Cap­tur­ing cult Ki­wiana on cot­ton

Robert Ewan, direc­tor of Mr Vin­tage, turned a small T-shirt im­port­ing ven­ture into a suc­cess­ful busi­ness. He chats with Ju­lian Raethel about fol­low­ing pop cul­ture.

Central Leader - - NEWS -

Keep­ing up with New Zealand pop cul­ture is Robert Ewan’s way of life.

He’s the direc­tor of T-shirt re­tailer Mr Vin­tage.

He has turned his sense for what’s trend­ing and crowd­pleas­ing into a suc­cess­ful en­ter­prise.

His San­dring­ham-based busi­ness has cap­i­talised on ev­ery­thing Ki­wiana, from char­i­ties to sport­ing leg­ends.

The jour­ney started when Ewan be­gan im­port­ing T-shirts from the United States in 2004 – many based on the Trans­form­ers car­toon fran­chise of the 1980s.

Ewan quickly switched on to the fact there was a grow­ing mar­ket for nos­tal­gic prints.

‘‘I started sell­ing them on Trade Me, it was some­thing fun to do,’’ the San­dring­ham res­i­dent says.

‘‘One of the very first ones I sold was a My Lit­tle Pony T-shirt.

‘‘It’s peo­ple buy­ing on an emo­tional con­nec­tion to the past ... Satur­day morn­ings watch­ing car­toons.’’

Ewan was hold­ing down a part-time job sell­ing wine while study­ing for his busi­ness de­gree.

He started putting his learn­ings into prac­tice and branched out to hunt for ‘‘vin­tage’’ cloth­ing.

‘‘I’d go into th­ese sec­ond­hand shops in Pa­p­a­toe­toe and bribe the old ladies with wine.

‘‘I asked them to put aside the Ralph Lau­ren and Polo branded shirts for me,’’ he says.

‘‘Ev­ery Fri­day I did the cir­cuit.’’

How­ever sell­ing clothes on Trade Me soon be­came too much work.

Sit­ting in his AUT lec­ture theatre, the penny dropped.

‘‘I was do­ing work stuff on my com­puter while in my lec­tures,’’ Ewan says.

‘‘There was just no time for uni stuff.

‘‘I took a step back and thought: I’ve got this busi­ness here so I’ve got to take the op­por­tu­nity be­fore some­one else does.

‘‘No re­grets – I’ve learned so much more than I ever could have at uni,’’ he says.

Im­port­ing T-shirts from the United States be­came too ex­pen­sive so Ewan made the switch to lo­cal in 2007.

Mr Vin­tage be­gan print­ing its own de­signs and al­most a decade on it’s stronger than ever.

Ewan now col­lab­o­rates with artists on what’s next.

‘‘I don’t have a per­sonal favourite,’’ he says of his prints.

‘‘It’s like ask­ing a par­ent who their favourite child is,’’ he says.

Mr Vin­tage was able to cap­i­talise on the Black Caps’ re­cent Cricket World Cup suc­cess story as play­ers be­came cult he­roes thanks to the Al­ter­na­tive Cricket Com­men­tary team.

Nick­names such as the ‘‘The Hairy Javelin’’ Grant El­liot and ‘‘Steady the Ship’’ Kane Wil­liamson were im­mor­talised in print.

‘‘I have a close re­la­tion­ship with the ACC guys through the Beige Brigade,’’ Ewan says.

‘‘They cre­ated all the con­tent for us ... we put it on print.’’

As for the up­com­ing Rugby World Cup, Ewan and his team have a few ideas.

But for the most part he says it’s best to stick to the for­mula that works.

‘‘It’s all top­i­cal, re­ac­tive stuff. Then it hap­pens and we pounce on it.’’

Robert Ewan, direc­tor of Mr Vin­tage T-Shirts, says his suc­cess is all thanks to pop cul­ture.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.