By Dylan Beach
Starting out a brand is no easy feat. From designing ranges, working with suppliers, marketing and then trying to get product into doors…The whole process can be tricky and at time frustrating and Andorwith a small brand from South Australia know all about it. Although their fresh take on designs and brand ethos are turning heads and is helping them pave their way. We spoke to Daniel Smith, one of the founders recently and found out some interesting stories behind the name, starting out from scratch and what it’s like to build a new brand in Australia.
There’s a bit of a story behind the name Andorwith, can you give us some background behind the name and where the brand itself stemmed from?

The name probably has a deeper meaning than many other surf brands names.. But ‘And or with’ is actually written and pronounced all as one word – andorwith – It actually means ‘together’, If you think of the words separately they are used to tie or to link sentences and form the ‘glue’ in the English language we communicate with one another. It also reflects our family upbringing and shared beliefs for the common good of the human race and the environment. “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”. I can’t remember where the quote comes from but it resonates with both of us, so it stuck.

The idea for a brand came when we were both working as sales reps for Ksubi (before it was bought) and working as sales assistants in surf/fashion retail. The product we were seeing everyday was sometimes fashionable and cool, however it was mass produced for profit, lacked a personal connection to us as your everyday Aussie bloke/surfer, some lines were of poor quality and therefore we didn’t necessarily feel comfortable advocating for it and selling it. The idea essentially stemmed from this and seeing the same t-shirt we had just bought on 10 guys at the skate park/pub on the weekend!

The name andorwith and its story was actually born during the same period when on a family holiday at our shack in the surfing coastal town of Goolwa Beach, SA. It was over one of our endless summer holidays where we were all surfing every day and longboard skateboarding the hilly streets at dusk and hanging out all night. Dom and I are 2 of eight children, so we are from a big family! It was a pretty busy household and stuff was always going on. This is before the days of social media and portable media devices. We only had the one TV growing up and mum called it the ‘idiot box’ so our family was always together outside doing things, playing sport, being creative, surfing, exploring, camping, mucking around and getting into trouble. So it just seemed natural to create something that represented our love for surfing, and shared values as a family. At one point in time the entire family has been involved from the inception, be that sewing tags in our early days, reviewing range designs, modelling new pieces or selling our product at a market.

The overall aesthetic of the brand is therefore heavily influenced by the coastal vibes of our blue oceans, white sandy beaches, beautiful flora and the unique appearance and colours of the coastal rocks and cliffs. Thus we have tried to create a brand that truly reflects Australia’s people, diverse culture, spectacular landscape and laid-back lifestyle.

 Who is involved with the day to day happenings of the brand?

Myself and my brother Dominic Smith

Daniel – Creative Director, Product Development, Product forecasting, Fashion Designer, Graphic Designer, Media Content Developer and Manager.

Dominic –Business and Product Development, Product forecasting, Wholesale Account Manager, Online Sales Manager.

You’re a small brand from one of the smallest ‘surf states’ in Australia. How do you find it building the brand and penetrating into the rest of the country?

It is challenging. However our Dad was a pretty successful business and sales person in SA and he said if you are successful in business here you can be successful anywhere. South Australia is a hard market to crack because of the size of the population and therefore the economy. If you then add the lack of quality surf real close to Adelaide’s suburbia meaning our surf culture is not as big as NSW or WA for example. However in Adelaide everyone knows everyone, so we have used this to our advantage through word of mouth through our market sales and our personal relationships with retailers here in SA. Increasing our brand awareness is our biggest goal moving forward. We know what we make is cool and people generally seem to warm to the brands story so it’s just about getting more people aware of its existence. Without an account manager on the east coast at the moment, we are finding content posted to our social media platforms, and in particular our use of video and photo digital marketing is helping to authentically engage our follower/customer base both here in SA and in the other states. This is a key strategy to penetrate into the wider Australian market but have also found once we get into a store, big or small, interstate our followers, online sales and brand awareness from that region goes up.

In one point or another we have been stocked in every state and each customer these days wants the same thing! Its not just surf fashion related it’s in other industries like food and beverage. That’s the ever-increasing appetite for smaller brands that sell carefully crafted quality products, offer relatable and personal customer service. We look for ways to do our bit to improve the impact on the environment. So I guess all of us are riding the craft/boutique/independent wave of ‘Small isn’t always necessarily a bad thing’. We are now finding retailers are starting to reach out to us rather than the other way round. They too are seeing the landscape change in their customers buying patterns. Retailers know we will appeal to their customers want for unique/authentic/limited products that are providing a story rather than just a faceless product produced in the 10’s of thousands for profit and margins alone.

We were talking late last week and you mentioned that you’ve teamed up with an agency over in WA and are now stocking a few key accounts over that side. How important has that been to connect with an account manager and how much have they helped develop product and ranges?

The relationship is only in its infancy, however Agenda Agents have over 30 years of retail sales experience, so essentially having an account manager with that type of experience and connections has enabled us to at least have a conversation with some high quality retailers and get a foot in the door so to speak. They also really bought into our brands story and what we are about so we are both treading the same path toward common goals. Geographically WA is a massive place and has a huge surf market and beach culture. We knew if retailers and customers had the chance to see our stuff, feel its quality and hear about our story and what it means to buy it, customers would resonate with it. So to be honest it’s not surprising its doing well!

They have encouraged us to pursue with our premium quality, unique graphic artwork tees and via their connections have enabled our board shorts to be the equal best available on the market in terms on technology, materials, performance, comfort and impact on the environment.

