This is the story of Henry Lefens, an American designer who decided to bring men’s wallets to the next level. Discover what drives this incredible young man with talents in engineering as well as a natural sense of style.
Question: What’s your name and where are you from?
Answer: I am Henry Lefens. I came to San Francisco a few years ago to design for Levi’s and have since set up shop here in the Bay. Similar to Kanye, I’m pretty California but actually from Chicago. Haha.
Q: What is Pioneer Carry and what led you to start it?
A: Pioneer is a new accessories brand that designs and manufactures premium technical wallets and cases. We harness the world’s most advanced materials and technologies to define the future of wallets for active lifestyles.
I started my career designing technical equipment for rock climbers and mountaineers summiting Everest and things like that. While I was being exposed to advanced materials and high precision manufacturing, I would tinker around at night with all the new materials and started making wallets. I gave them to friends and athletes and when years went by without any signs of wear, and friends wouldn’t give them back, I felt like I was on to something.
What started as tinkering with heat presses and technical fabrics turned into this idea to bring the same innovation in materials and construction seen in the footwear and apparel industries to wallets and small carry.
But when this first started most guys were wearing Redwing boots and raw denim, but by now I think people get the benefits of new technical materials because those same guys are now wearing Nike Flyknits and Apple watches. Lol. So it felt like a good time to launch Pioneer officially.
Q: Can you tell us a little about the material you’ve developed and how it functions?
A: I could go into real depth to answer that question but I’ll keep it short- We combined the strongest fiber on earth with a core that has the hand feel of leather. What you get is absolute abrasion resistance and a nice tactile feel that breaks in, but doesn’t break down. It’s these two innovations heat-welded together that form the overall benefit over leather. These materials are quite a bit more expensive than typical fabrics, so the biggest hurdle was gathering enough money to pay the mill for our custom yardage; sort of a risky way to start a small company.
Q: Do you plan to expand past wallets and grow your collection?
A: We design wallets because we believe we posses technologies that deliver true improvement in that space. We won’t be entering a new space unless we have something to help push that category forward. The world has enough ‘me too’ product.
Q: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
A: Wallets and small carry are sort of late to the game compared to where active footwear and apparel have taken things in the past few years. So its admittedly quite easy to see what’s happening in those industries and apply the same principles and values to our collections. The only bottle neck to our process is the consumers readiness to start thinking about wallets the way they think about their sneakers.
Q: What’s next?
A: We are doing research and development in the lab right now on some projects that are direct requests from our active field-testers. Pioneer will continue to grow and evolve to meet the demands of those who stay in constant motion, as they are our real inspirations.