Australian label The People Vs directors Benny Turner and Heath Mawson discuss the brand's history, expansion and future in the fast growing streetwear category.
Tell me about the early foundations of People Vs. What prompted you to launch the business and how did you secure your first accounts?
The People Vs is the story of the streets and the people who occupy them. We are a voice for the anti-establishment, creating vintage inspired streetwear for the moment.
Our dream was first born back in 2012 with a small boutique space in Seminyak, Bali.
In those early years, we trawled opp-shops for our vintage favourites and spent countless hours in wash houses perfecting the signature holes and destroyed detailing we have become renowned for.
We never had any intention to wholesale the brand, but store owners started discovering our wears through holidaying in Bali. Despite our early resistance we initially began stocking some smaller boutiques and our first major stockist in Australia was General Pants Co - who we continue to service exclusively to this day.
We relocated the operation to Sydney in late 2014 and now have a creative base in Sydney and New York City.
What were the biggest challenges you encountered in growing the business in the early days?
When we first launched the global streetwear movement was on the rise, but was solidly driven by the athleticia and jogger pant movement, something us and our mates just couldn’t personally connect with.
We were 90’s kids brought up on heavy doses of art, rock, hip hop & surf punk nostalgia.
We just wanted to wear our vintage tees, ripped jeans, beaten cons so figured f**k it.
If we can’t find it then let's just make our own. If we want to wear it, then surely others do too. And so the foundations of our brand was formed and the journey began.
What were some of the major breakthroughs?
As a brand and creative you are always looking for that sense of individualism to set you apart from the rest.
Rock is timeless. The aesthetic of our vintage-inspired unisex garments lended itself effortlessly to both guys and girls.
By sticking to our brands purpose, a focus on product and the people we surrounded ourselves with we were lucky to be at the forefront of the distressed movement and carved a niche by being renowned for our signature destroyed looks.
We take an anti-marketing approach to everything we do! We are young and continue to grow with every collection, but never look over our shoulder at what others locally are doing.
Our focus has always been on the sense of individualism, creating something bigger than just clothes but a youth movement and achieving the cult status like that of the Parisian and LA designer labels have done in the past.
We now have our own flagship stores and key major stockists across Australia, New Zealand, Japan and United States with the best yet to come.
What was the steepest learning curve you encountered in growing the business?
Surround yourself with good people who are aligned with the same vision as you & who believe in your purpose.
How is the brand funded?
We are self-funded. Everything cent we make goes back into feeding our rapid growth. The success and failures rest solely on the heads of us as Directors and it fuels us daily to achieve more for one another.
What was the initial expansion strategy and at what point did the brand expand?
To be honest we never really had an expansion strategy. Our goal was always to take our time, to get it right in our backyard first and create the foundations for our brand to mean something for the next Decade to come.
The People Vs was always destined to be a movement rather than just a clothing label, with our threads being a complement to the brands DNA evolving with each collection.
If anything we have forced ourselves to keep the brakes on growing too quickly, implementing a strategy of managed growth.
Every garment we make is made in strict numbers and individually distressed and receives our unique boutique laundering process. This is timely on production but the finished product is always something we will forever be proud of.
What are the best performing lines?
Our 90s inspired destroyed denim selections, supersoft rayon shirting & our moth distressed jersey.
How do you approach production?
Hit and hope. Our production team travels to Indonesia every six weeks and we keep a firm eye on every stage of the production process.
Let's talk online commerce. How do you approach this area? Is it a substantial part of the business?
Our online platforms are the vessels for our expression of anti-establishment, and allow us to curate in an depth look into our The People Vs world.
We release a limited edition capsule collection and campaign every month, curated with a unique selection of head-to-toe selections with seasonal yardage and graphic prints all made in strict limited numbers.
Organically its created a sense of demand with people often missing out on sizes and styles, so we have continually returning customers ensuring the next sale.
Online has allowed us to reach all corners of the globe with our wears and our e-commece continues to grow as our fasting expanding channel.
What about bricks and mortar? How many stores do you have?
In the past two years we have launched three The People Vs. Flagship Stores in Bondi Beach, Cronulla & Seminyak Bali. With plans for more in the year to come.
Each flagship is individually curated as a showroom to our brand and to house our entire seasonal collections.
We host international pop-up brands at the flagships and also curate a bespoke selection of vintage-shirts customised and imported from the States, as well as hand-selected accessories, eyewear, boots and leathergoods from our friends labels too.
Is it a major focus for the business?
Definitely. In this day and age you need a balance of successful online, flagships & wholesale business to thrive. We still trip out when we see people in our wears be it the faithful or the famous.
Where do you generate most sales? Online, in-store, General Pants?
We have a 50/50 balance of vertical to wholesale business.
What are some of the growth plans ahead?
The expansion of our new destroyed denim capsule. More trips to Bali. More Art. More Installations. More Parties. Another Australian Flagship. Our new bespoke jewellery and suede boot collection.
A collaboration with our favourite psych-rock band and a few other International brands in the works. Most importantly 2018 sees our offical launch of distribution of The People Vs into the USA.