Australian brand Grand Scheme exploded onto our shores last year with a ultra-strong collection of headwear, prints and cut n sew. The brand itself has been going since 2006, and in the process has been worn and endorsed by some of hip hops finest, including Kendrick Lamar, Odd Future, Action Bronson and the Flatbush Zombies.
They’re beginning to gain traction in the rest of the world too, and we’re starting to wake up to what most of Australia has already known – Grand Scheme are a breath of fresh air and kick ass.
You could say I’m biased, but Breaks are backing them 100% and in my quest to find out a little bit more about the brand, I shot founder Jimmy some questions via email and tried to make a bit more sense of their story and the challenges of being a streetwear brand founded without formal training and almost by accident.
How are you dude? Whats things like your end?
Yeah I’m good mate
Where are you writing this from?
I’m at our Melbourne Design studio in Collingwood. I share a warehouse with our Screen printer, Kustom Kommune who are a motor bike workshop / café and Backwoods gallery upstairs. It’s a really good creative space with likeminded people.
We also have our shipping warehouse and showroom based in Sydney where the other half of Grand Scheme in based.
Lets go back to the beginning, why and how did you start Grand Scheme?
I was freelancing as a commercial artist and designer, my friends and I used to print tees in my mates garage. We wouldn’t sell them, we just gave them to crew. I didn’t ever think I’d make a career out of it. I managed to get myself in some trouble with the law and lost my job and direction so I thought fuck it, I have nothing to lose. Time to turn this pipe dream into a reality and I took it on with new found determination and focus.
I was really naïve with the amount of work involved and what started as a side project quickly turned into a full time obsession. I had no formal fashion training so I just threw myself in the deep and realised I was going to have to learn to swim quickly or sink like so many start up brands before me.
It started with a few tees, and each season I reinvested the money and tried to make it better than the last, the range grew into a full cut and sew collection and I started working with my artist friends on the limited edition artist series. 7 years later I’m still doing the same thing and I can’t see myself doing anything else.
Where does Grand Scheme sit in the Australian market place?
We’re pretty much everywhere we want to be and not really looking to open any more Australian accounts, we have about 60 Aus doors and we only deal with independent boutiques, no major chains. Quality is key.
How developed is the Australian streetwear scene? I would have thought it was good considering your relative proximity to Japan? (Compared to us)
There are some world-class brands coming out of Australia and after seeing other international retailers it made me realise the high standard of what we have here. It’s a much smaller scene but the quality is really high. The scene has a strong local following with a good mix of independents for the States and European. Australian street wear is probably least known internationally, I think this is mostly due to how far we are located from the larger markets and the dominating influence of surf, skate and fashion compared to street. Japan is close but there isn’t a huge cross over of Japanese brands, which is strange considering how good they are and our large Japanese population.
Where does Grand Scheme draw influence from? You’re not quite a skate brand, bit streetwear etc..
Yeah I find it hard to pigeonhole Grand Scheme. I have a really broad spectrum of influences that range from street wear, art, classic menswear, sports wear, fashion music and design.
I think of it like music, most of my favorite musicians don’t just fit into a clear genre you can tell they listen to lots of different sounds and take those influences to make something new and fresh, that’s what I find exciting.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced while developing the brand?
Haha what haven’t I faced. I’m not going to sugar coat it, starting any new business is hard work, especially in an industry this over-saturated. I had no prior experience, no formal fashion training, no financial backer and no industry connections. The first couple of years were the hardest thing I’ve done. It was really difficult having to juggle all of the roles myself. You have to be the designer, production manager, marketing director, sales team, accountant, debt collector, warehouse and distributor. Ain’t no body got time for that!
The first few years were just about surviving and learning from my mistakes. Every new account I got on board felt like a big step forward. It’s crazy to think we now have about 100 leading accounts world-wide and we’re just starting to hit our stride. Now that I have the right team of people working with me I can focus on what I’m good at and I feel that anything is possible.
Do you feel slightly disconnected from the global streetwear marketing, being in Australia?
There is no denying Australia is geographically disconnected from the rest of the world, the internet helps but there is no substitute to being there in person. From next season we will have distribution networks set up across Europe, UK, Japan, USA, New Zealand and south east Asia. This will be vital to the brands growth and it wouldn’t happen without the right people on the ground.
What are some of the challenges of being based down under, with regards to sales and marketing?
The Australian market is a fraction of the size compared to Europe or America and with a niche brand you can only go so far before its over-saturated or turns main stream. To keep dealing with the same high caliber accounts we decided to focus on expanding internationally but that opens it’s own range of challenges.
Finding the right people to work with in different regions, trading agreements, logistics, warehousing, foreign taxes, freight and marketing, it’s crucial to get it all right or it can send you bust.
Pretty sick that whenever any rappers drop into Australia their first port of call is you guys right?
Yeah I like to support people doing good things and its great to have that that support given back by international acts. At the end of the day I’m a fan and am always stoked to see my favorite artist repping Grand Scheme.
Talk us through the SS14 collection?
I think the coming Summer collections are some of the best yet. It’s always fun designing for the warmer months, there’s a huge range of custom print fabrics and uniquely tailored garments and accessories. I can’t wait to get it out.
How’s things been in the UK so far for you guys?
The brand has been really well received and we are in some great accounts so I’m really happy with that and I think it has a good future there. Being distributed in a new country is also a good excuse to travel so I’m looking forward to visiting soon.
I’m excited to see Grand Scheme continue to grow around the world, I still get a huge thrill from seeing people wearing my designs and its especially surreal when they are on the other side of the world and in different cultures. Apart from that I just want to keep evolving the brand while keeping to its roots and aim to make a better collections than the season before.