Kate Bollard

Johnny Szymanski – Sheep Shearer

Johnny Szymanski.
Sheep Shearer
Have you met the ever so charming English Gentleman that has been rocking the Melbourne Fashion scene for the past few years?! He is the brains behind the uber cool, very Aussie street label Sheep Shearer! Now you are probably thinking… an Englishman with a very Aussie label?! HUH?! How is this so?! Well Ladies and Gents, I got to sit down with the man himself and found out ALOT!!!
Sheep Shearer has been hitting the runways of the melbourne fashion scene for two years now but many may not actually know the concept behind the brand. Can you share the concept behind the brand?
In between working for a PR agency in London and starting Sheep Shearer, I used to work on a couple of rural properties in NSW where I would train polo ponies, play polo and also work as a stockman looking afar cattle. It was while I was there that I heard of the legend of a guy called Jackie Howe. Famous in the rural and in particular sheep farming communities, Jackie was and despite having passed a long time ago, still is a world record holding shearer. He famously sheared 321 in 7 hours and 40 minutes using simple hand blades (Our logo). The legend of Jackie Howe is that due to his huge size he found his undershirt restricted his movement while shearing. He simply ripped off the sleeves and the singlet was born. There are a few different versions of the legend, but its safe to say we credit him with creating on of Australia’s most famous piece of clothing. I’ve always wanted my own label and after hearing that story, I was inspired to create Sheep Shearer.

What inspires you when you design your collection?
All my clothing reflects the brand. Simple, laid back, not fussy. So these sorts of ideas run through my head. My personal taste also plays a very large part in what I put into a new range. I’m a very laid back person, I’m always the most underdressed person in the room so the ranges reflect that too. I don’t think a persons outfit should outshine them, it should be there to compliment them.

SS15-16 hit the runway of fashion aid in sept. Tell us abit about the collection.
This SS 15-16 is my favourite range so far. We’ve introduced shorts for the first time which is great and we’ve injected a little bit of the famous Australian sense of humour with ‘slogan’ or ‘pun’ Tees. They are proving very popular.

 What is your favourite piece this season?
Out of my range it would have to be the ‘F**K EWE’ Tee. It’s fun, it’s a little bit risky and it’s perfect for Mondays!

In the fashion industry you have so much competition, how do you deal with the pressure and not becoming just another t-shirt label?
I actually don’t feel any pressure even though I probably should. I look at other labels to see what they are doing, and to see if there is anything we can improve on, but I think you can’t get stressed out about trying to keep up with other labels or try to out do them. Sheep Shearer is a small label with a great back story which is also part of Australian history. If you look at companies like Cotton On and Super Dry, they started out as just another T-Shirts label and are doing pretty good right now.
No one had heard of Sheep Shearer a couple of years ago, and even 3,4,5 months after we launched you’d stubble to find anyone outside of my friendship group that really knew about it. But everyday since then we have pushed to get a little more known, and a little more and a little more. We are far from being well known, but there are a lot more people out there now who know the brand. It’s a slow journey.

You have quite an extensive career background. What advice would you give to anyone keen to start their own label?

There is so much I could say, but i’ll give my top 5 pointers but in no particular order.
  1. Surround yourself with awesome people. When you start a company, depending on how you’re funded, you won’t be employing a huge staff straight away. I have an incredible network of friends around me that have helped me all aspects of the business. Friends are great to bounce ideas off, get opinions from and also to motivate you when you’re feeling low….which will happen. My two best friends are heavily involved in Sheep Shearer because I can’t do it all on my own.
  2. Put yourself out there. The person that knows that most about your brand or your label is you. You’re the one that can explain what it is or what it means. Go to events and parties and conferences and lectures so who can meet people and spread the word about your brand. Hand out business cards and email addresses. You can’t sit quietly in a corner and expect people to know about your label. Proactivity is key!
  3. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or to fail. The number of mistakes I’ve made since starting is heaps. But these mistakes are what help you improve so the next time you know what you should do and you save money, or you sell a few more or you don’t miss a deadline etc.
  4. You need to love and live your brand. I can count on one hand the number of days I have left the house in the last two years when I haven’t been wearing something that is Sheep Shearer. Become a walking advert for your label. If if your first range is only a few things. The more you wear them, the more people see them and thats whole it all starts. And you have to love what you’re doing. Even if somedays you think “What’s the point” or “this just isn’t working”….we all get days like that. I get loads of days like that. But I love Sheep Shearer and its the only thing I want to do.
  5. YOU CAN’T PLEASE EVERYONE! So don’t try. Not everyone is going to like the clothes you produce, not everyone is going to look good in the clothes you produce therefore not everyone is going to buy them. That’s OK. That’s life.
The big question… A lot of women wear Sheep Shearer, myself included. Will we be seeing a female range soon?

Ha Ha Ha….yeah we have quite a few ladies wearing it now and I must say they look great. Of course there will be a ladies range…I can’t say exactly when. I have been thinking about and what sort of things it will include. But yeah….there will be a ladies range in the future….watch this space.

What do we expect to see from Sheep Shearer in the future?

Depends how far we look. I have grand plans and long term dreams for the company. Some of them maybe a little far fetched or unrealistic but I don’t think so. Spreading the word about Sheep Shearer is my main priority. The more people that know about it, the more people will start buying it. From there we can expand and grow.
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