If you’re at one with the Scottish fashion scene you’ve probably heard of Abandon Ship. The independent streetwear label, created by Richard Davies and Duncan Sweeny in 2011, produces simple pieces with a sense of humour and has quickly grown from a drunken discussion to an international fashion powerhouse. From their kitty print leggings to their ‘Bill Murray’ sweatshirt, we’re coveting EVERYTHING on their online store, so thought we’d sit down for a chat with Rich and Dunc to find out more about our current favourite brand.
Two guys. One streetwear label. How did it all begin?
Rich: Like most great historical achievements, it all started with a drunken conversation, or five. We couldn’t find any T-shirts with simple, clean designs, and thought we could bring something to the table. A few months later we put our money where our mouths were and started the brand from our living room with £300 and a website. The rest, I guess, is history.
Dunc: We used a local printer/ supplier that I had previous ties with; originally they quoted us a lot more money to print what we wanted, so we turned up on their doorstep with £300 cash and got them down. Our first “photo shoot” was at night round the back of our local Iceland. We used my car headlights to light shit up.
What were you both doing before Abandon Ship came along?
R: I had spent nine years working in retail, moving around the country for work, and generally just losing my mind working for other people. It gave me a really strong understanding of the industry though, and of how to grow the brand to where it is now.
D: I was the marketing manager of a well-known Glasgow rock club. That industry is pretty competitive; you have to be on top of your game and understand how to market yourself on a shoestring budget.
What’s the aim of the brand?
R: That’s a hard one, as we never really thought we would be in this position. I would say the aim is to make awesome stuff and have as much fun as possible. We have a lot of exciting things coming up so I guess we are just trying to take the brand as far as we can!
D: Obviously design cool shit, but a lot of people like to know what kind of weirdos are behind the brand too. We don’t hide behind our name.
Who is the Abandon Ship customer?
R: The great thing we have found is that our customer isn’t just one kind of person, we appeal to so many different types – well, at least I like to think so. Obviously we have a tattoo culture influence and a level of “tongue in cheek Satanism” that attracts a certain customer, but then our simple clean designs have transferred to the high street really well, and that’s a whole different person right there. With our latest collection we have gone pretty girlie too, with dresses, leggings and crop tops, and are really hoping that encourages more girls to check out the brand.
Two years since its original launch, how has Abandon Ship developed, in a business sense?
R: Well it is definitely a real job now! We started in a living room trying to run it after coming in from our full time jobs with no real idea how it would all work, and now we are stocked on the high street, and spend most of our time travelling. Every day we learn something new, which is great, but can be daunting! We have four employees and have to pay taxes; it’s all pretty intense sometimes. But then we also get to drive around on mobility scooters in Storm Trooper outfits!
D: Two years on we’re still using the key building blocks we started out with, but the customer base has grown considerably, and thus the scale of manufacturing, logistics & marketing has grown with it. Add to that some of the biggest names on the high street as wholesale customers and you need to have your business house in order. People – that’s what we’ve been investing in notably over the two years. We have great core team and that will help the brand grow to where it needs to be in 2013 and beyond.
What’s the best part of running your own fashion empire?
R: Working with my best friends and travelling the world.
D: Being your own boss and doing it with you best mates. I would be lying if I didn’t say the money was a bonus too.
And the worst?
R: I spend far too much time away from my girlfriend and two puggle puppies.
D: Gatwick and Heathrow staff have seen me in some fair nicks post-show!
What should we expect from the new collection and when is it going to drop?
R: Our current range is being staggered over a few months. Already released we have a collaboration with a great artist called McBess, our latest zip thru hoods, new vests and our girls dresses. Still to come we have a lot of all-over print T-shirts, our first pair of jeans and loads more.
D: The McBess and Marcus Dixon designs we have are awesome. All-over prints are coming into the range, but we haven’t forgotten the big bold prints either, so it’s more about spreading out and increasing our range.
Where do you plan to take the brand next?
R: We’re shooting the lookbook for our High Summer campaign in Thailand, then heading out to Berlin and America for tradeshows to push the brand beyond the UK in July, and we’ll be at a lot of festivals over the summer too. We also have something very special planned for our hometown of Glasgow, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
D: Domestically it has been quite successful over the last six months, so we’re looking further afield as Rich mentioned, and Asia is a major goal for the brand. HUGE!
Shop Abandon Ship at www.wefuckingloveyou.co.uk