Aidan Clarke, Co-founder, 2XU and SA1NT
The Power of Great Product
How Aidan Clarke grew global brands 2XU and Saint by prioritizing product.
In a market saturated with quick, cheap fashion, building a high-quality, global apparel empire was not an easy feat—but in 13 short years, Aidan Clarke paved a way.
It took a lot of dedication, but Clarke was determined to make a game-changing clothing company. Clarke decided early on that he doesn’t care about how his apparel looks, as much as he cares about its quality, and that commitment has paid off in a big way.
His first and primary brand, 2XU, is based on the idea of making high-performance athletic wear, with a focus on unique, custom-engineered materials first. This approach and the resulting success would lead him to his second brand, Saint, which takes that same emphasis on materials and applies it to safety gear for motorcyclists.
The funny thing is, by focusing on high-end users and materials, Clarke’s companies ended up creating products that have much broader appeal than the initial target audiences, branching out into athleisure, workwear, and potentially even streetwear for skateboarders.
Through these two brands, Clarke has found a way to sell products that look good and perform well—and outfit consumers in over 60 countries.
From Door-to-Door Sales to 2 Worldwide Brands
Clarke got his first taste of the clothing business at just 18. As he was preparing for a school dance, he took a second glance at the neckties he and his friends were buying. A young entrepreneur’s mind started crunching numbers and realized that the fabric only cost $30 per meter, and each meter could make up to seven ties. Yet here he was shelling out almost $100 to purchase just one. “I thought, ‘Hang on, there’s a business here,’” Clarke recalls.
He decided to start making his own ties and selling them door-to-door to businesses in his home of Auckland, New Zealand.
Clarke’s entrepreneurial path didn’t continue in a perfectly linear fashion, a common theme we see among emerging founders. After graduation, he went to college and started a corporate career. His pushed his entrepreneurial passions to the back of his mind, but not for long.
“I ironically landed back in clothing,” Clarke says. “I’d grown up around seamstresses and saw the value-add of clothing.”
Clarke started his first apparel brand 2XU in Melbourne in 2005 and moved his family there soon after. He spent the following five years on a plane building 2XU into a multinational business reaching more than 60 countries.
Why Melbourne? Clarke and his team had received a significant amount of startup funding, and their investor was based in Melbourne. The Australian market for 2XU was also better than in New Zealand. “We spotted an opportunity. New Zealand had lots of local sports brands, but Australia ironically didn’t,” Clarke says. “We wanted to take on the big boys.”
2XU started with audacious goals. Clarke and his team wanted 2XU to be uniquely performance-focused, so they spent the entire first year developing fabrics for their apparel, before creating their product. “You can either buy fabric or focus on quality,” Clarke says. “We said, ‘Hey, we want to change the fabric.’”
With millions in seed capital, they were able to spend ample time and resources on fabric development. Eventually, their warehouse became so full that they had to start selling their product.
Clarke and his team did wholesale and direct sales at the same time. While most clothing brands avoid direct sales so as to not compete with wholesalers, 2XU opened its first retail store to prove they could sell premium, expensive sportswear in Australia. “Selling at our own store motivated retailers to accept products,” Clarke says. “Having our own hero shop drove demand for wholesale.”
The team also visited both retail and special sports stores. Selling next to well-established international brands was difficult, but they pressed on. Their first major sale was to a now-closed triathlon store that purchased the entire 2XU line for over $3,500.
Another significant sale Clarke remembers was to Rebel Sport, a major retail chain in Australia and New Zealand. “Needless to say, we had a few drinks that night,” he says, laughing.
Clarke’s next step for expanding 2XU was finding ambassadors and distributors. But that wasn’t always easy. “Trusting someone with your brand is like a glorified babysitter,” Clarke says. “You have to find someone with the same passion to sell your story.”
He found that the best thing about distribution is how it taps into local knowledge and expertise. The 2XU team worked hard to find passionate brand ambassadors and people to accurately represent 2XU brand in each country. In doing so, they found mostly nontraditional distributors: athletes.
