Nourish your body to nourish your mind and spirit
We believe that caring for and fuelling your body while also caring for the planet is possible. This is why we partnered with high-quality, sustainable food ware brand, Black+Blum on our new line of food ware products.
Our founder, Andrea, spoke to Dan Black, the co-founder of Black+Blum, to dive deeper into the vision behind his foodware products, why we joined forces and why we are beyond excited to bring you a collection of products that not only look great—but are also made to last.
Andrea: Hi, Dan. Nice to have you here. I'd love to start with having you share some insights into your business and your brand, what you stand for, what the business stands for and offers to the global community.
Dan: It's great to be here. Sure, I'm the co-founder and lead designer at Black+Blum. We make products which help people lead a more sustainable lifestyle, products that encourage you to be more sustainable and make it more enjoyable to do that.
We focus on food and drink on the go products. If you think about lunch boxes, water bottles, travel cups, thermoses, water carafes. Things where often you're buying single use packaging— whether it’s food containers, which you're going to throw out, takeaway containers, or water bottles, we create anything that stops you doing that, because basically that stuff is terrible.
We design our products from scratch. They're totally unique to us. And we launched our first one 14 years ago—our first lunchbox and water bottle. We were pretty new to the market. I think we spotted the trend sooner than anyone else. And we definitely influenced and shaped the market, especially in terms of the Western market. I think in Japan, where they have a sort of bento box culture (where we took inspiration from) they had already worked out that if you present food well it makes it more enjoyable to eat. In the West we were making do with sort of boring, waxy plastic food containers as our lunchboxes. Kids got fun lunchboxes, but adults got horrible containers. So we recognized that early on, and we've continued to develop and focus ever since.
We try to make products that are built to last. We know that we're not going to buy our way out of the environmental challenges that we're facing at the moment. If we can build a product which will last and if something gets broken or damaged, we can replace that with a spare part so you don't have to buy the whole item again, we will do that.
It's great to partner with you because I think we share a lot of the same sort of values and beliefs.
Andrea: Very true—we're so thrilled to be collaborating with you. We searched high and low across the globe for a suitable partner for foodware. We want to support the environment in every way we can, as our business continues to evolve.
We were looking for exactly what you're offering and we saw so much quality. Durability, integrity, and also, I mean, I do have a sweet spot for a nice aesthetic, which is also evident in your designs. So we're thrilled to be partnering with you in this collaboration and launching some beautifully co branded products with you.
You're right. It does boil down to our values and our business values, which we hold so near and dear to our hearts are about wellness. Making a positive impact, connection, of course, and living with integrity. Does this speak to you and as well as your brand's purpose?
Dan: Hugely. And, you know, my company has been going for 25 years. We haven't always done these types of products. We've done hundreds of products over the years, and I had a Jerry Maguire moment, an epiphany, where I was at a trade show seven years ago, and it was just filled with products. Products which did not deserve to exist. And I can't say we're not guilty of creating products which don't help you be more sustainable. We always have crafted functional products, and good quality but it's only been in the last sort of five years, four years, where we focus solely on doing products which help you be more sustainable.
As a designer, I've always been interested in antiques. I think that's why we don't just look to the future of new materials, we also look to the past. When we design a product, we always try to give it a modern, retro heritage, recognizable aesthetic. If we have done our job well, because we're not doing products with technology, the designs will get better with use. Sure, they'll take a scratch or a dent, but that's only going to add to their charm, their character. If you use products on a daily basis regularly and cherish them, that's where they develop soul.
When I was a student I had a wooden spatula from Ikea and I still have it, and when I go to the frying pan, that's my wooden spatula of choice. Not because it's pristine, it's far from it, it's burnt and marked but it's somehow familiar with my hand now and I think that's what we try and get into a product. We don't always achieve it, but that's certainly our ambition from the start.
Andrea: I love that. One of our hero products is the b, mat which is just this unprecedented high quality yoga mat, but also a movement mat. So it's not just used for yoga and it changes people's practice. Over time the logo in particular has cracks on it and, you know, there may be a sweat mark that somehow stays on the mat. For us that represents pride—the product has been well used and well loved and we see that in the community. We see people featuring these products and these little nuances based on their usage with pride and love. I feel like that kind of mimics what you're saying with your products.
Dan: It's so nice when you get a product which just has that. Not being afraid to be proud of the fact that the product is worn because certainly in our category with things like reusable water bottles, you can go to your mass market retailer and buy them very cheaply but it still takes a lot of energy to produce that bottle, regardless of whether it's cheap. The problem is people go well, that's scratched or that colors out of fashion so I'll get myself a new one, and that's wrong because you need to have these products for at least two years or five years or ten years before they start actually giving back to the environment.
Andrea: Yeah, I agree. Our products have soul and people feel that and experience that. I'm very proud of that, like I'm sure you are. We make bolsters and meditation cushions and we've been doing that for 35 years. For example, my mother has bolsters that she purchased. 25 years ago from us, and every time I see them, they light me up because they reinforce one thing we really, really believe in, which is conscious consumption, buying something that is made to last. We take so much pride in those bolsters that are still in the market from 20 plus years ago.
