I was looking through old ‘draft posts’ that I had stared in the WordPress database and found the below bit. I am not sure when I wrote it but is must have been around 2007 or so.
It’s interesting reading this little time capsule now, some 3.5 years on from when I sat down and wrote the words, I guess trying to explain what had happened to Lab-Gear V1.0. Reading it now and looking at what has transpired over the past year and half or so, it seems that I have ended up where I have wanted to all along with Lab-Gear (V2.0?) and other things I do, such as Mountain Cycle. Sitting in our still new (to us) work space is a sharp reminder of that, as back when I wrote the below, I would never have thought that here I’d be, in my own, first ‘real’ design studio space and work area.
I am also so pleasantly surprised that in doing what I did with Lab-Gear V2.0, we have a whole new following that love what we do for what it is as well as having many of our loyal customers from the past stay with us. Maybe it’s the times, maybe thing changed more than we realise over the past few years, what ever the case I feel V2 is actually more successful than the original on any fronts.
So for those that wondered what happened to Lab-Gear back in ’06, here’s what I wrote to try and explain things. All a bit funny considering where it it now!
Written sometime early 2007…
Most who know me, know I started Lab-Gear all those years ago with my then wife Fiona. It was a combination of many things that made us start it but the single biggest was the simple desire to do something different, something cool. So it came as a surprise to many, both here and in the United Kingdom, when I announced that I was closing its doors in Australia, after 5+ years of damn hard work. Here’s just a little insight as to why I did what I did and what’s next.
The reasons why I closed the doors on the Australian operation are varied and rather personal, so I won’t bore the eyes off you by going into the nitty gritty of it all here. But perhaps one of the most compelling reasons to call it a day was the feeling that as a brand, Lab-Gear in Australia had lost its way; the what and why of why we started Lab-Gear seemed to have been lost to more inane market forces on the local front. That and the near impossible mission to convince much of the Australian market that quality, well designed kit using high grade, local materials AND manufacture, was worth more a little more than what many companies pull out of the far East. Don’t get me wrong, we had a great following of solid and loyal customers that understood just what it was Lab-Gear was about and that in turn generated a growing and steady turnover but to the greater masses, it was not about the product nor the ideal behind it, it was about the bottom dollar and/or big brand advertising. In short I was never interested in just making bike gear like everyone else and while we had our signature products, we had ended up doing what I never wanted to do…. making bike gear like everyone else and then competing on a price front.
So I spent most of 2006 working on a new direction for Lab-Gear, one that involved a very in depth business model that many in the rag trade industry thought was not only very strong but also very logical when taking into account being based in Australia. I even had a masters paper written on the model I designed as a case study, so I knew I was on to something. What I planned would have taken Lab-Gear down a very different road from where it was headed, a road that was closer to what I wanted to do not only with my time but one that was more in tune with my own beliefs. In short I was turning Lab-Gear into a low volume, high quality line with a semi bespoke component and had an approach that would have increased export sales. My plan was not to see fruition though as things on the personal front went decidedly pear shaped, which meant putting the plan into action was impossible. So rather than continuing on I closed Lab-Gear’s Australian doors in September 2006, ending a 5 year journey.
Keeping Lab-Gear running in the UK through Scott at Otagocyclesport, our Manchester based distributor, was not an issue. Lab-Gear UK was, and is, not regarded in the same way as it was within Australia. There we are a boutique sized, all Australian (an important fact in the EU market) Merino based label, designing and producing a focused all Merino line (certainly our other offerings in synthetics were only marginally successful). When people ask about Merino over there, we come up in the same conversation as Howies and Icebreaker, a stark contrast to Australia. As far as the UK was concerned it was business as usual.
There is no deep regret in having closed the Australian side of things, in many ways it has allowed me to focus my energies on Lab-Gear UK, which while small is a true challenge. There is some in knowing that I was so close to launching something that only seems to go on overseas, in brands like PAC, Chrome and Hypnotic in North America but am now looking at a blank slate; having something to build on is always easier than starting from the ground floor. For the most part though, all of the work I had done in 2006 is still there, still in place and surprisingly even documented in a business plan. As you can see I have changed direction and am pursuing other design fields. Working in 5D marketing/design is something I truly enjoy and ties together all of the skill sets I have spent the past 15 odd years putting together. So the close of one thing sees the opening of another and that in turn is allowing me to start looking into starting something new; speaking metaphorically it’s allowing me to raise the Phoenix from the ashes.
My foray into technical clothing and the like is not dead. I have developed a strong passion for designing and producing gear that people wear and use at a personal level and I have a very strong ideal that I want to pursue. Unlike Lab-Gear though it will not be the do all or end all of what I do, so when I do it, while the quality, design and service will be above anything Lab-Gear might have done at the local level, it will not be something I will rely on as a self sustaining entity – not a hobby but not a main line business; think boutique at the most extreme. I think it is this very thing that will make what I do next so interesting, as I am not relying on it to feed me day to day. There’s a lot to said for that when it comes to designing and making something…