“It was a big risk, but passion is the right of way,” Clarke says. Over time, some distributors scaled with 2XU operations, and some were replaced by commercial operations.
In the following years, 2XU celebrated two major equity events. In 2011, a local company bought 30 percent of the company. Next, the capital arm of Louis Vuitton discovered the brand and bought in at 40 percent, a significant valuation for 2XU.
Since then, 2XU has scaled up and hired corporate CEOs to run the company. “The challenge we face, though, is how to still act like a small business…an underdog,” Clarke says. “We used to say, ‘By athletes, for athletes,’ but we can’t say that anymore.”
But at the end of the day, the 2XU product is “still sensational.” It’s been well-received at the professional and Olympics level and is very much considered a premium brand. In the United States, it’s worn by the NBA, NFL, and even Navy Seals.
In other places, 2XU apparel has become an athleisure staple. “You don’t have to be a world champion to still want quality,” Clarke says.
After getting 2XU settled, Clarke pulled back and spent a “non-executive year” focused on himself and his health. One day, while riding bikes with his co-founder, he came up with what would become his next big idea—a new form of safety apparel for motorcyclists.
The idea sounded simple, but as the duo dove into R&D, they realized creating this type of product would require a significant commitment. “It cost us a couple million dollars after a couple years,” Clarke says. This effort would go on to become Saint, Clarke’s second global clothing brand.
Their goal was to create a single-layer safety product—ensuring a flexible, comfortable riding experience—that wouldn’t rip or tear if someone fell off their motorcycle. The global “slide time” standard for the fabric on these products (which defines the amount of time that a fabric should withstand sliding across an abrasive surface, such as pavement, before it tears) is four seconds, and they’re routinely tested in facilities equipped with spinning disks of sandpaper that replicate sliding on the street.
Their first fabric lasted 3.67 seconds before ripping—just short of the standard but still much longer than any other single-layer fabric. After continual development, Clarke’s fabric now lasts almost six seconds.
This single idea helped Clarke and his brand break into work clothes and other tough lifestyle applications.
They’ve since patented their super-durable fabric, which involves a unique material spun into the yarn. “As for workwear, no one can do what we’ve done,” Clarke says. “It’s nice to have the IP protection.”
Premium Product > Price
Both of Clarke’s businesses, 2XU and Saint, lead with a premium product line. And there’s a reason for that. “People often lead with price,” Clarke says. “That’s a lazy way to sell. Product is king.”
Some clothing retailers also find themselves tempted to sell their products relying on aesthetics alone, but not Clarke. “Rather than being a fashion brand, I’d rather be an authentic motorcycle brand with tough products…that also look good,” he says about Saint.
Instead of encouraging people to “buy because it’s cool,” he always wants the dialogue to be, “buy because it’s going to protect you.”
Through both ventures, Clarke aimed to develop a high-quality product, as he believes that is his “greatest value proposition and strong positioning” against competitors. He believes that “if you have an amazing product, you’re not selling—you’re just recommending.”
Of course, selling your product is much easier when other people endorse it. In Clarke’s eyes, strong brands start with a great product or service, get their margins right so they’re profitable, and then create demand. “People think there’s a complexity to business, but there’s also a simplicity,” Clarke says.
How can you create this demand? Clarke relates it to a “chicken and egg” situation. If you create demand before you’re ready to supply and distribute your product, you risk wasting resources because you’re essentially creating demand for competitors. On the other hand, if you develop and supply your product before the demand is there, you risk wasting resources on product that never brings in revenue.
To build demand for your product, Clarke recommends doing so authentically. He and his team often attended sports events and spread the word about 2XU to one person at a time. Those early adopters and advocates would then tell friends. “It’s like a grassroots movement,” Clarke says.
By targeting their market and talking to those who are passionate about what they do, they got authentically involved with communities and built trust in 2XU from the ground up. The same can be done through social communities.
Clarke claims that social media, in fact, is a lot more directed. “The ability to target and generate demand is more focused than ever,” he says. “That’s what’s exciting about today.”
