January 25, 2023
There’s a common contention in the carry world that the wallet is a humble thing, a lowly pocket dweller that ought to know its place, and get on with the job out of sight, out of mind.
Say that to SF-based carry enterprise Dango Products and you just might be in line for a good old fashioned Chuck Norrising. Because for Dango, the wallet is much more than a passive unit. For them, it’s a tool, an instrument of identity – a device of prosperity – an active piece that ought to be carried with pride.
Founded in 2015 by CEO Charlie Carroll and Creative Chief Thuan Tran, Dango effectively create the Swiss Army Knife of wallets: stylish, resilient, thoughtfully-designed products that blow traditional wallet functionality out of the water. A Dango wallet not only comfortably holds your booty, but provides an inbuilt hex wrench and paracord tensioner, tripling and quadrupling, respectively, as a can and bottle opener (and that’s just the start of it).
In short, Dango is the carry-industry love child of Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne: the alpha with a badass alter ego, savvy in both the wild and future urban world. And according to them, if you carry one of their products, you too are just as badass.
“Dango was originally founded by solving everyday problems with simple solutions,” says design chief Thuan Tran.
In the early days before the brand was born, Thuan found himself pondering carry functionality at San Jose State University, in college as an aspiring industrial designer. His first ‘simple solution’ was the ‘Dango Loop Hook’, a school project for a class called ‘Making it’ – the class brief: to develop a basic product and market it with 50 – 100 units.
“It was a hit in a small community and sold out on Etsy,” says Thuan, the Loop Hook later becoming his first ‘real’ product, successfully funded on Kickstarter, catalysing Dango as a brand.
After meeting future Dango CEO and President Charlie Carroll through mutual jobs in the mobile case industry, ‘Making it’ has been the Dango modus operandi ever since.
Combining Charlie’s early experience with Speck Products and Thuan’s at Element Case, the duo saw themselves as aspiring individuals with ideas well beyond the confines of their industry. Expanding their knowledge to a broader spectrum of everyday carry product, they began developing a vision that would eventually become a staple for all things ahead: ‘#geardump, #pocketdump, #handdump and #everydaycarry.’
The duo got busy with their vision, setting up shop in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2015 (Charlie, originally from Palo Alto; Thuan from San Jose), basing Dango’s operations in an industrial area of Santa Clara, working with vendors right up and down the Bay. It’s fair to propose that the brand’s appreciation of high-grade specs, quality materials, storytelling and the ‘user experience’ is no doubt, in part, the influence of their backyard – the world’s tech industry shrine – where entrepreneurship and CNC machining is as elemental as the Santa Cruz Mountains or the water supply.
“Our mission is to tell extraordinary stories through product experience,” adds Thuan.
Design: influences and inspiration
Industrial design principles, aesthetics, quality and craftsmanship are at the heart of Dango’s design passion, and the urge to redefine the wallet as a truly functional modern product.
“I am constantly tinkering with products to make them look, feel and work better,” says Thuan. “Industrial design is my lifestyle. I understand that good design is often redesign, or in a sense ‘redefine’. Sometimes great design is reinvented. I also realise that design is not only a holistic approach to solving things – the need to design occurs on many levels. I believe that god is in the details.”
Dango sees the gear that we use as being an extension of ourselves – it defines who we are, the reason why we choose one everyday carry product over another.
“To be honest, while redefining the wallet with the D01 and T01, we really designed an over-the-top product for ourselves. We love CNC-machined goods as well as leather goods. We love to contrast colors, materials and finishes. The wallet is an everyday carry that is always by our side – we wanted to elevate the experience of a person’s wallet by not only making it look badass, but something that they can value more and carry with pride. We think with this in mind, they’ll be less likely to lose it. In addition, we wanted to create a wallet that lasts a lifetime with modular and customizable components that can easily be applied to replenish it.”
Growth and change
Though it’s only been two years since their inception, Thuan sees it as a much longer journey.
“Internally, we are all learning new things every day in terms of entrepreneurship, marketing, product design and engineering, manufacturing and life – and do our best to apply that maturity in our brand as we grow.”
With the humble Dango Loop Hook increasingly further in the rear-view mirror, the brand finds itself venturing evermore towards a path of product expansion.
“Our goal is to be the staple of modern wallets, and venture into other products that nurture lifestyles,” says Thuan: “such as more leather goods, watches, bags/backpacks, and perhaps merging technology to everyday carry.”
Inspired by rugged military equipment with a futuristic approach to simple things, Dango’s approach to development and style is chiefly tactical.
“We like to apply unconventional use of certain materials and combine them with unique finishes to produce not only a cool product but also a provocative piece of artwork,” says Thuan.
“Our brand assets also have a look and feel. We recognize the environment and personas behind the things that people use. We use simple image formulas to clearly display the subject matter. We feel it is important to convey to our customers that they are the hero of their journey – and we do that through imagery.”
Amongst Dango’s key products are the D01 Dapper and T01 Tactical Wallets – the double helix at the core of the brand’s DNA. Provocative and edgy, their neat balance of aesthetics, style and function sets them apart from other names in the field.
So too, the materials: aerospace-grade aluminium for the chassis, top-grain leather interiors, microfiber-lined interiors, durable silicone bands. And there’s no getting away from the functionality: ¼ inch hex wrench and can opener, 15mm hex wrench and thick smart phone stand, 2.5 inch ruler, saw edge and more. All of it TSA approved, RFID secured, and proudly USA made.
Thuan and the team take no shortcuts when it comes to bringing these designs to life.
“When we think of manufacturing, we are all about repeatability and attention to detail. To do justice to the design and keep our customers happy, we go the extra mile to ensure that our products meet the most exacting standards in quality and finish.”
The team inspects and assembles each product by hand, instilling exacting standards across the entire product line.
“We don’t make compromises on quality, design, user experience, functionality or longevity,” adds Thuan. “We use the best materials possible and thoroughly test each product we develop.”
While it’s clear that locals stateside and the Bay Area are lapping up Dango’s offerings, their popularity is sparking fires with daring urbanites, avid outdoor enthusiasts and tactical crowds right across the world, largely through online channels:
Jeff Bezos’s ever-ballooning online megalith, the go-to for everything from Dango Wallets, to Venus flytraps, and canned unicorn meat.
Dango’s in-house digital storefront for direct go-to purchases from the Santa Clara HQ itself.
Everyday carry for all mankind. Founded in 2016, US-based Gallantry is an online shop with a penchant for well crafted everyday carry gear that stands the test of time.
Long-time Carryology compatriot and collaborator, founded in San Francisco in 2011, Huckberry is equal parts store, magazine, and inspiration: bootstrapped, profitable, and proud.
Founded in 2009, CaseMotions is a US-based company that specializes in bringing the best mobile and tablet accessories to market.
And their clientele feedback speaks for itself:
“People ask me about my wallet on a daily basis, definitely a conversation starter.”
“I had no idea that I needed a wallet like this until I saw yours. I was able to streamline my daily essentials into one sleek package.”
“This wallet is bad ass. It is something that I have always dreamed of having but didn’t know anything like it ever existed until I saw your wallet.”
“Customer for life. Keep making awesome products guys!”
As for the Dango horizon, keep expecting high-grade innovations and fresh carry solutions.
“Learn from the past, live in the present, prepare for the future,” Thuan adds.
There’s little more on Dango’s lips than that: just the promise of new innovation, fresh upgrades on the evolutionary Tacticals and Dappers, and ever-present enthusiasm to match that badass ‘tude.
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