“Thrills is now in over 50 US retail doors and counting, and our new space will help facilitate further growth over the coming years while having a base where our team culture can continue to thrive.”
Here, Collins discusses the brand’s international plans, its collaborations with local artists – and what it’s like expanding globally in the middle of a pandemic.
Inside Retail: What was it like expanding overseas during the pandemic and what were some of the challenges you’ve encountered?
Ryan Collins: Opening an international flagship store during a pandemic is not an easy feat. A lot of organising was done online and from afar which was challenging and rewarding all-in-one. There’s a long list of challenges involved in international expansion, but we are fortunate enough to have great teams in place that work super closely with their Australian counterparts to deliver the very best service to the respective areas around the globe. The stores have all performed very well considering the battles everyone is facing at retail at the moment, but we’re excited about the future ahead, especially overseas.
IR: Given the size of the US market, what’s your strategy in terms of tackling the different customer segments and regions?
RC: We’re so excited to go bigger and better. Wholesale has played a massive part in the success of Thrills in Australia and will for us in the US, too. The brand has been so well-received and is now stocked in over 55 US retail doors and counting, so we’re hoping to build on this and get in front of as many eyes as possible.
Our brand culture is what’s most important to us here at Thrills; our passion for music, street machines and sustainability is what drives us forward. With connection at the forefront, our goal is to build our strong network of friends and family and build on what we’ve created in Australia.
IR: Given the US is starting to pick up and so much of Australia is in lockdown, would you say that overseas expansion is easier right now in some ways?
RC: Less restrictions in the US right now has given us more freedom to get our name out there. We’re so excited to host more events and create a space to celebrate with our extended family. Our first US event was our launch party in February 2020 and was a major success, with over 1000 attendees so we’re looking forward to planning the next one.
IR: What has overseas customer feedback been like?
RC: We’ve been blown away by the love we’ve received since launching in the US and Japan last year. Feedback has been positive and we’re excited for what lies ahead. We’re now in over 55 retailer doors in the US, including Free People and American Rag Cie and this is continuing to grow at a rapid pace. Not to mention our ever-growing online customers.
IR: What have been some of the interesting insights that you’ve gathered since entering Japan?
RC: Japan holds a special place in our hearts and we take a lot of design and travel inspiration from our Japanese friends. The past year has seen a lot of changes for us, bringing on an eternal team based in Japan and navigating the challenges of growth in a global pandemic. That said, we’re stoked how well the team in Japan is evolving and can’t wait until we can all meet up in person again.
IR: What are your plans locally this year?
RC: With ongoing restrictions in Australia, we’ve decided to take a grassroots approach, partnering with local businesses and creatives. For our most recent collection, we united with a local vintage store, Strange Days, to collect inspiration and create some of our favourite pieces to-date. We’re also about to release a documentary with Australian musician and friend of Thrills, Kirin J Callinan who gives viewers a front-row view into his hometown and the hidden gems that lie within. Following our strong passion for live music, we’re continuing to sponsor a number of music festivals, events and gigs coming up, plus collaborating with a band on an exclusive merch drop – keep your eyes peeled.
IR: Thrills has recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. Can you tell us how your brand has evolved in the decade since you launched your business?
RC: It’s been one hell of a ride. Ten years ago, we ditched our 9-5 grind to post up in the coastal paradise of Byron Bay. With nothing but a mutual love of vintage motorcycles, we gave birth to our first business idea; importing bikes from the USA and Japan. With our first shipment of bikes due to arrive in 2011, Brooke and Tabitha reverted to their fashion roots to work on a small t-shirt collection, and the rest is history. Once launched, the t-shirts took Byron Bay and surrounded it by storm, and almost 10 years on, Thrills has evolved into a culture-defining fashion label, fuelled by a passion for music, art and the way of life that encompasses the vintage Harley’s that are customised to this day.
IR: Sustainability plays a significant role at Thrills, particularly in the textiles that are used. What are some of the unique challenges of sourcing sustainable fabrics and running a business with sustainability at the forefront?
RC: As Thrills has grown as a company our understanding of the fashion industry and our social responsibility as a fashion label has evolved. Sustainability has always been front-of-mind for the company since the beginning, and each collection is a reflection of our lasting contribution towards a better fashion industry. In the last ten years, we’ve made significant advances: switching the majority of our denim styles to organic cotton, introducing hemp, launching an entirely unbleached collection with no dye or chemicals, all the while making significant changes at our headquarters and warehouse to reduce our impact. This is just the beginning and we’re on a journey to using majority sustainable fabrics by the end of 2022.
IR: Can you walk us through the manufacturing/sourcing/design process of your products?
RC: Our design process is thoughtful and conscious at every point. Based at our Byron Bay HQ, the team works collaboratively and hands-on to create high-quality clothing and accessories we’re known and loved for. From the initial design to receiving the end product, sustainability is at the forefront and we’re constantly on the lookout for planet-friendly, progressive fabrications. We’re so proud of our relationship with our suppliers, too as they’ve grown with us since the beginning and become close friends of ours.