Clarke and his team have made other exciting changes over the years. When they started 2XU, they only had an informational website. They didn’t want to compete with wholesalers through ecommerce sales. Now, ecommerce is one of their biggest and most important channels.
Every business’s website is now the flagship store, at least to begin with, Clarke says. People form their judgments about your products very quickly, and you’ve got to have your website synchronized with the products you’re offering in the real world.
The Future of Saint and 2XU
Looking ahead, Clarke is excited for the futures of both 2XU and Saint. The brands are at different stages, but they both sell high-quality product and are both in growth mode, as Clarke calls it. His primary growth measure isn’t from a focus on sales numbers—it’s from a focus on communities.
“Saint is a rocketship about to take off,” Clarke says. “It’s five times tougher than standard workwear.” The brand has even had inquiries about street fashion and safety gear for skateboarders and other action sports.
As for 2XU, Clarke says that seeing more and more people discover the brand is exciting.
To other entrepreneurs, Clarke encourages “passion, tenacity, resilience, and a belief in yourself.” He highly encourages those in the clothing business to focus on quality. “Cheap fashion is too hard a place to play,” he says. “It’s not unique enough.”
When you have a unique space and unique selling proposition, you have a better chance of selling your product—or having it sell itself. Clarke is also adamant about using brand ambassadors to create a movement and conversation around your products or services.
“The tough thing about clothing is that scalability is hard,” Clarke says. Small businesses often buy too much stock, but Clarke encourages the opposite—pay more to make fewer units and sell them up.
In his opinion, it’s better to scale yourself up. Too much stock can put clothing brands in a hard place. Unlike the whiskey business, apparel product is worth less and less every year.
At the end of the day, Clarke reminds brands and entrepreneurs to prepare themselves for the road ahead. “It’s a tough game,” he says. “Just believe in yourself, be resilient, and keep pushing.”
- His first job as a teenager selling ties door-to-door
- Why he left his corporate career to start a business in 2005
- All the leg work that went into developing a premium performance clothing brand
- How the internet affected his business
- On raising capital and how he used the funds
- How he and his cofounder came up with the idea for the world’s strongest single-layer denim for motorcyclists
- Why he focuses heavily on performance, not fashion
- Advice for fellow entrepreneurs entering the apparel space
Full Transcript of Podcast with Aidan Clarke
Nathan: The first question I ask everyone that comes on is how did you get your job?
Aiden: How did I get my job? Yeah it’s a mistake. No, I always had a passion for wanting my own business, and really the way I landed in my own companies was, sad to say, my mum passed away, and I had one of those epiphanys going life’s short. And certainly wanted to ensure that rather than just continuing on a corporate career, I gave it a good hard crack. So back in 2005, I started my own business, and I’ve been on a journey ever since.
Nathan: Yeah. So how did you start? Like talk us through that process. Obviously you raised some seed, you got some seed capital. To obviously pay for the stock ’cause that can get expensive during your first run.
Aiden: Yeah. Well, in clothing you’ve got a development pathway. You’ve actually got to develop, in our case, we actually wanted to be uniquely performance focus. We wanted to blow the competition out of the water. We had very audacious goals. So we actually spent probably a year just developing fabrics. So in the clothing industry you can either go along, you can buy a roll of fabric off a big mill. Or you can be a lot more focused on the performance qualities, and actually say hey, we want to change your fabric. We want it to be more denier graded so that has better moisture management. Or we want it to have more power because it’s being used for compression. So as you see, we had startup capital. We developed fabric first, and then we developed products. Often in start up, you’ve got to sell your lot of clothing. Sell it out of the back of a car, gets some money, buy some more, and scale up from there. We had millions. I had a couple of million dollars of seed capital. So we were able to really go to town in development pathway.
But make no mistake at some point, yes the warehouse was full, and we had to sell it. Nothing motivates you as a full warehouse.
Nathan: So did you open up a retail store first? Or you went straight to other retail stores to get them to stock your product and that’s where you were just doing on the road?
