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Meet The Brand That's Dominating The Streetwear Market In Australia

Ichpig is a brand that's been dominating the Australian streetwear market with quality garments and killer designs. We spoke with Nate about his experience starting the brand with his brother Alex in 2009 while they were living in Japan, to now running the streetwear market in Melbourne with their own store that serves a growing community of fashion-enthusiests in Australia and internationally. In addition, we spoke with Nate about the Ichpig mobile app he recently released, the influence behind some of his favorite pieces, and his hunger for relentless progression that strives to make Ichpig a staple in the international streetwear community and put Melbourne on the map.

Where are you from?

Nate: I’m from Melbourne, Australia.

Where does the name Ichpig come from?

Nate: All the garments are made here in Melbourne since it’s an Australian based company but the idea initially started in Japan when my brother Alex and I came up with the name for our brand. I wanted to do a snowboard company but for whatever reason it didn’t go that way. We still make outerwear but that didn't become our focus. The pig part of the name relates to the idea that you shouldn’t let anything get in the way of what you’re doing, relentless hunger. The Ich part means "one" in Japanese and relates to you yourself, your desire. Whatever you want to focus on don’t let anything get in the way. So Ichpig means relentless progression fueled by hunger.

How is the streetwear scene in Australia?

Nate: I would say all the brands that you know are pretty current here, especially in Melbourne since there's a big streetwear scene here. There’s a really big asian community here as well that’s really into stuff like Supreme, Offwhite, and Balenciaga.

When did you start Ichpig?

Nate: We started in the winter of 2009 - 2010 in Japan.

What made you want to start a clothing brand?

Nate: When I first started crocheting beanies people would suggest colorways that they wanted to see. I’d then make them the beanies and be excited to see how the colorways turned out together. When we got back to Melbourne we figured out how to make clothing a little bit taller. That was what was coming into Vogue when we were coming back to Melbourne after living in Japan. I’m 6 ft 1 and Alex is 6 ft 2 so it’s more about making clothes the way we wanted them to fit us. At the time it was really hard to find really good quality stuff that fit how we wanted. When we started we were still doing the custom thing as well so we were making made to order garments where you could choose your colorway. It was customization that appealed to us and it was also about quality, we wanted to go and redefine both of those things. We’re heavily into basketball so initially we made the five sizes based around basketball positions. So small was called point guard, medium was shooting guard, and there was also small forward, power forward and center as well.

Have you always been interested in fashion?

Nate: Alex and I have always had an interest in fashion and clothing for sure. Alex came from a fine arts background, oil painting and stuff like that. He’s a really talented artist and can pretty much do anything. I came from an industrial design background that included product design and stuff like that. He went to a pretty prestigious University here in Melbourne and I did industrial design as well at University.

Talk about the full "Tech-Force V2" drop you guys recently did. What was the inspiration behind it?

Nate: I suppose it’s really inspired by North Face and a lot of the snowboarding roots we grew up with. We aren’t a full hardcore outerwear company but Alex and I still snowboard a ton. As we’ve gone through the companies life we’ve found needs and fulfilled them with our own clothes. We snowboard a lot and we’re in cold environments so we decided to design full suits. Growing up Alex and I were super into that North Face "steep tech" vibe. That stuff they make is so fresh. I guess a lot of the hardcore paneling can be attributed to that as well and inspired by some of the things they do. It's a pretty technical garment layout as well so it’s always cool to push the boundaries and see what we're capable of.

Are a lot of your supporters in Australia or other places?

Nate: We are very dominant in Australia. I would say we’re one of the dominant brands here in terms of streetwear. We’re definitely the only ones making gear at our scale here locally in Melbourne. Nobody else is doing that at all. We’re slowly growing internationally. International is a tricky one though because it's difficult for the world hear about something coming from an island so isolated and far away. The states are so spoiled for choice in terms of what’s available over there. I assume it’s pretty hard to justify spending the extra shipping and all the waiting since there’s so many different providers in the states. It’s hard to get your voice above them and into the face of people from other countries. But we’re slowly getting there. I feel like we have a pretty authentic message and a unique way of operating.

It seems like being international is an opportunity to do something different since the online shopping experience is becoming much more globalized.

Nate: I think so too. Once you get one item from us you realize how much better it is than anything else out there. You realize it’s on another level. It doesn’t come from the same place as everything else does. People buy our hoods and they get hooked. We have customers that have 20+ hoodies from us. You try our hoods and you realize it’s a really good hoodie and then that’s the only hoodie you want to wear. Then they find that the track pants are good, the tees are good, the socks the jocks, whatever. People eventually follow our journey and when they find a need for something they want that need to be filled by Ichpig since they trust our quality, our message, and what we’re about.

I know it’s winter in Australia when it’s summer in the states. How does that affect releasing a “winter drop” when it’s summer here?

Nate: We've always kinda been like Supreme and Palace. They’re dropping hoodies and stuff all year round. Yeah they might be a little bit more seasonal focused given the time they’re dropping but in every drop they have some form of outerwear or warm thing since it’s always winter somewhere. We're working towards that also, this idea of it's always winter/summer somewhere. We’ll have a lot of our winter stuff stocked for all 365 days of the year. We’re working towards that but it just takes time.

What made you want to design an Ichpig skate deck?

Nate: I skateboard heaps. My general manager skates, I skate, heaps of my friends are skaters. It’s just a natural kind of thing that you can sell and it’s another platform you can give to artists to sell their work. It makes skateboarding free for me and accessible too. We have a skatepark now in the back of the warehouse that we built and people are gonna be snapping boards so it makes sense to have extra decks there.

Would you consider Ichpig a “skate company”?

