How does one begin a story about their life? For this we are going to go back to the very humble beginnings of a young kid with big ambitions.
Growing up we moved around a lot, from Newman, WA to Biloela, QLD then Papua New Guinea in the small village of Tabubil before we settled in the small beach town of Yeppoon, QLD.
Throughout school I was always interested in art and history, nothing else mattered. I was terrible at maths and english wasn't my best subject. But art was my one escape from the world. To be able to sit there in peace and draw my wildest fantasies was a dream for me.
I dropped out of school in grade 10 and worked 5 days a week as an apprentice tattooist in my small town of Yeppoon, and the other 2 days I would work in my fathers mine driving Moxys (mining dump trucks) from 6am till 6pm. It was hard work for such a young kid, not having any days off to spend with your friends. But with the apprenticeship not giving me an income it was the only option I had.
I ended up leaving the tattoo shop on good terms, and decided i needed to continue with my art/design career. I ended up working full time at the mine to get enough money to move to the big city of Brisbane. Now moving from a town that has only 2 high schools and a main street the stretch of 2 small blocks, to the big city was a daunting time for a 16 year old.
I suppose I should include the story of why I moved to Brisbane, it all started when my father was on a flight back to Yeppoon from Brisbane, when he sat next to a gentlemen that would later change my life. His name was Aaron. He is the founder of the large clothing label Bullzye. Now this is a crazy coincidence story. My father told Aaron what I was doing with the tattoo apprenticeship and how I have always loved clothing and design. This is where it gets interesting, The next day I was telling my girlfriend about this and thought nothing of it, until the next week when a man who just moved to the neighbourhood of my partner come to their house to introduce himself and his family and have dinner. They had no idea this was the same man my father had spoken to until he started telling them about how he had met this gentleman on the plane and his son was interested in design and clothing and how he wanted to meet me but had no way of finding out who I was. At this point my girlfriend, shocked, asked what this mans name was and he said Peter Weaven. My girlfriend and her family couldn't believe it and text me straight away getting me to send photos of my designs to this man. In more of a coincidence he had bought my mothers best friends house. If this wasn't a sign then I don't know what is. I then went and had a meeting with Aaron and he explained how he got to where he is by doing a graphic design degree in Brisbane. He gave me many other helpful tips but thats a story for separate blog I will be writing about.
The day I arrived in Brisbane I had no place to live and only a suitcase full of clothing. No books, no computer, nothing. I was living out of a hotel room next to my Tafe.
Luckily my mother had been with me helping get a place to rent and buy all the Tafe items I needed whilst I was learning. I ended up moving in with 2 women who were good family friends. I ended the course passing with flying colours and was on my way to the next step in this crazy career.
My next step was finding out what I really wanted to do. On one hand I could either go work for a graphic design company or I could go do a course in fashion. I chose neither, I realised i wanted to start my own business. Be my own boss. And thats exactly what I did, with the help of my father for the business side and with mother consulting on the fashion side I was off. There was no stopping me. The first step was finding a niche in the market. My particular style developed from not being able to find clothing that would fit me and not need to be tailored. So I created polos that are tailored for a slim body, shirts that have darts in the back and a whole collection around european tailoring. I now needed some style into this. My favourite styles are nautical and vintage. Why not blend them? Nautical feel with subtle european and americana influence was born.
That was the easy step. The hardest was yet to come, I now needed to either go small and hand make these garments, sell them at a higher price point, at local markets and online. Or I could go big, take a gamble and mass manufacture a small but complete collection. I chose the latter.
Now that i had my whole idea, I knew which direction I was heading this ship and there was no stopping me, until it came to finding a manufacturer. You will never truely know frustration until you try manufacture small collections at companies who manufacture clothing for brands like Nike and H&M. Your just a mere fish in a otherwise vast ocean. You want 500 T-Shirts made, you will be laughed out of the meeting so fast. This was the case for me when I eventually journeyed on overseas looking for a partner.
I should back up a little and explain how we eventually found a country to make our clothing in and how we found contacts.
Once again this story involves my father. He used to work at a mine many years ago with a man named John. Now, they are good friends but have not caught up for a long time. He found out that John was working in Indonesia running many different things but mainly a piggery. After contacting him and explaining what I was venturing into, he was more then happy to help. Turns out his business partner owned a golf glove manufacturing facility. This was great news as they would be interested in making small quantities of garments. He also put us in contact with another lady who was in the business of being a manufacturing consultant who had all the factories contacts. She is vital to this story, but ill get to that.
So off we headed to Indonesia, Jakarta. We stayed at a beautiful hotel and began our day sourcing factory after factory with the second woman i mentioned above. She had taken us to at least seven different factories the first day and more the second. Out of all the factories there was only one that was truely interested in making my garments at a small but still high quantity for me.