Aiden: Started by going to other retail stores, going to the specialist sports stores that may be into running or triathlon and saying, hey, we’ve got something pretty special here. This is what we’ve done. It’s a hard slog because there’re well established international brands. So we actually did open our first store almost concurrently. And the reason we opened at it is we actually wanted to show that you could sell this premium, slightly more expensive performance brand in Australia. I was making a run top at the time, which is incredibly expensive. It was $80. It was totally justifiable. I mean ultimately I believe price point isn’t so relevant as value for money. So if you have something that’s a $40 run top, and it’s a good run top, and you’ve an $80 run top, it doesn’t mean that the 80 one’s not value for money. It just has to have a lot more features to it.
And so that was our motivator, is to explain why we had four fabrics in our run top, and the way it was constructed. And actually show that we can sell it. So selling it in our own store motivated the retailers to go, oh, okay. And then so yeah, having your own performance location, your own hero shop, actually ended up ended up driving some demand back at the wholesale. So it was good to hear.
Nathan: Yeah, interesting. That’s actually a good one. Sometimes when people are starting out, and perhaps they’ve got their first sale. How’d your first sale come along?
Aiden: First sale. I can’t remember the very first sale, but I do remember that the first time going around the Tan, and somebody would be passing my tights and I was like wow. And obviously you get into the Tan now, we have more than Nike there, so it’s been a good feeling. The first really significant sale I remember was a store, was a triathlon store that’s not even open any longer. And I took them through all the wetsuits and I took them for everything, and he just sort of said, I’ll have it all. And I knew in my head that was quite a bit. And it was about a $35,000 sale. So that was exciting. And then there’s moments along your early days where you really … That become quite indelible. And one of them was when we first got an order from Rebel Sport, ’cause it was a massive order. The scale of Rebel. And needless to say that I might have had a few drinks that night.
Nathan: Awesome. So you’ve got your first sale, and one thing I find interesting is sometimes when people are creating physical products per se, whether it is apparel or it’s let’s say a water bottle, obviously with Two Times You, you’ve gone for the more premium positioned product. Sometimes people are afraid to charge at the highest price when you’re getting started. What are your thoughts on that?
Aiden: Look yeah, it’s a good point. Often people lead with price. Price is a lazy way to sell, but it’s the most common way to sell. My belief is product is king, and I want to make the best products because ultimately it gives you the greatest value proposition. And it also gives you a very strong position. To be honest, if you don’t have a great product when you get to the marketing side or something, it’s the best way to kill a bad product. So if you believe in your product, it makes it easy to sell. And to be honest, I think if you’ve got an amazing products, you’re not selling, you’re just recommending. You’d say to people, look you’ve got this option and that option. But really you should be in this because it’s the best.
Or even better, when other people give you third party endorsement. So, I believe that all strong brands start with a great product or service. And then of course you’ve got to make sure that you are at the margins right so you’re actually making money. And you’re gonna make sure that you’re creating demand in the right way. It’s not just spending money on advertising and hoping people will come. There’s obviously a complexity in the business, but there’s also a simplicity to it as well. I think people get it quite complicated. Make a great product, make sure the margin works, and then sell the hell out of it. My advice.
Nathan: And when you talk about creating good demand, in the early days, how did you create that demand? You said that you need to spend a lot of time on the plane, just kind of getting your Bus Dev on?
Nathan: Like please.
Aiden: Look, it’s really important that you get the chicken and egg right. Because if you go and create demand before you’ve got supply or distribution, you’re wasting your money, because you’re creating demand for competitors. So you’ve got to make sure you’re ready to go. And once you’re ready to go, I like grass roots. I like authenticity. I think if you’re going to do sports apparel, you go and turn up at sports events, and you and win your customer base one person at a time. You know with passion. And then those early adopters and advocates tell 10 friends. And I think that the model I’ve used in both Two Times You and Saint although the communities are very different. I’ve got very clean, very lifestyle orientated sportspeople, and bikers. At the end of the day, they’re still passionate about what they do.
