Interview: Jamie Knowles, Founder of Dog-Focused Travel Gear Company Roverlund

Discussing the developmental path for carriers and leashes that last

For their October 2019 brand launch, Roverlund introduced design-forward and durable dog carriers, inspired by wanderlust, as their hero product. The airline-friendly item features mountain-climbing rope handles and a plush internal dog bed and speaks volumes about their mission: to provide dog-owners with a long-lasting product as adventurous and exciting as their pets. Since the launch, Roverlund’s camouflage colorway has already sold out (restocked next week) and they’ve picked up fans of their heavy-duty leashes and all-around reasonable prices. To further their relationship with dog-owners, they’ve also debuted a charming custom pet portrait program that underscores their love of dogs and design.

Jamie Knowles, the brand’s founder, says it’s all the result of his kaleidoscopic and seemingly disparate experiences: “I’ve been an Orvis-endorsed fly fishing guide, an internationally exhibited contemporary artist and am also a former Vogue staffer.” Knowles grew up with Springer Spaniels and now lives with an English Cocker Spaniel. It’s his love for his dog, and the joy the dog provides, as well as his typically tight travel schedule, that led to Roverlund. We spoke to Knowles to learn more about launching a dog-focused travel gear brand.

Where did you get the idea for Roverlund? And what motivated you to launch the company?

Jamie and Baci

The idea for Roverlund started when I got Baci, my little love boat of an English Cocker Spaniel, back in 2016.

I needed a dog that could be active, apartment-friendly, and small enough to travel in-cabin on planes. While we are not flying as much these days, Baci probably racked up more United miles than most people those first two years. It was in part through this non-stop, every-other-weekend-we’re-somewhere-else pace that I realized there were no design-centric yet durable dog carriers for people like me and dogs like Baci, who is a bigger mid-sized dog and is nearing the weight limit for in-cabin travel.

This got me thinking, researching, and tinkering—and, voila, three years later we launched!

How did you approach the design of your carriers and leashes?

My background is in art and fashion, and I am also an outdoors enthusiast, so I knew the design needed to balance both of these worlds. On top of that, it was crucial that the carrier elevated the experience of adventuring with your pup.

At the time, the options for dog carriers were limited. Everything was overly cutesy and bedazzled, poorly made, or generally benign in its aesthetic. In our first year with Baci, I easily went through four or five carriers, not because he chewed or destroyed them, but because they just fell apart. Throughout our design process, we were committed to developing a carrier that would be equally durable as it would be stylish.

Our carriers include clever design details throughout that make being-on-the-go with your pup a little easier. Our shoulder strap doubles as an extra strong leash, which we were first to introduce to market. And, we have incorporated other design considerations like a removable dog bed, extra pockets, and outdoor-grade hardware to make traveling hassle-free, comfortable, and last but not least classically cool.

What regulations do you need to work around when designing?

We prototyped the carrier (which also conveniently doubles as a car seat during these times of cheaper gas and safe, social-distancing) for two years; and, Baci conveniently put on a bit of weight over this time, helping us to ensure the carrier easily handles the maximum in-cabin weight, which is 25 pounds.

The criteria are very specific for in-cabin travel on planes—and trains too. Our carrier was developed in accordance with these regulations.

Our carrier has an intentionally flexible rear frame which conforms to smaller aircraft seat requirements and provides extra space for your pup to spread out. You should always check with your airline for their current policy as there are slight variations on carrier dimensions and pet weight limits across the major airlines.

What was the process like for material research?

It was very important to use marine- and mountaineering-grade materials that we knew could withstand the unexpected. The carriers needed to be built to last, and not just make it through a handful of trips.

The mountain-climbing rope handles and leashes are a nod to each carrier’s durability and outdoor-inspired spirit. Even if the carrier is mainly helping you get around town or go to the vet these days, it is designed for the pursuit of adventure near and far.

Do you hope to expand into new areas for pets?

Yes, most definitely. We are actively working on and expanding into new categories of pet gear as well as gear for those of us who are lucky enough to be a dog’s best friend.

We just launched custom pet portraits by a group of wonderfully talented illustrators. During this very difficult time—especially in New York, where we are based—it has been an incredibly rewarding experience to help bring people joy and to create community among fellow pet lovers.

Can you talk about the origins of the pet portrait program?

We knew we needed to evolve and diversify our offering in order to stay viable [amid COVID-19]—and we needed to offer something that could be created, sold and sent as a 100% digital product. Pet portraits just came to me—perhaps from my background in the arts, I owned and operated a small fine art e-commerce platform a number of years ago, and pulled from that experience to get our pet portraits division up and running quickly. We are also offering custom printing and framing, which has been popular for gift giving especially during this time when we are not able to celebrate in person like we once did.

Images courtesy of Roverlund