There was a time when the surf retail industry was dominated by the big name brands, but now we see more and more smaller independent brands emerging – brands that care for the environment, brands that are more interested in slow fashion, brands run by surfers like you and me!
We spoke to one of our partners, Surf Collective, about how they’re supporting small independent surf brands.
Firstly, can you share with us the inspiration and story behind Surf Collective?
We were inspired to launch Surf Collective with a very simple, clear ambition… to promote and support smaller, independent Aussie surf brands. Our purpose is to provide these brands a greater voice, by connecting them to each other in one place, so customers all over the world can more easily find them. We’d noticed a number of small surf brands at local markets with some really amazing products. And whilst most had their own website, they struggled to reach critical mass and move beyond being a side gig. So at the end of 2015 we launched with just 12 small brands and now, less than 2 years later, have over 75 brands on board – across fashion, art, jewellery and hardware.
There certainly seems to be more smaller independent surf brands on the scene these days – have you seen a shift in the surf industry with more of these brands emerging? Or are we just more aware of them now?
I believe there are more of these smaller independent surf brands these days and hopefully we are contributing to people being more aware of them too! Technology such as the web and e-commerce have certainly helped budding entrepreneurs cost effectively get their businesses off the ground and into distant markets. Culturally too, people have changed. There is increasing consumer interest in an organisation’s philosophy – where their products are made, what environmental impact they have, what the quality is like and how profits are utilised. You only have to look at the growing popularity of Farmers’ markets around Australia to see evidence of this.
Do you think the average surfer is increasingly looking to support and engage with smaller brands these days?
I do…though not necessarily because the brands are small but because of what they are motivated by. The ‘average surfer’, like most people, wants to feel engaged and enjoy an emotional connection with a brand. To feel appreciated as a customer and know there is an interesting story behind the brand…that they care not just about making a profit but in making a difference. As companies grow they often lose sight of why they started in the first place – though Patagonia is a powerful exception to the rule! We’d like to think that as our collective grows, we will remain true to our
original brand ambition.
Not only does Surf Collective support independent brands, but you’re also encouraging the next generation of entrepreneurs – can you tell us about your high school initiative?
Sure. Last year we approached our local high school, Barrenjoey High, and proposed a way we could help bring a subject to life for their students. The school was very receptive to the idea and suggested the Year 10 Business Studies class would be ideal. So we had the kids develop ideas for a surf-related product together with a marketing and business plan, with $2,000 up for grabs for the winner, to help bring his/her product to market. Some worked in a group and others individually. I spent some time in a few of the classes providing feedback before we put the kids in front of our
very own ‘Shark-Tank’ – a few of our local brand guys – to pitch their ideas. The eventual winner presented a great idea to recycle unwanted skateboard decks and convert them into wax combs – clever and environmentally responsible! We’re going to promote her idea on our website and in our retail collab, the Sneaky Grind Café, in Avalon Beach. The winner plans to make other products under her company, ‘The Coastal Upcycling Co. The program was so successful in engaging the kids
in their studies that we’re going to be repeating it next year!
You recently partnered with us to help fund our recent expedition to Cape York to remove over 7 tonnes of marine debris off a remote beach – why did Surf Collective want to be involved in this trip?
We just love what you guys are doing and we want to support causes that are close to our hearts and aligned with our brand philosophy. You’ve done an amazing job and we know it’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the potential you have for meaningful change.
What can we expect to see next with Surf Collective?
We will continue to provide an online platform and new ways to support and promote our collective of amazing, independent brands. Each has a great story with products uniquely different to the mainstream offering. Our aim is to make more people aware of these brands and provide an easy
way to discover them. We’ll be doing more markets and events this coming summer and we’re also looking into some pop-up stores!
You can explore Surf Collective’s range of independent surf brands on their website: www.surfcollective.com.au