And with biking communities, you turn up at some of the rallies and there’s a culture of rock and roll and fun and freedom. But there’s authenticity there as well. And I think getting involved authentically with communities, is a great word of mouth thing. And of course these days you can turbo charge it more than ever with social communities, using social media tools. You can be a lot more directed in terms of your advertising. Once upon a time you put an advert in a magazine and hopefully people will see it. Whereas now I can go to Facebook and go, this is the profile of my customer. This is the geography. I want to talk to them and target. And also decide within hours whether it’s working or not. And change the profile. So your ability to tag it and generate demand is probably more focused than ever. And I think that’s the exciting thing about the world that we live in today.
Nathan: Yeah. And when it came to back in the day, when you were doing Two Times You, how has things changed with the Internet because you’ve had to be quite adaptable to still continue the good brands growth. The retail stores, Amazon, yeah.
Aiden: Look, when I started to be frank, it’s 2005 it’s not that long ago. I didn’t have a website. Oh I had a website for information. I didn’t even have an eCommerce function on it, because I felt that I didn’t want to compete with my wholesalers. There’s that whole stigma back then. People in Australia weren’t really buying online as they were say overseas. So certain markets like the UK had taken off and people are quite comfortable buying clothing. Understanding that if they got the size wrong, they could always return it. I watched it accelerate. For us now it’s becoming our fastest growing channel. This brand scientists is exploded with the Internet, and the Internet’s its biggest channel by a long way. And you’re right, it’s ultimately become your most important store.
Everybody talks about flagships, well everybody’s website’s a flagship to begin with. And you’ve got to consider the fact that people are going to make a judgement pretty quickly on what you’re like as a brand based on your website. And then of course, as you present yourself in stores, and you might have shop in shop concepts, or you have your own locations, they’ve got to be congruent too. And it’s an ongoing challenge because that landscape is changing so quickly. You’ve got massive players like Amazon, and these spy bots running around the world, aggregating prices to the lowest price point. It’s interesting, complex but exciting. And certainly, I don’t think there’s any business these days that wouldn’t probably focus on the eCommerce platform as the most important channel.
Nathan: Yeah, I think that’s where it’s at. Especially for things like apparel. That’s where a lot of people are buying, right?
Aiden: Oh phenomenon.
Nathan: So tell me what happened next. So you said you were on planes for the first, how long?
Aiden: Yeah, I was. Well obviously, in terms of trusting somebody with your brand, it’s like a glorified babysitting. You love your brand. You care about its execution. So you’re going to find somebody that you believe has the passion, positivity and ability to go and tell your story in the country for you. Obviously the great thing about distribution is you using local knowledge, local expertise. People that may have done it before the other brands, or in some instances we just found incredibly passionate people that really had become ambassadors for our brand, that set up companies because they love that so much. And that’s a big risk because they might not have been proven as a distributor. But I’ve got to believe that passion has a right of way.
And some of them I biggest early distributors were extra athletes, and ex-runners, and they would take the brand and do an amazing thing with it. Some of them were able to scale up as it got bigger, and some of them obviously were replaced by more commercial operations. But choosing who was going to represent your brand in a country often took a couple of trips, and I ended up in 66 countries. So you can sort of do the maths.
Nathan: Yeah. So then what happened next? You’re still active in the company but-
Aiden: Yeah. Obviously 13 years down the track. We’ve had two equity events along the way. In 2011 a local equity company, Lazard, was actually run by a local entrepreneur, and it’s licenced out of New York. They bought into our business, bought 30%, and that was nice to have a little bit of capital to do some more stores, and to grow faster. And also to take a little bit of money off the table, because it had been a big sacrifice before that. And then quite surprisingly, within a couple of years, Louis Vuitton’s, capital M, el capital, had actually been down in Australia buying a share in RM Williams. And wonder what all those types with the Exxon were running around the Tan. And quite literally discovered the brand and discovered our story, and bought in 40%. And that was at a significant valuation and it was a big event. And then over the last three or four years we’ve tried to scale up, bring in corporate CEO’s.
