There’s no other brand representing the surfer lifestyle like Unite Clothing do. In our interview with founder Joel we talked about the history of the brand and the inspiring story behind it…
What motivated you to start a clothing company back in 2004?
I was a professional bodyboarder until an accident at Pipeline in Hawaii ended my career in late 2001, when I was 21. I spent a couple of years recovering from my injury, and then in 2003, the idea to start a clothing company crossed my mind. I had wanted to start a brand since high school so I decided to go for it. I developed Unite for 12 months and launched our first range of products in late 2004. In the beginning it was just for fun, I never expected the success that it has become. 10 years on, I love what I do and still have fun doing it. That’s all that matters in the end, right?
Why the name “Unite”?
There was a lot of negativity and division in the bodyboarding and punk and hardcore scenes in the early 2000’s. When I was creating the brand, I wanted the name to combat this and inspire positive change. I felt that Unite was the ideal name to bring people together – and it did. Even to this day, it’s still relative and continues to fulfill what I set out to achieve all those years ago. In my opinion, it was – and still is – the perfect name for the brand.
How was it to sell you first t-shirt?
Mind-blowing. The market was completely different in 2004 though; online stores didn’t exist like they do today. All of our sales were through retailers back then so I don’t even actually know who bought our first shirt! We now have Unite Dealers – like Impericon – all across the world; it’s crazy. I still get stoked whenever we make a sale and even more psyched when I see someone wearing our stuff on the street, or online. A decade later and it still blows me away!
Where does your inspiration for the design process come from?
I’ve been a fan of skateboarding since I first stepped on a board as a grom back in the 80’s, so it’s safe to say that Unite has been inspired by skateboard brands since the early days. We don’t really follow trends; we just do our own thing and continually progress from what has worked for us from the start. Clean, classic design never goes out of fashion.
Some of your t-shirt designs represent a punk attitude, is this a message to the world?
I don’t necessarily think we’re a “punk” or “political” brand. T-shirts can be a strong medium to get a message out there though, after all, that’s why I decided on the name Unite to start with. Through our designs, we aim to inspire others to stand up for what they believe in and unite with like-minded people to push for positive change in their scene, and for the world as a whole.
Your endorsement list only covers bodyboarders. Is bodyboarding a big passion of Unite?
As I mentioned, I was a pro bodyboarder back in the day so the sport will always be a huge part of who I am – and what Unite is. We don’t only sponsor bodyboarders though, we also endorse musicians; Winston McCall (Parkway Drive), Joel Birch (The Amity Affliction) and Sam Carter (Architects) all wear our products with pride. We pretty much only endorse, or sponsor, our friends. It just so happens that our friends are some of the best bodyboarders in the world, haha.
Just in regards to Unite, is there more of a connection between music and your fashion or is the connection between your fashion and bodyboarding stronger?
I grew up skateboarding and bodyboarding – and listening to punk and hardcore; all have been an integral part of my life since I was a kid. In the early days of Unite, the company probably had more of a connection with bodyboarding. Over the years though, we have evolved into a lifestyle brand; inspired by the ocean, music and street culture. Both bodyboarding and music will always be a major focus for Unite, but never one more than the other.
Byron Bay is the home of Parkway Drive, Afends and Unite. What’s so special about this small place that we see so much creative output coming from there?
Byron has been a mecca for creative and alternative lifestyles ever since surfers and hippies discovered the area in the 60’s. It’s a melting pot of personalities and cultures from around the world living in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. I’m extremely privileged to have grown up here, it’s impossible not to be inspired by the people and our surroundings. We live in paradise.
Thank you very much!