Nate: I always think about this. We’re not a core skateboard company but at the same time so much of our inspiration and who we are is skateboarding. It’s one of those things that took so long to define what Ichpig was. Me as a person, I wouldn’t define myself as a skater. I’m many things. I’m addicted to basketball and I play a shit load of basketball. I’m really interested in snowboarding because I lived in about three or four countries doing snowboard instructing. I skate all the time, and I’m interested in art. It’s the progress that I’m defined by and that’s what Ichpig is defined by. No matter what you’re doing it’s the relentlessness. You set your eyes on something and nothing gets in your way and you keep chasing it until you’ve got it. It was always hard to define what Ichpig was since it has so many different influences. And the amount and variety of people that are associated with the brand is just staggering. There's graphic artists, skaters, snowboarders, surfers, basketball players, musicians, whatever. It’s all over the board.

Does Ichpig have a skate team?

Nate: I would say it’s more the homies. There’s definitely a family. It’s not really a skate team but we do still film stuff and put it on Instagram and whatnot. We’re not professional skaters but we’re good enough to film if that makes sense.

You guys have a physical location in Melbourne, correct?

Nate: Yes we have a store at the warehouse. That’s where we do all the logistics and that’s where the skatepark is. The design office is above the shop.

How long have you guys had the store?

Nate: We’ve probably had that store and that space for a little over two years now.

What made you guys want to open a physical location?

Nate: The only reason we’ve had a store is because we’re always there, so why not? We don’t really have someone standing in the store waiting for customers all day since it’s more of a destination store. People turn up and give the doorbell a ring and come in and that’s how the shopping experience begins. Some people do want to try stuff on but the majority of our business is online. It’s nice to have a showroom and we’re there all the time anyway so you might as well have a store there as well.

Do you focus more on in-person sales or internet stuff?

Nate: For the first 18 months to two years of the brand we didn’t have a store since everything we did was on Facebook. For the first three or four years the brand didn’t even have a website. We operated all through Facebook. It was pretty wild. Now we’re heavily online both through Facebook and Instagram, and we just launched our app and the website as well. When we have special events or big sales the store comes in handy for that.

How did you go about starting on Facebook without a website?

Nate: When we started Facebook was pretty untapped. We’d do these custom garments and for the first 2-3 years of the company we didn’t show our faces in any promo material. We always wore balaclavas since it was about the garment selling itself and not the faces behind the brand. We didn’t believe you needed to use models to sell the garments. But to start we’d put up images of these custom 1 of 1 hoods we’d make. At the start it was just pictures of people's orders so we’d put them up and tag them which would circulate through these friendship circles. Then we started making these 1 of 1’s and auctioning them on Facebook. We’d say we were releasing at some time and say whoever comments first gets it. The comments would go crazy so we'd grow by reaching out and replying to all these people.

Why did you want to make an app?

Nate: Definitely control. IG and FB are pretty much useless now. The algorithms and the popularity contest makes it hard to trust that when you post something your fans will see that content. More often than not people don’t even see it. I hit up people on Facebook all the time now and some of them are four or five months behind what we're doing. They don’t even know what we’ve dropped since then much less in the last week. For every drop now we send out a push notification so you can be sure that piece of content gets on their phone.

When did you guys release the Ichpig app?

Nate: The app has been softly launched for about a week now. It’s really in the beta phase since it’s about 85-90% done. We’re still ironing out the kinks.

You guys also have an Ichpig van, correct?

Nate: Yeah we do.

How long have you guys had the Ichpig van and why did you get one to begin with?

Nate: We’ve had the van for about four years now out of necessity. Since we’re making the stuff here we have physical stock to pick up all the time and we have to move it around from the manufacturer to branding, or wherever.

Have you guys collaborated with other clothing brands in Australia?

Nate: We haven't yet but we’re in talks with a few. There’s a big tattoo artist here called Mayo that we’re about to do a big collab with. We’re in talks with some other Australian skateboard brands and doing collabs with them too.

Are there any other brands you guys want to work with in the future?

Nate: Always. We’d love to work with brands like Nike and Puma. I’m actually sponsored by Puma so they flow me shoes from time to time which is pretty cool. I really like skating in their shoes which is pretty strange because not many people do that. But there’s heaps of brands we want to work with. There’s so many avenues to go through. As you see needs you meet them with different things so it’d be sick to do some different collabs.

Are there any basketball players you want wearing Ichpig?

Nate: Kawhi. He’s the manifestation of us. We are the same as he is, something out of nothing. He had the ingredients to make it happen but nobody handed it to him, he made it himself. He’s turned himself into a monster.

What’s your favorite piece you guys have released to date?

Nate: I really like the full suits so I would say the camo full suit we did. I like the storm suits as well, they’re really fresh. Obviously the hoodies are epic and the track pants are sick but my favorites are full suits.

Are there any other garments or accessories you guys want to experiment with in the future?

Nate: A shoe collab would be amazing. That would probably be the holy grail. We’re definitely gonna be experimenting with some new types of fabrics for some of the shorts and pants. The pants we do are really popular so we’re trying to expand on them as well.

What should we expect to see from Ichpig in the near future?

Nate: We want to do more charity based stuff. We’re definitely trying to expand the reach and get the company at the forefront of public perception. I’d love to do a documentary on us as well since I reckon it’d be pretty amazing. Expect some new experimental garment drops as well, new fabrics, and new technologies. We're really just progressing and building on the message.

What’s Ichpig’s message?

Nate: Relentless progression.

What do you want Ichpig to become in the long run?

Nate: I'd love for it to become a proper international brand. I feel like it’s super authentic and I think we’re different. I want to be in the position where we can provide opportunities to my friends and maybe people who haven't gotten the opportunity to pursue something they’re passionate about. We really just want to push that message and get like minded people opportunities to help this thing grow and put Melbourne on the map for streetwear. We have a lot to offer.

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