The challenge is always ensuring you still act like a small business. You still act like an underdog as you scale up for bigger aspirations. And that’s come with some challenges. But at the end of the day, our product’s still sensational. We still have an incredible uptake, that sort of Olympic and World Champion level. We’re very much a premium brand. We used to say, by athletes for athletes. But in places like Oslo and Melbourne, it’s managed to trickle down and it’s become athleisure. There’s moms hopping out of Range Rovers with their Two Times You pants on. They might not be real champions, but they want quality and they’ve come to the brand. So in some elements has become almost household. And many countries in the world it’s actually very much a performance branch. And African America, the NBA teams all buy it, ’cause we can’t sponsor them. The NFL, most of the NFL teams buy it. We sell to the Navy SEALS, like it’s very elite. And a lot of people don’t know about it. But the opportunity obviously is to do what we’ve done in places like Melbourne.
Nathan: Yeah. Amazing. It’s incredible how fast you’ve grown the brand. Because I’ve really seen it start to pop up as I’ve got older over the past five to seven years amongst the millennials and especially the females.
Aiden: Yeah. Yeah. Look, ironically when we launched, we were seen as a very masculine brand. You know, very-
Nathan: I think of it as a female, yeah.
Aiden: Me too now. And I think the guys that really rationalise the performance elements of products and so forth, really loved it. But as we’ve progressed, because the product is so powerful, it does some amazing things physiologically in terms of the compression, but it’s also very flattering. And because all our tights have got a lot of black in them, I think it’s been quite fascinating how it’s been adopted by fashion. I mean I’ve seen people walking down the street with a fashion top and a pair of heels on and my compression top. Didn’t expect that but I’ll take the sale.
Nathan: Amazing. So tell me about Saint. What happened next? One thing that I think is key when it comes to building a successful business and to continue the growth of that business is focus. And now your next company. Tell me how do you juggle that. And at what the point? Yeah.
Aiden: It was bizarrely logical. I sort of pulled back a little bit from Two Times You in terms of taking a breather. Was non-executive for a year, and decided to try and lose some weight because all these time on planes and eating meals. So in often trained for a while and rode my bikes and things. And I was riding my bike one day with my co-founder, and we were sort of commenting on … It was a hot Melbourne Day. The tarmac was sticky it was so hot. And we actually thought, hey, hang on, we’ve actually got an opportunity here potentially to create something that isn’t a leather, that is safe, that could be nice in a hot environment. So we sort of hit a couple of beers afterwards and we had a chat about what we can do.
And that really lead to the idea of Saint, which was can we create a single layer safety product? It wasn’t necessarily denim. We were happy to go and look at the marketplace and look at all the different yards and opportunity. And we came across some people doing products that weren’t quite at a CE level. The CEs are four second ratings sliding down the road. And so what we decided to do was experiment more R&D, changed the structure of the yarns. It sounded simple. Let’s make a single layer safety product. That safety denim ended up costing us a couple of million dollars and a couple of years. But we ended up with a proprietary fabric, which the first one was 3.67 seconds of slide time. So it didn’t quite nail the four seconds.
Nathan: When you say slide time, what do you mean sorry?
Aiden: So the way they test a motorcycle gamut, is its ability to slide down the road if you come off the bike.
Aiden: So if things go random and you’ve come off on a corner or whatever, as you’re sliding along the tarmac, the first thing you don’t want to do is actually have your material rip, ’cause then you lose skin. And whilst bruises and broken bones heal quite quickly, skin graphs are forever. So most people wear leathers and leathers are very tough. So there’s a testing facility up in Europe and many of them, and they’ll literally have a spinning disc, which is like coarse sandpaper. They’ve got a ram that comes down under a certain amount of pressure, and it replicates sliding on tarmac, and you’ve got to have your fabric lasts for 4 seconds before it rips. Actually count out four seconds of sliding down the road, it’s a long time. But if you’re travelling fast you’ll do it.
