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Article: Wally Turns 10! The Evolution of a Trusted Wallet

Wally Turns 10! The Evolution of a Trusted Wallet

Wally Turns 10! The Evolution of a Trusted Wallet

From the materials to the construction and even the packaging, our original Wally Pull-Tab™ wallets have been tweaked, revamped, and improved in every way since their 2014 launch on Kickstarter. Most of these changes are thanks to thoughtful fan feedback, and are based on the shared experiences of Wally wallet carriers across the globe. 

Distil Union Wally Sleeve and Wally Bifold wallets from Kickstarter to a decade later

Interested in learning what a decade of design evolution looks like for our best-selling and very first wallets, the Wally Bifold and Wally Sleeve? Hop in the time machine and take a journey with us… 

Collage of photos of Distil Union founders Nate Justiss and Lindsay Windham over the past decade

ACT 1: INSPIRATION

These days, pull-tab wallets are ubiquitous—but believe it or not, this wasn't always the case! It was on the heels of two successful crowd-funding campaigns for our leather pull-tab Wally Stick-On and Wally Case when we realized the ease and delight of pull-tab card access should be enjoyed beyond your iPhone.

What if... Nate wondered. What if we used our Wally Pull-Tab iPhone pocket in a billfold format? We can take out all of the traditional billfold's layers that separate cards and lead to fat wallets. What does a Distil wallet look like? And so, in 2014 a fourth Kickstarter was suddenly on our To Do list! 

Kickstarter image of the Wally Wallet family from Distil UninGif of the Distil Union Wally Bifold pull-tab as demonstrated on Kickstarter

Now to be clear, we didn't invent the pull tab. It's a simple mechanism often used to provide access by lifting up something that's down in a pocket—for example, an iPhone sleeve from way back in our corporate design days. That's right, it's just the two of us now, but we met at a consumer-electronics company in 2006 cranking out iPod armbands, iPhone docks, portable speakers and more (including sleeves that employ a pull-tab). Those days the product lines were driven by sales teams at big-box retail stores—a big reason we started Distil Union as a design-centric company to create the products that we wanted to see on the shelves. But let's get back to this story...

Design sketches from development of the Distil Union Wally Bifold wallet originally launched on Kickstarter

Utilizing the pull-tab design from our Wally Case, we were able to simplify wallet construction by removing all the typical bulky layers, cutting the thickness in half while providing easy card access. Then for the billfold, we sourced a metal money clip to secure cash along the centerfold. This outer pull-tab pocket with inner-clip design allowed you to access your cards without even opening your wallet. And in true Distil style, it resulted in a wallet that's literally half the thickness as a traditional leather billfold—even when packed to the max with the same cards and cash.   

Distil Union slim leather wallet photos from Slate.com

ACT 2: INNOVATION

It wasn't long before Wally Bifold became a top seller on Amazon. While the simple design thrilled most of our 700 Kickstarter backers, once Wally was out in the market, it became clear that there are two kinds of wallet-users in the world: Those who want a wallet that's as simple as possible without bells and whistles, and those who need a bit more.

While our Wally Pull-Tab™ is admittedly satisfying to pull with the grosgrain ribbon giving a little zzzzzip—there wasn't much else going on with Wally... Which is exactly why most folks loved it! Like reporter Will Oremus, who discovered Wally Bifold on Amazon:

Add-on features make a wallet fatter and bulkier without increasing its carrying capacity. In doing so, they sacrifice the wallet’s core virtue—what Plato would have called its arete. That core virtue is to carry things securely and compactly. Some go to spartan extremes, amounting to little more than a swatch of cloth and a rubber band. But you’ll rarely find one that rethinks the wallet’s basic storage mechanism—the interior pocket.

That’s what a Charleston, South Carolina–based design startup called Distil Union did with the Wally Bifold. It isn’t cheap. But it just might be the perfect men’s wallet for the digital age. I still haven’t found one quite as slim or practical as the Wally. Someday the physical wallet may be obsolete. Until then, Distil Union is right that it should be as slim and practical as possible. Plato would approve. –Slate.com February 2015

On the flip side, some folks were understandably bothered if their cards slipped out of the open pockets. Here, we'll let this customer explain: 

customer review for the Distil Union Wally Bifold wallet

Sure we could've said "Dang it, Rodney, just be sure to hold your wallet upright—problem solved!" but as Dieter Rams' 4th principle states: Good design makes a product understandable. So we dug in. 

An image of the patented FlexLock mechanism for Distil Union wallets

To solve for dropped cards, we integrated two strips of spring-steel and dubbed it FlexLock. While it worked in perfect harmony with our signature Wally Pull-Tab™ ribbon for easy access to secured cards, a handful of folks found that the rigid steel would poke through the leather if the pocket was being squeezed to open. While some solid design tweaks had been made—like swapping in gray lining instead of red, which tended to stain cards—there was more work to be done on Wally. 