So I think that's a real beautiful element of connection between this collaboration as well.
Dan: You also do cork blocks, don't you, as well?
Andrea: Yes we have a bunch of cork products, including the cork blocks and we're very proud of those, for obvious reasons—they're natural.
Dan: They also look great. It's lovely using a material like cork, where you know that's protecting the forest, because they need the trees to produce the cork in the first place. It's a material which you feel you can absolutely justify using—it ages well and it’s great material.
Andrea: 100%. I agree. Speaking about design, I wanted to share my favorite product within our collab lineup, which is the gorgeous carafe, with cork. The design is beautiful and obviously it's reinforcing something that is reusable. Plus, the charcoal filter is such a brilliant additional feature for the product.
I'd love to hear what your favorite product is within our collaboration or products?
Dan: Absolutely, we are collaborating with you on a very wide range of products, but one of them is our travel cup. Whenever we design a product, we have to make sure that it's unique to us. There's lots of travel cups on the market so there's no point in us doing another one if there is a perfect solution on the market, and we didn't think there was one.
It took us a long time to develop this product—three years, but sometimes the simplest designs are the hardest ones to get right and perfect. So, with this, we wanted to do a design which you could hold and operate with one hand. Often if you're taking it on the go, you might have your other hand opening a car door, holding a bag, etc. So it had to be one hand operable, what's nice is it's also lockable, so if you put this in your bag upside down, it's not going to leak, it's not going to open.
To open it there's an open padlock and a closed padlock. If you click on the padlock you can open it up and then with your thumb, you can swivel it, swivel the top round, and that reveals the mouth spout to drink from. A real point of difference between ours compared to other leak proof travel cups and tumblers on the market is the fact that it has a very simple mechanism that allows what we call direct flow. If you like your tea and coffee, the smell of the coffee is a big part of the taste. You might not realize that, but basically the smell is what also forms your taste. And most leak proof travel cups have a mechanism which has some sort of device which goes up or down. Or a complicated internal mechanism but the liquid is not passing straight out. Like it would if you drink from an open cup. So with ours, it is exactly that, it's a big enough opening that you still get the aroma coming through and when you drink, you don't burn your top lip because it's like drinking from an open cup—you get direct feedback.
Whereas with most travel cups on the market that are leak proof, because the liquid passes through a channel, you don't get the aroma, you don't get the feedback so you can burn your top lip. It's just not a great drinking experience. It’s a much nicer product to drink from.
The other advantage is the fact that it's incredibly simple on the inside, these things need cleaning regularly, so it's very simple to take apart with few mechanisms, and it's dishwasher safe. So it just makes it very, very simple to take apart and clean.
It's a high quality, very simple, but actually really functional.
Andrea: It's truly a beautiful product and the amount of intention that you've put into this simple yet highly functional design is so clear.
For us, when we develop new products, we always look at it from the angle of ‘how is this unique, special and different’ You can clearly see that this is espousing that ethos. Thank you for sharing all of that.
I shared our b, halfmoon manifesto with you, which is something that we as a team are deeply rooted in. I will just recite it quickly here for us to kind of reacquaint with.
Nature is truth. It grounds, inspires, and guides us. With each day, the rising and setting sun and moon bring new freedom, growth, and light.
Let nature inspire you to live your truth.
I'm sure nature inspires you, but maybe you can give some examples of how it inspires you?
Dan: I think for so many different reasons. Basically nature gets it right, doesn't it? We get it wrong. Whether it's you know animals, plant life or whatever, basically nature gets it right.
We can't live in this world without influencing it, impacting it in a bad way somehow. So if we can live and use the resources responsibly without having a negative impact on this world, we should. People have done it for centuries before us without the technology we have and the intelligence and understanding we have. So I think it's just about getting our priorities in check and having respect and lots of less arrogance about how intelligent and how clever we are. And appreciating what's good about this world.
We're all here trying to have more mindfulness, more time, and yet somehow the better technology gets the worse it gets, the more stressed and panicky we are, and the worse the impact we have.
But yeah nature gets it right, doesn't it? And we've got to learn how to live in harmony.
Andrea: Nature gets it right—I'm sure we could chat for hours on end about that topic alone. I feel like Mother Nature or whatever reference we want to make to nature, is shouting at us right now and trying to shake us and wake us up.
I feel like there is sort of a groundswell of mindfulness and awakening that's happening at the same time. So I'm hopeful that arrogance and that level of disregard that we've seen for the environment for many, many, many years is on the decline. It has to be. I'm humbled to support that in any way I can.
I think your business does that, and I'm sure based on our conversation on a personal level, it seems like you do that as well.
Dan: I think we have to do it. I love seeing what Patagonia does, you know, the fact that they're now a charity, a company for good. And I think more companies will have to. We’re 1 percent of the planet's members, but it's not enough. We need to do more, you know?