Our first fabric was 3.67 seconds before it ripped. Almost there, really exciting, like nobody expected a single layer to do that. But then we kept on persevering and changing the way it structures and so forth. We’ve now got fabrics. This fabric here can slide down the road for 5.9 seconds before it rips. And we’ve gone so far as convinced stunt men to be dragged behind motorbikes, and we’ve got some videos we can show you. And we did six passes of about 30 metres, at 65 kilometres an hour before it ripped, in real world testing ourselves. So it’s pretty exciting. And we’ve had unfortunately a lot of our customers that come off over the last three or four years, and we’ve had a lot of real world examples where they’d say, you saved my life. I slid down the four or five in LA, and my pants didn’t rip. And even when the paramedics came to check on me, they wanted to cut them off. They can hardly cut them with the scissors. It’s like yeah, we know. So yeah, very exciting. So that was the development pathway on fabric.
Obviously by creating that proprietary fabric, it then set us up to get into work wear and to other tough lifestyle applications. And that’s where we’re pretty excited today, because there’s a lot of opportunity.
Nathan: Yup. And when it comes to the fabric, have you patented it? That fabric?
Aiden: Yup. Yup. So whilst there’s a couple of other brands now have used the motorcycle fabric, we’ve patented the work wear application because we actually did something quite unique in the way we spun our very tough Dyneema, which is a polyethylene. We spun that into the yarn. So we’ve actually created a patient registration, and it’s in its second year and it’s well established. So when it comes to work wear, nobody can do what we’ve done. So that’s nice to have some IP protection on a innovation.
Nathan: So yeah that’s something that I find really interesting, is I can see the similarities between the two brands. Two Times You and the Saint. You’re using, I guess the fabrics and the material as your unique selling proposition. Sometimes when people create physical products or apparel brands, it’s kind of the style or the fashion or the design or the unique way that they’ve kind of designed each garment. But you’ve kind of always like … Is that a fair kind of analysis?
Aiden: Make no mistake if it doesn’t look good, people won’t buy it.
Nathan: Of course. Of course.
Aiden: The fact that our tights are flattering or fact that some of the same stuff looks pretty cool and timeless, is very thoughtful. But I don’t market on that platform. I’m marketing on a platform of performance. And so you’re absolutely right. Whilst the customers and the cultures, either end of the spectrum, with the rock and roll and tattoos and we’ve got healthy athletes, at the end of the day the formula’s the same. And that is to focus on the performance difference of the fabric and the product, and talk about that ’cause I feel that that creates clear air space. When I started Two Times You, a lot of the sports brands were showing DJs in the clothing. I wanted to talk about being a performance brand, and focusing on performance language. And that was at the time very clear air space.
And once again I’d rather being another sort of fashion brand inspired by motorcycles. I want to be authentically a protective motorcycle brand, with tough products that happen to look good. And so, like I said, make no mistake. I do have very clear for people making sure the design is good, but I don’t dare say why don’t you buy this jacket ’cause it’s cool. I said buy it ’cause it’s going to protect you.
Nathan: Yeah, so you don’t lead with it. Yeah. And I think that’s really interesting. So for anyone starting out perhaps that would want to start a fashion or apparel company or brand, what would your recommendation and advice be? Let’s say they don’t have kind of a proven track record, and they probably would struggle to raise seed capital or any form of capital. What would you say? How would you say to get started?
Aiden: Thinking about it. I honestly look, if you’ve got the passion and the tenacity and the resilience to do something and you believe in yourself, then that’s a great place to start. When it comes to something like clothing, I would say make sure that you focus on quality. At the end of the day, cheap fashion’s too hard a place to play ’cause it’s not unique enough. So if you’ve got a design skill, fantastic. If you can do something unique, that’s fantastic. If there’s a market place demand that you’re aware of that’s not being catered to. I always try to find a unique space because you can find a unique selling proposition, you’ve got more chance of selling, right? Bring ambassadors along on the journey. Make sure you get every friend and family member and everyone you can get, you get NGO community on board because you need to create a movement. You need to create people talking about things.
