we create regardless of where they’re made.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic in your comments below….
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