Man, they never tell you in the "running a sportswear brand" handbook how hard things can be. Building a brand, a story, a community is a beast within itself, but releasing your first streetwear campaign in the middle of a once in a generation pandemic? That's just asking for trouble...
When sports was cancelled and Melbourne was placed under strict lockdown, the brand went to an almost complete standstill as sport and life in general was placed in a state of limbo. We faced a crossroad, with one path leading towards a "do what it takes to survive and get rich quick" by looking to sell masks and a range of other products needed to survive a pandemic, or to take a step back, bear a short term hit and restrategize, and learn how to better reconnect with our community and build strategic partnerships... we bit the short term bullet and went for the latter. So as brands around us sold thousands of masks, we sat back spoke to the AKU-mmunity, held our yoga, workout classes, told their stories, hosted podcasts and found new strategic partnerships within and outside of Australia.
The income to the AKU accounts stuttered to almost a snails pace, but the team had never worked harder, laying the foundations of what will be a massive 2021 to come. I truly ask you all to stayed tuned.
A small part of our discovery and learning was that our AKU-mmunity, athletes and customers wanted to represent us off the field of play, but they didn't want to do that through teamwear. We needed to do a better job in providing this option and so began the task of working with our printing partners and manufacturers to find the first line of what was to become our flagship streetwear collection.
The design emulated the style worn by many within the AKU crew, simple clean basics versatile enough to wear with anything else in the wardrobe. It was only during a team meeting in lockdown, whilst discussing the new tees was when I first heard the concept of someone wishing they could wear it when lockdown was over and enjoying the great outdoors, and thus, the Simple Things was born.
With the product ready to go, our biggest challenge was trying to pull together content, with Victorian laws not allowing us to meet with models, gather in large groups or shoot random models in our indoor studio. I'd promised myself I would never appear in another AKU shoot again, but with limited options and time running out, I had to step up in front of the camera for the webshots. If you look at the product photos online, you can see me almost dying on the inside.
The lockdown rules for outdoor gatherings eased a week before launch and we were fortunate enough to enlist the help of an old AKU friend and photographer Sok (@sokonthestreets) in shooting my AKU FC team mate Clint and FC Noble Hurricanes superstar Karina, who had appeared at some AKU-mmunity events previously. The end outcome really lived up to our plan, our products on a sun kissed green backdrop, with large smiles and people really going back to basics of enjoying the simple things in life, which you can see throughout our campaign. But here are some photos that didn't make the cut but captured how the campaign went overall.
There's something extraordinary in taking the risk, halting all of your income to really go back and just focus on the connection with the customer, and with a big 2021 now planned, I couldn't be prouder of the team.
Check out whats left of our Simple Things Collection at https://www.akuonline.com/collections/simple