The tough thing about clothing as the scalability of it. When you’re small, you can’t negotiate good prices. So you’ve gotta be very careful. You’ve also gonna be careful of buying too much stock. The biggest mistake I always see is somebody goes, well of creditor and amazing hyper colour t-shirt, and I’m going to buy 10,000 of them and sell them all. And then, three years later they’ve got 9,900 of them, and they’ve got to dump them. I would scale up. I would pay a little bit more and make 50 units and sell them, especially if you don’t have capital. And scale yourself up, because one of the things that catches a lot of clothing brands out is stock, and in the ageing stock, because unlike … My mate here has a whiskey business. His ageing stocks’ a good problem. Every year it’s worth more. Clothing’s not like that. Every season it’s worthless.
So that would definitely be some advice I’d have. And I think that, one of the things too is don’t necessarily reinvent the wheel. Sometimes there’s a lot of things you can do. If for instance, you think you’ve got to create all these new blocks, go and find the best fitting block in your industry. If you happen to, I don’t know, you’re going to do dance. And there’s a fantastic dance brand and they’ve got a great block. Start with that. Obviously do your embellishments, but a lot of people want to start things from scratch, and that’s going to take a huge amount of time and money. But it’s a tough game. And the main thing I can say in all of it is just believe in yourself and be resilient. Keep pushing. It’s tough getting off the ground and it’s the first couple of years of getting yourself to that breakeven that’s the toughest. So set yourself up for success by realising just how big the task is to begin with.
Nathan: Amazing. And we’ll work towards wrapping up. When it comes to what’s next for Two Times You and Saint, would you be able to share? What are you really excited about at the moment?
Aiden: Look, both brands I mean … Saint’s exciting ’cause it’s a rocket ship about the takeoff. We’re seeing phenomenal growth in our work wear. We’ve got a tough product that’s five times tougher than standard work wear, and builders and labourers and everyone’s coming across it, and it’s selling really, really well. We were already getting inquiry into the sort of fashion world of street fashion, where skateboarders and B-mixes are going, wow, that looks cool but I’m not going to rip when it come off it. So Saint is super exciting, and it has a massive opportunity, motorcycle as well.
In Two Times You, we also had some isolated success route. It does incredibly well in pockets around the world. It still hasn’t become a global brand. So just seeing people discover the product and love the product is exciting. So although they’re at different stages, they’re still very much in growth mode, and I’d love to see them continue to make great product, and have more people in them. Like I don’t focus on the sales numbers. I focus on the communities that are in it. And when I see a marketplace where we don’t have momentum, I see a massive opportunity.
Nathan: Amazing. And I have to ask you, how do you work out how to divide your time between the companies? Do you do … I read things like Jack Dorsey, between Twitter and Square, he does Mondays, Tuesdays for Twitter, and then Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays for Square. How do you work that out? Or you do product day Monday, marketing day Tuesday. How do you work it out?
Aiden: Look at the moment I’m definitely spending a lot more time at Two Times You because there’s some real opportunity to reset the business. But yeah, I’ve sort of in the last couple of years, pretty much drifted between the two. And it’s usually days of the week. Sort of block block meetings together. So you can obviously get a lot done in one business. Luckily the businesses aren’t too far apart here, both here in Melbourne. And of course email being what it is, you can be working on two inboxes at any times. And to be frank, a lot of the challenges, a lot of the people challenges, the customer challenges, they’re all the same. So it’s kind of quite interchangeable. I do have to check myself sometimes if I’m talking about Saint, I say Two Times You and of course it’s very silly.
Nathan: Awesome. Well look, thank you so much for your time. Aiden. Last question. Where’s the best place people can find out more about both of your brands?
Aiden: Websites. We said it before. You want to see the videos. And I think social media and websites is probably where you can start and educate yourself on both brands.
Nathan: Awesome. Well, thank you so much mate.
Aiden: My pleasure.