Designer Interview Series: Zanerobe
Posted: Jun 23 2015
The Boys'Co team recently visited Liam Maynard at Noble Gentlemen to discover the origins, inspiration, and future direction of Australian street-wear brand: Zanerobe.
Noble Gentlemen are the official distributors of Zanerobe in Canada and gave us an inside look at the Aussie brand.
What is the origin behind the name Zanerobe?
Zanerobe has 2 parts. It started with an Aussie and a Kiwi (New Zealander) who used to be big tech software guys down in Sydney. One day they were there crushing beers down at the harbour and saw this really pretty girl walking with douche-y guys that were dressed poorly. And the Aussie was like “How does a guy like that, wearing that, get a girl like that?” The Kiwi replied, “What, do you think you can make something better?” And the Aussie said “Yeah!”.
So [Leith (the Aussie)] created a ¾ length baseball tee, went back and showed Jono (the Kiwi) and said "There, that's what he should've been wearing!", and that is how it started.
When Leith was young, he wanted to be called Zane and that became his drunk alter ego. When Jono moved down from New Zealand to Sydney, the flat that he moved into was previously occupied by a criminal. He kept getting letters addressed to a Mr. Robe, who was in jail. They put the two names together. Zane and Robe; Mr Zane’s Robes, it sort of came together. So it’s pretty funny going through the international trade-shows and hearing other people say the name.
The Zanerobe showroom space accompanied by Noble Gentlemen's dog, Shandy
How did you come to distribute Zanerobe in Canada?
My brother and I have always really been into Rugby and Soccer and Zanerobe was dressing the All Blacks (New Zealand Rugby Team) and Team Australia with their clothes. So it was these really buff guys in these rad t-shirts. The main slogan was "University of Sports" and it had this classic Varsity look.
We met the founders of Zanerobe at a trade show in Vegas and we all just hit it off. We had a big night out and the next day they asked us, “why don’t you guys just do our brand in Canada?” So, we went back and got all our ducks in a row, and started providing Zanerobe to premium stores in Canada.
We carried Zanerobe very early on at Boys’Co. When they first started it was kind of like a beach inspired, varsity casual vibe… what was the driving force towards the change to streetwear?
Zanerobe started rolling into Canada back when they were selling "University of Sports" so every single collection was based on an affluent sport like boxing, running, track and field, etc.. We had these beautiful t-shirts and started doing inverted prints. It was basically t-shirts and hoodies. We even did juniors and women’s for a while.
When the global recession hit, a lot of companies started knocking off our prints so in order for us to be innovators we had to get some of those other categories in stores, and people where typically only buying our t-shirts and hoodies at the time. So, we all of the sudden, dropped the university-inspired crest, along with all the previous shirts and sweaters. We lost 85% of our market share during this transition because we launched the 'Sureshot' pants. We launched the pants back in 2009 and every account was walking away from it, but we knew that if we continued selling t-shirts and hoodies it wouldn’t last. We realized that street-wear and sneakers were starting to become very prevalent. Also denim was becoming stagnant and nothing was being done to secondary fabrics besides plaid and chinos, but there was a lack of innovation. In order to have a modern style it's about tapering down to the ankle and showcasing your footwear.
So, to have a modern style, we started tapering at the bottom, and started playing around with secondary fabrics. We wanted to be known for something. It's ok not to be the biggest, but it's important to be good at what you do. So we launched the Sureshot pant, and then it took 2-3 years to go around and teach people how to wear it before it caught on. Now, it’s a completely new category. Before the jogger, it was denim and chinos; now the jogger is its own category. We're starting to transition on to new things. It's all about signature bodies for us and progressing: allowing people to recognize Zanerobe based on the way it drapes. It was after the re-launch, [when Zanerobe] went from a collegiate brand to a music brand.
Showroom samples of Zanerobe's Holiday Delivery
In fashion there has always been a dropcrotch pant (and other similar styles), but people say that it was Zanerobe that brought it into mainstream. Would you agree with that?
I think its really accurate because at that time, no one was doing it. We're not saying that we invented the pant but we really re-hyped it. The way we did it was my brother moved down to the states to run Zanerobe for the US and he worked with some influential players like Kendrick Lamar. We wanted to show [people] how to wear this whole new style of pant. It was perseverance and really just working with good people and good stores to show them this new category. Good pairings with footwear allowed us to hammer into the market.
Was the 'Sureshot' always made from chino fabric?
Yeah, it has always been chino fabric. 'Sureshot' and 'Slingshot' where the first two pants we introduced. The 'Sureshot' has the elastic waistband and cuff at the bottom and the 'Slingshot' has the constructed button up/zip up fly.
Clean details of Zanerobe design and presentation
Now that you have success with all the brand categories, are you going to move into other product categories?
We’ve done a lot; we're launching Project A which is a high level division of Zanerobe. It allows us to make high level capsules with high end brands to push that plateau to the next level. So, Project A will have a lot of that. It's set to launch sometime in September.
It'll be part of our fall capsule. We also have a brother brand called Barney Cools, which is a play off of what Zanerobe was a couple years ago. We're actually launching Barney Cools in spring 2016 and it's a little bit more playful. [The brand is] surf and skate oriented, but it will still be street-wear inspired.
Zanerobe will continue to push the upwards fashion luxury movement, while Project A will be on a different pedestal, and barney cools will be this little bit more surf skate type brand. Barney Cools is Zanerobe 5 years ago.
What kind of aspects of high end fashion can we expect from Project A?
Zanerobe Project A will implement luxury fabrics, tech fabrics, trench coats, shirting, pants, etc. It will be really high end, and we are going to tease it with small little collaborations to keep the hype really fresh. The one thing that we’ve always done with Zanerobe is that we are innovators. Over the last few months we’ve been teaching people what the 'Seven Foot', 'Tall Tee', and 'Flintlock Tee' is and how to wear it.
"You can’t be stagnant. If you’re stagnant you’re stale. If you’re stale you’re dead."
Zanerobe is an Australian brand and they have opposite seasons. How do the releases work?
We realized that, as opposed to the extremes in Canada, jackets are a huge part of retail. We stay right in the middle and provide apparel that you can wear 12 months of the year. We leave the extremes to other brands. Items are launched at the exact same time we just don’t offer things that you cant wear 12 months of the year.
Liam Maynard, co-owner of Noble Gentlemen (Canadian Distributor of Zanerobe)