 

ACT 3: IMPROVEMENTS

HOW IT STARTED  → 

  • Basic designs: The one-pocket Wally Sleeve, and a two-pocket Wally Bifold (essentially two Wally Sleeves plus a money clip inside).
  • Successfully slimmed the standard wallet by at least half. 
  • Red liner provided a fun pop of color, but unfortunately stained cards.
  • Off-the-shelf money clip would fail or come apart for some customers.
  • FlexLock pockets addressed lose-leather concerns, but added bulk and could wear through the leather.
Before and after images of the leather Distil Union Wally Sleeve wallet with a slim and secure MagLock design

HOW IT'S GOING  → 

  • New MagLock™ secured pockets keep cards locked inside, solving the #1 complaint about so many wallets: stretched-out leather leading to lost cards and overstuffed wallets. With MagLock, all of your contents are held securely, even when you carry fewer cards—and isn’t that the whole point of a minimalist wallet?
  • MagLock™ creates a lay-flat wallet that offers added security and a subtle but satisfying snap that holds the wallet closed. 
  • Completely custom money clip, unlike any wallet on the market. Nate designed our clip to accommodate a varying stash of cash. Instead of the generic clip used in 99% of other wallets, the Distil clip is machined from a single piece of stainless steel for a strong and slim profile. 
  • A new I.D. slot on the interior, plus a quick-access slot that's perfect for tap-to-pay or NFC cards. We use these simple slots because while an I.D. window was one of the top requests from reviewers, we just couldn't bring ourselves to use the typical mesh or plastic that will inevitably yellow and crack over time.
  • Curved corners and rolled edges—a labor of love. More effort goes into each wallet, and it’s well worth it for the refined look and added durability. The outer corners have a slight radius because we like how it looks (and honestly, it helps differentiate from the dozens of copycats out on the market... we've stopped counting).
  • Crafted from leather sourced from our tannery partners who are annually audited and awarded with gold certification by the Leather Working Group for the highest levels of environmental stewardship. Using a hybrid tanning process, we're able to achieve the best properties of both mineral and vegetable tanning. This gives our full-grain leather wallets not just incredible durability, but also a soft feel and handsome patina as it wears in and conforms around the cards inside.
  • Option available with RFID shielding. While the threat of skimming is slim to none according to real-word data, this feature was added for peace of mind. And there's always a non-shielded slot so your NFC or tap-to-pay cards have a place for ease of use without removing them.
  • Even the packaging has evolved. What started as a standard, rigid gift-box style has been updated to our sleek string-tied envelope that uses less material and is lighter to ship (saving on cost and carbon emissions). 

And while Kickstarter backers a decade ago got their pledges in a plasticy padded mailer, now Distil gear arrives in something more fun and better for the planet: a post-consumer kraft mailer that's printed with algae ink—the world's most sustainable ink that's actually net carbon negative.

Distil Union mail in a post-consumer kraft envelope

So by simplifying (ahem, distilling) where we could, and employing our trademarked methods—Wally Pull-Tab and MagLock—we're able to streamline typical wallet construction while also solving pain points, thus resulting in remarkably slim and functional wallets. And for the die-hard stoics out there, the Wally Bifold Classic is sans MagLock or FlexLock, but does feature improvements like our custom money clip, eco-certified leather, stain-free liner, and RFID shielding all at a price that's lower than when we introduced them (Even with inflation? Yes, Uncle Gary, even with inflation!)

 

Meet Wally Sleeve

From the get-go, we’ve called Wally Sleeve the perfect wallet for true minimalists. Since its debut in 2014, we’ve tweaked the capacity and beefed up the security. This original slim-sleeve icon still packs a ton of functionality into a front-pocket friendly size—only now there’s even more to love about it:

A diagram highlighting the features of the Distil Union leather Wally Sleeve Wallet
Wally Pull-Tab and MagLock Security photos of the leather Wally Sleeve wallet by Distil Union

 


Meet Wally Bifold 5.0

A decade ago in 2014, we took the traditional leather billfold wallet back to the drawing board—and Wally Bifold was born. Since his birthday we’ve listened to our Kickstarter Backers and customers across the globe whose insights and feedback have led to the latest iteration, Wally Bifold 5.0—our most refined and secure bifold yet: 

A diagram highlighting the features of the Distil Union leather Wally Bifold Wallet

Wally Pull-Tab and MagLock Security photos of the leather Wally Bifold wallet by Distil Union

Distil wallets are minimal but clever, so you can maximize your everyday carry—because the best way to carry a slim wallet is to start with one that's engineered to start slim and stay slim. As we like to say: WE MADE IT SLIM. YOU MAKE IT MINIMAL. 

customer review for the Distil Union Wally Bifold wallet

This article has been written with gratitude for Jack, Rodney, Will and all y'all who have given us your feedback over the years! We're shocked that a decade has flown by, but in that span we've truly grown more and more proud of what Wally has become. Wow, ten years... About time for something new, eh? Be sure you're on the list and we'll notify you when the next pocket-simplifying product drops. 

–Lindsay + Nate
Distil Union Co-Founders

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