1. What is Chief Eyewear? Who are the key players in your company? Who does brand benefit?
Chief Eyewear is a Melbourne based company run by myself, my brother (Darcy) and one of my best mates (Dean). The idea came about when Dean was off work for 3 months with a snapped achilles. He wanted to create a stylish range of sunglasses while also reducing our ecological footprint. It was also something that we could do together to make a real difference and it’s become our major interest outside of our day jobs, well ahead of any sports we used to play or other hobbies that used to occupy most of our time.
2. How did the idea for Chief Eyewear come about?
The idea came about initially when Dean was off work for 3 months with a serious achilles injury and had all the time to assess his career options and new business ventures. After discussing it over a few beers with myself the idea developed pretty quickly and brand names, logos, product ideas all came together very quickly and the introduction of a third business partner has really helped us manage all the tasks involved with running your own business and Darcy has been a great driver in moving the business forward at a rate that we couldn’t have
3. What is unique about your brand?
Bamboo and wooden eyewear is a concept that is relatively new, especially in Australia. It was very important to us to have a product that is made from sustainable, eco-friendly materials. 86% of ocean debris is plastic and over 1,000,000 seabirds and marine mammals die each year from plastic so we really wanted to do something about improving those horrifying statistics. One of the charities we donate to is Seabird Rescue Foundation. They do some really great work and helping create awareness in the community is where it all starts.
4. Why is this important news?
Apart from the fact that we are eco-friendly and focus on making our products from sustainable materials, we are looking to create a range that is unique. Every pair in itself is actually unique due to the wooden grain. Some of the different types of wood that we have used and will be bringing out in the future are like nothing you have ever seen before. They also all float on the water so no more losing pairs while on a boat, jet skiing or whatever water activities you like! We have started out with bamboo and wooden eyewear but we will be releasing other types of apparel, including hats, t-shirts, watches and other types of eyewear in the future so there are some really exciting times coming up for Chief Eyewear!
5. Where is this happening/is there a geographical angle?
We sell mainly from our online store at the moment and various online distributors who sell our product on their fashion websites and e-commerce stores. It’s important that the online retailers that sell our product fit in with our brand image and target market demographic. Our products are also located in a store in Sorrento, a beach town in Vic Australia. We plan to push the wholesale side of our business and target more retail stores around the country in the next year.
6. What is the timing of your brand expansion?
We have only been in business for just over a year and already so much has happened. We project that the next year will see the introduction of more new products and further presence of our brand in the Australian and international markets.
7. What made you enter fashion industry?
We’ve all grown up around the beach and it had a major impact on our lives. Our summers in Australia are spent in the water and the winters are spent vacationing in countries that are in summer season. So apart from owning lots of pairs of sunglasses over the years and having a keen interest in fashion, whether it be through work or the very busy social scene, we really wanted to create our own brand of unique products that people would find fashionable.
8. What’s the biggest highlight of your career to date? Why?
Starting our own business has been the biggest highlight of my career to date. For the 3 of us, we have always worked for someone and followed instructions and a set of rules so it’s been challenging, yet rewarding to set our own rules and pave our own pathway while developing our own brand.
9. What’s your biggest career mistake to date? What did you learn from this mistake?
We’ve made a few mistakes in the infancy of our business and have learned a lot in the first year. Dealing with suppliers/manufacturers in other countries isn’t always easy and the lines of communication are often blurred. We may have launched a product too soon before getting it 100% right and we regret doing that. We have continuously improved our products and will continue to do so. The amount of samples that we order and go back and forth with before ordering bulk now is crazy but we’ve realized how necessary that is. As they say, if you’re not embarrassed by your first product then you’ve launched too late!
10. Where do you see your brand going in 3 – 5 years?
I would love to see Chief become our full time responsibility in 3 to 5 years. At the moment, we all still have our day jobs and we manage Chief in amongst it all and in our spare time as our business on the side but it’s moved so quickly in 1 year and who knows how much bigger it can get in 3 – 5 years time. We have so many ideas, I just can’t wait to release them bit by bit and see the reaction from our supporters!