Andrea: Yeah and it's humbling. It's sometimes daunting and overwhelming and sometimes I criticize myself because there are instances when we have to use plastic
Dan: Plastic isn't the enemy. I think genuinely, you know, there's so much, um, greenwashing, especially in our industry in relation to some materials. Which claim to be bio based, but then they can't be recycled and some of the PLA type materials are terrible because it's encouraging monoculture of harvesting and people are starving in this world.
Andrea: Yeah. This is it, I don't think it's a straightforward answer.
Dan: It’s complex. Buy once, buy well—I love that expression, I'm not rich enough to buy cheap products.
Andrea: Oh, I've never heard that. I love that. That's great. Sometimes it's the simplest solutions that are the most profound. I fully believe in that conscious consumerism angle and really promoting that as we discussed earlier.
Another element of our manifesto, which guides us internally and our external communications is around living your truth. Our perspective is that nature can't lie. Nature speaks its truth, and that's part of its inspiration. Do you feel in your life that there are ways where you live your truth or over time that's, that's evolved for you?
Dan: I've definitely got a conscience. Sometimes it's easy to say, take a commercial decision, but it's the wrong decision and you feel like that's wrong. We are primarily a design company, so we're not marketing driven, we're not sales driven, we're all about the product. I think because of that, hopefully that is living our truth that we're conscientious designers. We don't take the shortcut.
For sure, it's a competitive market and we try to make the products accessible to people, but we design the products well, and I think that's our, that's our truth.
Andrea: That's your truth.
Dan: Absolutely. Probably not the most commercial. It's amazing how so many companies will take a shortcut. They do what you call design obsolescence—they want the product to fail after two years, three years. So go and buy another one. That’s not right.
Andrea: Yeah, that’s a terrible experience that we do not condone. You see that in appliances more and more these days and so many other industries.
How about wellness, has wellness played a role in your life?
Dan: It does, it goes in waves. A combination of hard work and young children doesn't always get the balance but I'm very lucky I love what I do. I’m not working to live. I live to work—I'm very passionate about everything I do. So I think that is my wellness. Plus, taking time and enjoying myself, I'm not very good at it, but I keep having to remind myself that actually I love what I do. I've got lots of interests. I paint, I like gardening and design. So I'm pretty lucky, really.
Andrea: That's beautiful. Part of our manifesto is also finding the light in every day, finding your joy. I firmly believe that's a huge element of wellness, which is essentially what you just shared.
I feel that. That gratitude for really doing what I love. I'm very grateful for that because it's not often the case. Although increasingly it seems to be.
Dan: I don't know if it's becoming more common. If people do what they enjoy, it doesn't matter what people do. And if you are passionate about what you enjoy. You know, life can be short. It might not be short, but if you're going to do something, give it everything and love it.
Andrea: Yeah. I assume you see this as well, that the generations below me. I feel like the generations that came after us are far more attuned and rooted into finding the light and finding the joy and pursuing what really speaks to them versus getting that nine to five job and putting their head down and not enjoying their work and not appreciating it and not having a connection to it.
So, I mean, kudos to those generations. I think that's a beautiful element of, Today's budding society and work culture.
Dan: I think so, I think you're absolutely right. But at the same time, with AI and the pace of change, we're going to end up with some industries that can't react quickly. And then how do they find that passion again if that job is no longer there?
But I think what is amazing is that we do trade shows where we go and show our products to different companies. And this growth, in America and Europe, is in van life. People go, “I'm not going to have a mortgage. I'm not going to be tied to this routine. I'm going to have fewer possessions. They're going to be really good ones and I'm going to earn my money but in a different way and not follow the same tradition."
Andrea: It's inspiring. I wish I was 15 years younger sometimes. Our creative lead, she's actually from England. Tayla, she lives in a van. She lives in a refurbished ice cream truck and travels around North America. And I just, I'm so inspired by it. I live vicariously through her sometimes.
In Toronto where I live fewer teens are getting their driver's license and they're just all about taking public transit and Uber versus as you said, like investing in a car in a huge material possession. There's a huge movement away from that. So, things are always changing. And as you said, hopefully the pace of change when it comes to technology like AI doesn't...cause too many challenges and we can continue to root ourselves in the present and find the light in every day and be true to ourselves and all those beautiful things about the human experience.
Thank you so much for connecting with me here, Dan. It's been such a pleasure. It's really reinforced the inherent link between our two brands and our ethos, which is beautiful and I'm thrilled to bring these collaboration products. Um, is there anything else you wanted to share before we parted ways?
Dan: No, we're really looking forward to this collaboration and I'm always excited about the latest design we're working on. So I think basically watch this space and we look forward to updating you on that.
Andrea: Yes. Looking forward to all the updates. Thank you so much. We'll chat soon. Be well.
Dan: You too. Thanks.
Like Black+Blum we believe in conscious consumption and creating products that are functional, innovative, and made to last. To explore our eco-friendly line of sustainable foodware made, visit: foodware