You talk about social change with the line ‘we’re in this together’. How does that message drip down from a product to a retailer and then a consumer level?

It sounds a bit overkill for men’s surf fashion. At its core, the true beauty of surfing, is that it is about a physical and emotional connection you have that only a surfer truly knows and appreciates what it feels like. Hence the saying “only a surfer knows the feeling”. It’s a connection you have with the ocean, the sea life; your chosen craft and the people who choose to share it all with you.

Surfing is one of those things that it’s ten times the fun if you’re experiencing it with someone else. Surfing with our family and friends generates some of the happiest times and grateful moments we could ask for. That’s what makes surfing so special and such a vibrant part of Aussie culture.

We both come from a tertiary educational background, thus engrained in our study and our family upbringing is love for one another and equality for all people. We believe heavily in ‘people’ first and foremost. We are all just people, trying to live out life to the best we can and to the fullest. We all have common dreams and common goals, we are more alike than we are different. So for us, it means we have to make a difference together, if we want to see a change, in anything, we have to work together and in harmony. In harmony with ourselves, other people, and especially the environment.

So for us our small part might be to create a unique T-Shirt artwork that carries an important underlying message about our society. A product that is physically made using recycled plastic bottles that would normally find its way into the ocean. A totally wipe our use of single use plastic during manufacturing and shipping processes. That way the retailer and the customer can also buy in and advocate the social message or feel like they are doing their bit for the environment too. Hence to make a difference or to make a change we need to realise ‘we’re all in this together’ and everyone who comes along for the ride is and or with one another!

Creating a brand and developing it for market is no easy feat. If you were to look back upon what you’ve learnt. What would be your top challenges, and did you tackle them?
  1. Sourcing quality manufacturers with the same intentions, philosophies and humane working conditions has been the biggest challenge to date. But we are proud to have now achieved this with all our manufacturers.
  2. If you can appeal to a customer at a market stall you can appeal to someone online or in a shop. They are the same type of consumer. We just had to believe in our story and our product!! Keep walking our own path as it will lead to success, the bumps in the road are all part of the bigger journey.
  3. Being only a team of two, we were both trying to do everything… We have learned every successful leader knows when and who to delegate tasks too to become more all-round business savvy and therefore successful. So we now collaborate with other individuals and local businesses to ensure we can focus on what we do best!
  4. Forecasting and fashion trend setting is hard work! We often feel we are too fashion forward with some of our pieces and are too ‘early’ for the dance so to speak! We used to jump off trends before we should because we think it isn’t cool anymore. But business wise neither is wise and these days we listen more to what the industry consumer is buying/wants and design around that.
There are lot of more established brands whose go to market strategies look way ahead of time. As a smaller brand, how do you approach Andorwith’s range development and delivery to retailers?

Our business has grown from a stall at a market on a Sunday every month to consignment based sales with a few retailers to now an indent model with numerous established and high quality independent surf retailers. Thus our brand is built on genuine and quality customer service and word of mouth, which is the number one reason for our organically grown social media presence. We approach our indent surf retailers the same way we would the 14-year-old kid buying a T-Shirt at a stall at the market. They have the same customer and want the same type of service and products in store. We don’t sell them the t-shirt, we offer them an opportunity to be a part of our story too. We tell them what the underlying message in the artwork is about, we tell them the inspiration for the yardage print design, and we tell them its number 20 of only 100 made. Today’s generation want to feel a part of the something, and we always try to keep them involved and updated via these personal conversations or with our behind the scenes material on social media. It’s honest and it’s genuine.

We think it’s incredibly important to have that connection with the retailers and indeed the staff selling your product. It’s like any successful relationship is built on effective communication. The more information we can give to our customers via our retailers and their staff, the more they will become ambassadors for our brand and be a part of our social movement too.

In simple business terms we want to re-establish that real authentic connection and relationship surf brands and retailers used to have in the industry’s heyday. We don’t want to be a faceless brand that trades on the stock market and is about making their shareholders rich. We would like to organically grow the brand together, the relationship will blossom as will both the seller and buyer sales.

We aren’t striving to be the next biggest surf brand, stocked in as many stores as possible. We don’t want to be everywhere and we can’t be everything to every shop. However we will offer to build a genuine relationship with a selected amount of quality independent retailers based on premium quality and exclusive products for them in their region. We will not grow the brand with more numbers or tighter margins, but with great stores and staff selling premium, exclusive and limited products to their customers. Thus our collections to date and range development are often derived directly from feedback from our customers and retailers.

Key to each and every andorwith product- comes with our swing tag which states “ you own piece _ of _” Ensuring our customers know that for example they have piece 23 of 100 in their hands and that only 100 (number chosen at random) others in the world have the opportunity to buy it. Retailers also will know that in their area- for example there is only five XL in that T-Shirt available to buy right now. This is a story the staff will love to tell and customers will love to hear because it’s genuine.

Looking ahead, what can we expect from Andorwith?

We wanted to create an organic surf brand that was brave and stuck to its guns about creating cool surf fashion products premium made and in limited quantities. This ensuring not to saturate the market and thus customers are left thirsty for more because our products sell out before they have chance to buy it.

So looking ahead we want to continue to organically grow the brand and increase our awareness on the east coast and continue to develop and improve our products we offer, keep up with our social movement for change ethos and have fun and be grateful doing something we love and are passionate about.