11. How did your interest in fashion begin?
We’ve all always been interested in fashion to a certain point but not obsessed with it. I suppose living in Melbourne – it’s a very trendy city, and the venues and events that we like to attend generally require a certain standard of dress, which we really enjoy and are fascinated seeing how the styles change from year to year.
12. Who in the fashion industry inspires you?
All of the Victoria’s Secret models! Haha
13. What type of work have you enjoyed the most? Why?
I personally enjoy roles where I can grow a business through building and maintaining close relationships with clientele. Dealing in asset finance predominantly with all of my leads coming from referrers, it has become imperative to have those face to face relationship skills and that’s what I enjoy most. My other partners, while also generally business savvy, have enjoyed roles that are more marketing/advertising based and creatively focused so the makeup of our business has all angles covered and we certainly work together across all departments very seamlessly.
14. What types of work roles have frustrated you the most? Why?
Roles where I am stuck behind a desk all day, every day frustrate me beyond belief. I feel trapped and stuck in a moment I can’t get out of. I like to be out and about making things happen, dealing with people face to face and taking in whatever the world out there has to offer and looking for that next opportunity!
15. What are your key strengths?
Relationship building, business development, sales and attention to detail are some of my main strengths. All have been very important in my roles to date as a finance broker and BDM for various companies.
16. What are your key weaknesses / development areas? What are you doing about them?
Time management is something I’ve had to work on quite a bit. I often take on more responsibilities and tasks than I have the time for and need to learn to delegate better. Over the last few years I have learned to prioritize tasks and utilize my support network in the office as well as my business partners better to become more productive and successful.
17. How would you describe your personality and working style?
Very laid back and personable in my approach to people but extremely motivated and driven to reach my goals and continue to achieve above and beyond what is expected of me.
18. How many people in your team were laid off?
Luckily no one has been laid off at Chief Eyewear yet.
19. Where are you from originally?
All of us at Chief Eyewear were born and raised in Melbourne, Victoria (Australia). We have all traveled extensively to South America, Europe, the States, Asia and to a lesser extent Africa.
20. What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned along the way when it comes to starting a brand?
Trademarking the brand was a big lesson we should have looked into prior to launching because it ended up being very costly and time consuming getting our name/logo trademarked in our category as we had not done our proper research before starting. We’ve also learned to become smarter with our cost of goods and other expenses involved in making a sale to properly determine how to price our goods.
21. You recently returned from Mexico. How was your visit?
Mexico was a fascinating country to visit. Throughout the Caribbean coast, different towns vary in their culture, demographic and development. I really liked Playa Del Carmen as it incorporated the party vibe of Cancun and the culture and beauty of Tulum. The people were incredibly friendly, the food was outstanding and the service was first class.
22. What projects are you currently undertaking and where do you see yourself in the future?
We are launching hats very soon and we are designing more sunglasses and other types of apparel. We are not only looking to enhance our online presence but we will be in further stores around Victoria and hopefully the rest of Australia over the next year or two.
23. Why the primarily white, cream color for the Summer 2015 collection?
We wanted to offer lots of options for our customers and the light natural bamboo color is very beachy and great as a summer pair. The black bamboo and other darker frames are certainly more versatile in terms of being able to wear them out and to dressier events. They have presumably sold better, but initially we wanted to give customers as much variety as possible to see what the market wants.
24. What’s the idea behind your brand name?
We wanted a name that was earthy and synonymous with our values and culture. We felt like Chief fit the bill. It also gives a feeling of pride and confidence in oneself that will make people feel great about wearing the sunglasses. We also knew we could branch off the Chief name and find a lot of cool tribal words that we could use as product line names.
“Be your own boss, become a Chief’!”
Text Editor, L.T. Clayton