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Ksubi’s Content To Let The Good Times Roll


Nature abhors a vacuum, and fills it. Call that the law of Ksubi (née Tsubi), which launched ten years ago this month. At the time, surf pals George Gorrow (pictured, right), Dan Single (left), Paul Wilson, and Oscar Wright were distributing a line of sunglasses and got a stand at Australia fashion week. Alas, there wasn’t much to fill said stand with. “We had, I don’t know, five pairs?” Gorrow recalls. “That was going to look ridiculous. So we decided to make some clothes…” A decade later, Ksubi is closing out Australia fashion week in Sydney on May 7 with a multimedia runway show styled by Brana Wolf. Below, Gorrow and Wilson talk to about launching shoes, possibly/maybe making the move to New York fashion week next year, and ten years of letting things roll, Aussie-style.

What made you guys decide to start a clothing line?
George Gorrow: “Decide” might be too strong a word. Back then, we were all living in this town on the northern beaches—one of those places that’s like, somewhere on the way to somewhere else. There wasn’t much going on other than skateboarding and surfing and hanging out with your friends, and if you wanted to do something else, you kind of had to make it up for yourself. So people got creative—painting, making music or videos. We had a million little projects going on. We were managing bands, hosting parties, doing just about anything to make some money. That’s how we wound up distributing this line of sunglasses, and that’s how we wound up with a stand at Australia fashion week. And then everything kind of took off from there.

Why do you think the brand connected?
Paul Wilson: I get the sense that people saw that we were a group of likeminded people who were trying something different. I mean, the attitude was different, and even the techniques we were using back then, the way we were making our denim, it wasn’t something you saw anywhere else. The abrasion and destruction of the jeans, all hand-done and very ad hoc, you see that a lot now but ten years ago we were pretty much the only guys doing it.

How do you see Ksubi’s evolution since then?
PW: I think there was one stage of evolution, leading up to now, and this show marks the start of a new stage. It’s kind of like our rebirth—we’ve rationalized and stabilized our business, we have a new manufacturing partner, and from a design point of view, we’re maturing.

How so?
PW: The new collection is very much focused on texture, for instance. And we’re developing our own fabrics now and working even harder on our fits. That said, I wouldn’t say we’re maturing that much—our humor and irreverence is always going to be a part of the brand. It’s just that we’re starting to move off of loud and graphic and into clothes that are a little more subtle.

GG: And we’re working on collections that are less reactive and more conceptual, and pushing our whole team to get on board with the seasonal calendar, so we can show consistently. Up to now, it’s been—hey, wanna do a show? Like, if it’s something we feel like doing, if there’s something we want to say. But the plan is to show every season from now on. Next year, we’re intending to move the show to New York fashion week.

Tell me about the show. I hear you’ve got quite the extravaganza planned.
GG: I don’t want to give away too much, but essentially, we’ve got a video installation going back and forth with the performance part of the show, and we’ve also shot a bunch of short films that we’re going to be screening before the show starts. The collection is inspired by eighties post-punk in Australia; there’s a kind of ganglike quality to the clothes, and we’ve jumped off that for the performance and the video.

Why eighties Australian post-punk?
GG: Well, that was really the last time Australia had its own distinct musical look and sound—bands like the Church, for example.

PW: One of the key things about Ksubi is that it is quite an Australian brand—even if we do wind up moving our show to New York, we’ll always be based in Australia, and we’ll always draw from the unique culture and environment here. So it seems appropriate to get our conceptual inspiration from Australia, too.

Are you making all the videos yourself?
GG: Whatever we can do in-house, we’re doing.
PW: That’s a huge thing for us, actually. I mean, when we started this brand, it wasn’t just about making clothing. It’s always been meant to encompass whatever we do, whatever we’re interested in. Poetry, photography, music, architecture. We have all these talented friends we like to work with, and we like to get our hands dirty and try new things for ourselves.

GG: Like, we design all our stores. We won an architectural award for that recently, by the way. That was pretty huge.

So, what’s next for Ksubi? Where will you be in ten years?
PW: Hmm. There are a few imminent developments—we’re trialing a range of shoes at our shops here and in Hong Kong and the U.K., and the idea is to expand that internationally, and expand our presence in general. And we’re continuing to expand our range of sunglasses—there’s opticals now, too.

GG: I’m not sure I even want to answer that question. I mean, if you’d asked me that ten years ago—if you’d requested I draw up a business plan—I probably would have laughed. I definitely wouldn’t have foreseen all this, where we are now. I’d kind of like to let things keep rolling the way we have. That approach seems to be working.

Photo: Lisa Maree Williams / Getty Images