Lifelong Auburn resident Shelby Taylor ’16 didn’t just pack her bags en route to her new job across the country, she started designing them once she got there.
Taylor sent an email to luggage designer CALPAK in California, since she had previously purchased some of their luggage and fell in love. Applying for a graphic designer position, she needed a last minute plane ticket, since she was still located in Alabama, but after the interview, they immediately offered her the job.
“CALPAK is a really small team, doing really big things,” Taylor said. “We all work really well together, which makes the end result and the final product really genuine, honest and innovative. We’re travelers trying to make travel better. I get to go to China once a year to meet with factories, concept new products, eat lots of incredible food and buy lots of duty-free Korean cosmetics. My boss is very famous in China, so we always get special treatment.”
CALPAK states on their website (imbed link here: https://www.calpaktravel.com) that “everything we make is a reflection of you – of where you’ve been, of where you’re going, and of where you want to be. Don’t forget to bring us along on your every adventure.”
From carry-ons, medium and large luggage to hatboxes, vanity cases, duffel bags and backpacks, CALPAK creates luggage for many different needs. One of the challenges that has built confidence and intuition in Taylor is keeping customers interested. With luggage lasting years, there are few repeat customers, she said. “I’m learning how to question myself and those around me in a more productive manner. From there, I have learned how to communicate that belief to those around me so that my ideas make everyone better.”
Taylor has a lot of responsibilities, from sending gifts to influencers, keeping up with trends, meetings on creation, production and content to building technical documents. In addition, she updates the blog ‘Destination CALPAK’.
While Taylor said living at home, as a student, provided a support system to keep her grounded, there were some serious challenges to shake her.
“I met my best friend, Meghan Wilson, while we were both going through the [industrial design] program together, but we realized pretty quickly we had so many other passions in common that had nothing to do with design,” Taylor said. “We started a blog called, ‘Rosellis,’ to speak to female college students about beauty, travel and style, and how to achieve it all while in school. She passed away at the end of our junior year, but looking back, she was the one who really fostered my creativity and brought out the best in me.”
Losing Wilson had a toll on Taylor that, coupled with the exhaustion of a student dedicated to their work, caused her to lose focus. After graduation in 2016, Taylor chose not to move directly into a full time position, instead taking a year to find what it was that she really found a passion in.
When it came time to find a career, however, there was sparse pickings before Taylor found CALPAK.
“I sent my portfolio, my resume and additional content all over the country,” Taylor said. “No one was interested. So I dropped everything, went to California to visit my boyfriend and just started cold calling people. It was literally the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever done in my life, and it still didn’t work.”
Despite the difficulties in finding a job, Taylor went out on a limb to work for the company she admired. While she enjoys her career now, someday Taylor says she would like to be a creative director herself, given the space to see what she can accomplish.
“Whether I accomplish that at CALPAK, or someplace else, I feel like that’s what I’m meant to do,” Taylor said. “I’d love to work for a major fashion house, or start my own business, with complete creative control because I want to see what I’m capable of when there’s a clean slate.”