Born out of Byron Bay, Afends is a brand that has been going from strength to strength over the last few years. After winning Breakout Brand Award back to back at Australian Surf Industry Awards, it’s obvious that something is brewing up on the North Coast of NSW. We recenently shot National Sales Manager, Ryan Grey a few questions to find out more about the brand, their sustainable direction and push to question everything.
Congrats once again for taking out this year’s Breakout Brand of the Year Award earlier year. Knowing that Australian retailers are voting for you, how much of a confidence boost does that give the team knowing what you’re doing is being liked and responded to?
Thank you mate, we are stoked. It is great to feel the support of the Australian retailers for the second time, independents are the backbone of our business and have been supporting us since day one, we couldn’t have got the brand out there without them. Our team took great pride in receiving the award and it’s a huge confidence boost to everyone in our team as it proves that we are going about things correctly.
From a personal note, I’ve noticed Afends grow over the last few years. Was there a certain point where someone went ‘alright lets give this a big push now’ or was it more of an organic growth?
Organic growth through and through. Afends is a new brand in the mainstream but has been a part of the Australian market for over ten years now. We’ve always stayed true and connected to our punk roots, offering the Australian market a brand that is connected to and offers support to local musicians, skateboarders and surfers that were once overlooked. While there was a push to grow the brand from within, there has only ever been organic growth, built from partnering with retailers and building a brand and product that the end customer can embrace.
Let’s talk about the hub of Byron Bay, where the brand is based out of. Byron is a bustling a hub of surf, fashion, music and art. How much inspiration is drawn from the town and the people within it?
The Byron Bay Industrial Estate is bursting at the seams with niche brands, musicians and artists. There are a bunch of brands telling a compelling and original story like Fallen Broken Street, Spell, Zulu and Zepher, Epokhe and Tallulah are just a few of the brands within a stone’s throw from our head office. Byron as a town has so much to offer, with such a diverse group of people, both locals and drifters that give the town so much character. Then there is the pure beauty of the Byron Shire, with towns like Brunswick Heads, Mullumbimby and Bangalow.
There is a lot of emphasis on sustainability and the use of alternative, organic materials throughout all the ranges. How did the whole hemp revolution and push for environment and sustainable focused products come about?
Growing up in Byron, it is drilled in at a pretty early age that the earth needs to be looked after. In this town, there is so much beauty to be witnessed on a daily basis, which nature provides, it’s clear that it is important to preserve this environment and obviously leave as small of an environmental footprint as possible.
The Hemp Revolution originated from the desire to offer a product that uses very little water to grow, needs no pesticides and you can grow a large amount of it in a small area. It’s an incredibly strong and durable fibre, breathes well and has what I call the Happy Stamp environmentally, it feels morally correct to wear. With the Hemp Revolution, we try and highlight the fact that hemp was made illegal using scare tactics to allow growth in other farming areas. Prior to the last century, hemp was widely used in clothing, rope, building, food and the list goes on and on. We want to see hemp normalised again and used across all industries.
Can you elaborate on the phrase ‘Question Everything’? I’ve read that not about educating, but inspiring people to educate themselves, but can you explain what the meaning is from an Afends standpoint?
The “Question Everything” phrase came from the need to always put a question mark in front of what we are fed by the current media and not just taking everything at face value. A perfect example would be the whole emphasis around Hemp. Hemp is a weed that is removed from the plant that is Marijuana, as it has no content to get you stoned (hemp has no THC content), but in the 1930’s, the politicians of the time, teamed up with their mates that were producing paper, plastics, cotton and other resources to create a propaganda campaign to outlaw the plant and make it illegal to grow. In a nutshell, this has had a huge effect on the global environment for obvious reasons of pollutions etc, and has also held back a lot of people on a medical aspect. So “Question Everything”.
We’re a few short moths away from the silly seasons here in Australia. What can we expect coming through into stores from Afend over Summer?
We’re really excited about our Hemp 3.0 boardshorts. We’ve been refining them year in year out and we are really stoked with how they’ve turned out this season.
Nice, looking forward to seeing them in-store. Moving into the future can you give us a sneak peak to what’s in the Afends pipeline?
There’s a bunch of exciting things in the pipeline. We are releasing the new Afends quarterly magazine this summer, a feature film and one of our favourite campaigns shot here in Byron Bay. Our team has grown internally, the vibes are high and you’ll start to see our product quality and mix take a really big step up. We’re going to continue enjoying ourselves, having a good time and pushing the boundaries season after season.