We then had a meeting with the woman who owned the golf glove facility and her business and logistics partner. They told me they would make all my designs for a good price and also in the quantities that we could manage. Of course hearing this news you get on a high, your dream is about to be fullfiled and this lady can help you do it. But we were unfortunately to blinded to see the truth. She didn't have any experience in clothing, she would have had to buy all new machines and hire more staff. She just was not set up and did not have the expertise to pull off a quality collection such as ours. We ended up going with her though, got the designs and sourced the fabrics. Once we had come back from signing the contracts and going through the whole process we came down from the high and got snapped back into reality when we realised that this risk was one just not worth pursuing. This one unfortunately was going to be to costly and there was too many obsticals that could not be avoided, and unfortunatley as business goes we had to terminate our contract.
Back to square one. We needed to now find a new partner ASAP and that is where the first lady who had taken us to all the factories comes into play. There was one factory she had shown us that was willing to make the clothing for us but at a larger quantity and that would mean a smaller range of clothing. But there was no other option at this time and this was the best way to break into the market. I emailed there marketing manager Dhona. Unfortunately as it happens just after our visit they had shut there company down and Dhona was left without a job. Now, she has more experience in the fashion manufacturing industry then most people. She has the contacts and the know how between logistics and design to produce a whole collection. She to date has been the companies most valuable asset. We ended up partnering with her to be my Indonesian consultant and she helped put us in contact with, who would later become another valuable asset, Dandy. He handled all of the design process from making sure the quality control was up to standard and making sure they have the correct fits. We then set up to once again go over to Indonesia and have more meetings this time set up by Dhona. She set us up with more boutique style companies who could lower the quantities but at a little higher price. This was fine for us as we wanted to produce lower quantities to stay on trend faster.
After three days of searching for factories, we ended up partnering with two companies. The first company was in the district of Cikampek. They are a Japanese manufacture who have class 1 Oeko-Tex certification and also run there own fabric mill facility in the same complex, all of there fabric is imported from Spain. They produced all of our knitwear from our T-Shirts to Polos.
The next factory was in the city of Bogor. They are a Chinese manufacture who produced all of our woven items, including Shirts to Chinos. They also have class 1 Oeko-Tex certification. They do import their own fabrics from mills of there choosing but we could not find any fabric that we needed there.
For the woven fabrics we journey to the city of Bandung. There we had chosen and payed for all of our woven fabrics. This process was a lot harder as it required us having to get the fabrics couriered to the factory in Bogor. Being in Australia and not being able to control this process 100% was difficult. But in the end it all worked out successfully. During the time of selecting manufacturing facilities we also had to select factories for which our accessories will be produced. For our zippers we partnered with the largest Zipper company in the world, YKK. Meeting with them was very surreal and they could not have been more accommodating even for a small company such as my own. For our buttons we partnered with the largest button factory in southeast asia, Indobutton. They made all of our buttons from Polos to Chinos. They were also very accomidating in making this process easy for me. We then had to get a factory to make our plastic bags to put the clothing in, then a factory to make the cardboard boxes and a factory to make all of our clothing tags. So there are many different processes that can and will go wrong.
The way this works with the factories and accessory is you get the fabric to the main factory and do an FOB order, meaning the factories, based on your quantity will order the buttons they need for each garment and pay for this themselves, ultimately you pay for this in your down payments to the main factories but they handle this whole process completely.
Next step was to figure out the logistics of how to get the clothing here. In yet another coincidence with my father. He knew a woman who was working with him in the mining business regarding the logistic side for Queensland nickel. She had left that job a while back and started working for a freight company that does business worldwide. I ended up contacting her and getting some information about shipping, turns out that company is in the building and more specifically the floor of offices that look into my balcony. There cannot be any more signs that point to this being my destiny. I ended up going with another two shipping companies who were very helpful in getting the relevant paperwork for both Indonesia and Australian customs. Don't forget to have a COO (certification of origin) or you'll be looking at a hefty fee when customs send you the bill!
Once the garments finally arrived in the container at my warehouse that was the biggest weight lifted off my shoulders. But I could only relax for a second as now it was time to count all the stock. Not a fun job. Luckily my amazing girlfriend and mother helped me with this process. Any help you can get is highly recommended for succeeding in business.
Now there is so much i wanted to say in here but that would add a massive length to an all ready long story. I will be posting blogs on how the design process goes and how we done it the first time and more depth on how the manufacturing process works so always be looking for our social media pages @joeweaven to get updates on these pages!
I hope telling my story on how and why I started a clothing business can inspire and help others achieve their dreams. Because if I can do it at only 18 - 19 years old anyone can do it. You just need the right attitude and drive to get you there. I do not have a degree in fashion and I do not have a degree in business, these are things I have learnt along the way.
So go out an achieve your dream!