Founder of Sabre eyewear and Australian native Brooke McGregor returned to the action sports market about a year ago with the launch of his brand THRILLS, which centered around an initial offering of BMX bikes to select retailers primarily in Australia and New Zealand. Now, as the Byron Bay-based brand gears up to exhibit at the upcoming Agenda trade show in Long Beach, THRILLS is ready to unveil its apparel and hardgoods collection in the Northern Hemisphere, according to Co-founder McGregor.
“In early 2011, we —Francisco Tavoni, Ryan Collins and myself— imported our first shipment of vintage motorcycles, opened a showroom, had a wild party, and it was alive,” says McGregor. “By mid 2011, I was on the road showing our first small D.I.Y. clothing collection, we shipped, and the brand was officially rolling.”
The bikes, or “cycles” as THRILLS refers to them, have also been a major part of business for the brand, with the release of the “Scrambler,” a 26″ BMX, in Australia late last year, which sold out within a few months. This summer, on top of the launch of its product in the the US and Canada, THRILLS has also unveiled its “Tracker,” 26″ racer bike into the market, which has been received with similar popularity, according to McGregor.
We caught up with McGregor recently to learn more about the product launch in the U.S. at Agenda (August 1, 2 in Long Beach, California) and what’s in store for the unique brand in the coming months.
How has the brand been received since the initial launch?
We’ve had amazing support from key retailers in Australia from the get go. We have since moved into a full cut-and-sew collection, accessories, and a limited edition push bike.
We all surf, and have surfed our whole lives—we live in tropical paradise (Byron Bay). So it’s only natural that part of the brand’s distribution will be in some way at the pointier fashion end of “action sports”.
What’s the overall philosophy behind the brand?
Our tag line really embodies our philosophy: “PALM TREES AND STREET MACHINES.” It’s almost an oxymoron. You wouldn’t really associate Byron Bay’s beautiful beaches and sun-bathing with grimy street machines, but it creates a unique branding direction against the status quo. We carry this D.N.A. throughout the entire branch of categories.
We carry a lo-fi philosophy basically “Less but better” on all aspects. No over-designed products—just clean, classic, and bold. If it’s not needed, we ditch it.
Currently we are in 50 premium hand picked doors across Australia and New Zealand.
The complete list can be found on our dealer section of the site.
What sets you apart from other apparel brands?
I feel through our original simple approach we subvert the standard. All our products including our t-shirts all have original fits, designs and features. I feel THRILLS carries a punk, D.I.Y. stand-alone aesthetic. I’ve found with my experiences that you really need to be different or it’s not worth doing on both a personal level and also a business level.
What about the manufacturing process – is that done domestically or do you go overseas – and if so where?
Manufacturing is one of the strong arms of the THRILLS business. One of the partners, Fran, is from South America, so through his connection we have sourced some of South America’s best factories, thus making it possible to be competitive in the North American market with high quality cottons and treatments.
How big is the THRILLS team?
Currently we stand three deep full time—crazy I know.
What do day-to-day operations look like at your main headquarters?
Oh it’s mayhem—we run things super skinny, we are a new age business with little overhead. All of us multi task and get it handled day to day. The partners have all run businesses before so we know what needs to be done.
What are some key lessons you’ve learned since launching the brand?
I feel like this has been a close to perfect start, we knew going into this all the traps and mistakes you can make. Don’t get me wrong it’s still has it’s challenges but we’ve created a refined organic business model with realistic growth expectations.
What would you do differently if you had the chance to go back in time?
At this point I wouldn’t change too much. You can obviously kill yourself everyday on over analyzing every decision—but in my experience it’s best to choose a road and stick to it.
What do you think are the biggest challenges that face the apparel industry right now?
Oversupply accompanied with unrealistic growth are the main issues I believe. How can you maintain brand equity when your making product to go directly on sale? You only have to read MT’s [Michael Thomson, Gotcha Founder] book to see what not to do with supply.
People like the chase to some degree. Make it overly accessible and both the brand and the retailers have nothing exclusive/special to offer.
What do you see as the greatest opportunity within the market?
I think the market is full of opportunity— today’s no different than any other time in the market’s history. You need to be original and smart. It’s been a long, drawn-out hangover from the booming late ’90s and people are still adjusting. It’s all the new creative brands that run on the smell of an oily rag that will prosper. No more corporate lunches, expensive trade show booths, and heli skiing trips if your building a real brand.
Where do you hope to see THRILLS within the next 6 to 12 months?
I’d really like to see THRILLS rolling in the same direction. We have some very exciting collaborations and projects in the works that I can’t reveal at this point but watch this space.