Threads to wear outside the water with the team from Salty Shoes
We talk to the WA label doing coastal wear right.
As we continue to uncover what's being made locally in Perth WA, we meet Salty Shoes creator, Tom Dempers.
Salty Shoes is the creative response to our appealing coastal lifestyle in WA. It's a testament to the chilled out life, a surf brand that revolves around Tom's love for the ocean, his mates, and surfing. Starting the brand off single-handedly in 2012, he makes clothes with designs by national and international artists. It's kept cool, clean and in limited releases. Everything by Salty Shoes is handmade here in Perth start to finish, and they have a strong following from the kind of people who just want to buy awesome, quality assured products without any bullshit.
Can you describe Salty Shoes in three words?
Causal, Fun and Nice
What kind of dude would you say wears Salty Shoes?
Someone with style and grace.
What point in your life were you when you started your label?
It started in December 2012 while I was at uni, studying Marine Bio. I remember the beginning days when friends would help me sort out orders piled all over my bedroom floor. At the time, I was shaping surf boards and I wanted to call the boards Salty Shoes. I ended up drawing a few designs with that name, got some friends' 35mm pictures and put them on t-shirts. People started asking about them and wanting to buy some, so I printed a bunch more, and more people started buying them. From there it's grown pretty organically to what it is today.
Where and how is your label made?
All designs start their process here in our little studio, then send it off to get designed. We work with some great designers both national and international like Luke Day, YAWN and Ryan Ady Putra, and other great designers who come up with amazing things. We've been working with most of our designers since day one and have gotten to build a good relationship with them. After that, we send them to get sampled and made. We go and check production before each season to make sure all is great quality and ready to go. Keep a look out because we are going to feature all our designers in the next couple of months on our website.
Who’s helped you in making this pursuit a reality?
Countless people! Friends, family, riders and most importantly, our customers.
What does the creative process to make a piece for the label look like?
Usually we will get inspiration from all around the place. From what friends are wearing, to things we find on the internet to what other brands are doing. Once we have a few solid concepts we will work on them and develop our own take on it, to what we want to wear ourselves but can't find anywhere else. From there we get samples and once thats approved, it goes to being made in bulk.
What brands, artists or designers inspire you?
All our designers we work with do some really amazing things, I'm blown away by it. They are all pretty different and have a unique style.
What has been the hardest moment you've faced during this experience and how did you overcome that?
Two biggest challenges were probably cash flow and finding our niche at the beginning stages.
When you are working on creating customer base, it's hard to sell stuff and stay on top of all the expenses you gotta pay for. I started with $1000 originally. Then after the first lot sold, I scrambled together $10,000 and went from there. There's also so many different brands out there, especially now more than ever, you can get stuck doing what others are doing. As soon as that happens, and you're not making good stuff you're proud of, you ask yourself what the point is. We had to find our niche, which I think we've done well with it. It's kinda like; try please everybody and you'll end up pleasing no one.
What’s it like starting a label in the day and age where Instagram is a mega marketing tool? Would you say that it's helped you?
Yeah, Instagram is king of marketing. If you can do it well and target your niche, you're good to go.
What has been the proudest moment so far?
I still think we've got a lot to do and much better things to come, but we've done some good things so far. Being asked to collab with Rusty Australia two years in a row, being invited to international lifestyle clothing shows and trade shows... We've given a few thousand doolas to marine conservation and hopefully we have been keeping our customers stoked all this time and gaining new ones!
Where do you hope to see this go?
If all goes to plan how it has been, we see it going nation wide hopefully, to international as an established brand. As long as we stay true to what we do and are having a good time doing it and earning and income, then all good.
What advice would you give to other young creatives looking to pursue a similar path in the fashion industry?
Don't do whatever it is you do (be it art, fashion, photography, whatever) because you think it's a trend or because it's a cool thing of the moment. Do it because you genuinely love it, and love creating something from nothing. If you do it for that reason, you will most likely succeed and it will be rewarding to you.