Hip to be square: Aussie water bottle in Oscars gift bag

Jane Holroyd
The Australian-designed memobottle will feature in a luxury show bag to be presented to 2016 Oscar nominees by a ...
The Australian-designed memobottle will feature in a luxury show bag to be presented to 2016 Oscar nominees by a marketing company. Photo: Supplied

​Two men who grew up surfing together on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula are hoping to turn re-useable drink bottles into a fashion statement. Their unusual design is set to make its way into the hands of Oscar-nominated celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett and Jennifer Lawrence this week in the infamous Academy Award gift bags.

Memobottles, unlike most drink bottles, are flat and angular – their A5 and A6-inspired dimensions, which hold 750 millilitres and 375 millilitres respectively, are designed to fit more easily into bags and pockets.

The bottles, along with $US232,000 ($327,000) of other gifts, form the contents of the extravagant gift bags being distributed to Oscar-nominated directors and actors by US marketing company Distinctive Assets ahead of the awards on February 28.

Taking a different approach to design: the memobottle.
Taking a different approach to design: the memobottle. Photo: Supplied

The "swag bags" have grabbed headlines already for some of this year's more lavish and controversial inclusions (overseas trips, luxury car hire, plastic surgery and sex toys among them) – but memobottle's Jesse Leeworthy and Jonathan Byrt are hoping all that sight-seeing, pampering and exercise might work up a big thirst among Hollywood's best and brightest.

The friends launched memobottle on US crowd-funding website Kickstarter in 2014. Aiming to raise US$15,000, their campaign attracted pledges of more than US$260,000 with about 12,000 bottles pre-ordered.They've sold more than 50,000 memobottles, manufactured out of a BPA-free plastic in Taiwan since last July.

But the pair got an extra lift when they were contacted by Distinctive Assets who singled out their water bottles as celebrity-friendly. While they had to pay Distinctive Assets "a small admin fee" to feature in the swag bags, they're hoping the opportunity will pay off financially and environmentally.

Memobottle's Jonathan Byrt and Jesse Leeworthy.
Memobottle's Jonathan Byrt and Jesse Leeworthy. Photo: Supplied

"Our main aim is to go back to a more re-usable society," said Leeworthy. While the world already has plenty of reusable drink bottles at its disposal, Leeworthy and Byrt claim their design can make a dent in the number of single-use bottles that get bought and thrown away.

"We wanted to design something with a beautiful aesthetic and something catchy and convenient that had not been seen before," Leeworthy said.

"The vast majority of people are only going to go for the environmental choice if it improves their life," added Byrt.

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Top on their wish list of celebrity endorsements are Oscar nominees Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Mark Ruffalo, who have each promoted environmental causes in the past.

"It would be great if they jump on the back of the product," says Leeworthy. "It would just be such a boost."

There is a possible hitch in the plan though. Distinctive Assets, renowned for their celebrity product-placement, is reportedly being sued by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences over this year's gift bags with the Academy claiming trademark infringement and damages to reputation, among other complaints.

However, a spokeswoman for Distinctive Assets said this week that the  "Everybody wins at the Oscars" swag bags would "still be going out as planned".

To that end, each memobottle celebrity recipient will be receiving an individually penned letter from Byrt and Leeworthy.

DiCaprio's will read:

"Congrats on the nomination – outstanding performance! memobottle™ is aimed at making the environment the real winner through reducing single-use water bottle usage. You'll win by putting those lips of yours up to the world's most beautiful, slim and reusable water bottle. We absolutely love the environmental issues that you're tackling through the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation! Let's join forces to reduce single-use bottles!"