A Brief History of Red Stripe Clothing
By Lake Bovell
Red Stripe started as a market stall on 5th October 2001 in Subiaco Station Street Markets by Agatha and I. We’d been friends for a few years and liked making our own clothing and accessories. Friends were starting to ask us to make them outfits too and we thought it would be super cool if we could open a little market stall one day...
In mid 2001, while Agatha and I were in the UK for the annual punk festival Holidays In The Sun we were inspired and decided we should start a shop. The name came to us when were were in Soho, London and we were walking past some ‘adult’ shops, and one such establishment's awning read 'xxx, books, magazines, red stripe, toys, videos' or something to that effect. Agatha and I looked at each other and both knew that ‘red stripe’ had to be the name of our shop. We're still not quite sure what it means.. haha!
A couple of months later, one September morning back in Perth after a huge night out, 19 year old Lake was heading home on the train at the sunny time of about 11am from Agatha’s where I’d crashed the night before; with a split second decision I jumped off the train at Subiaco Station and found the Station Street Markets manager’s office and registered my interest in renting a stall. It wasn’t until I got home that I looked in the mirror - eye makeup smeared down my face, mohawk spikes sagging, striped black and white tshirt stained with grenadine and beer.. what a sight! I couldn’t believe it when Suzette the market manager called me about 2 weeks later and said a stall space had become available and asked if we wanted it! I said yes on the spot without the faintest clue how we were going to do it (or pay for it!), and from that moment on Agatha and I cruised verge side hard rubbish collections for stuff that could deck out our little stall. We scavenged everything - the racks, the counter and display shelves, then customised them ourselves. We sewed like demons and asked our friend Bryn who was studying clothing production at TAFE if he wanted to be a part of it. Red Stripe the stall was born the next weekend to three proud parents.
The market stall was crazy and colourful, Agatha had painted a shelf fluoro pink, which went 'well' with the yellow walls and purple floor we inherited from the previous stall tennant.. it was bright and DIY, just like the stuff we were making. Soon the stall was full of locally made garments and accessories, we were sewing in any spare time we had - fitting it around our study or part time jobs, and then working at the markets on the weekends.
We usually stocked about 10-15 local designers at any one time, including Bada Bing, GreenStar 27, Vatican, Wreck & Order, Draft, Silly Rabbit, Aradia, Evanova and of course Bryn's label '8 Ball' and Agatha and my label 'Red Stripe'. Lots of friends helped us out at the stall too, we would stock their label and they worked the occasional shift in exchange. One friend, Janelle, who was introduced to Agatha and I through Bryn started getting into it and quickly became an integral part of the stall. Oh the fun we had! We got a super positive response and soon we were making custom orders for people on a weekly basis, and along the way we made heaps of great friends - it seemed a lot of people were genuinely jazzed on what we were doing.
After about 18 months it was becoming a bit more than a hobby and more like a full time job, which was fine by me, but in late 2003 Agatha and Bryn both stepped back and ended up moving interstate, and Janelle and I took over completely. I finished my degree in Italian, Janelle had finished Certificate IV in Clothing Production and we were loving life - our hobby was now our actual job! In early 2004 our friends at Exotic Body Piercing in Northbridge told us the florist shop next door to them in Northbridge had been vacated recently; and by vacated they meant skipped the country, leaving behind a giant floral mural adorning the outside walls and inside some intense peach Roman 90s decor with functional limestone waterfall wall feature and the two live goldfish which lived in it. The fish had not survived by the time we got the keys (we believe the shop is haunted by their tortured souls).
Janelle and I along with a bunch of amazingly generous friends and handy family members helped us strip back and transform the ghastly space into our very own real shop. Again we scavenged for shop fittings - we were donated a counter and our rack system (still in use today) and did the whole shop renovation and fit out with less than $5000 - all the money we’d saved since opening at the markets. Our friend Daevid painted the exterior with hotrod style flames and we opened for trade on Thursday 22nd April 2004. Aaaaahhh! Who would have thought!!?! Definitley not us!!
We didn't have enough stock to fill the shop as it was now a whopping 30m2 - we'd come from about 12m2, and we started importing footwear to compliment the clothing and accessories we'd been making. As working in the shop was now a full time job and Janelle and I liked to be there together because it was all new to us, we found we didn't have as much time to sew, so we started importing more domestic and international labels. We continued to sew when we could, and of course were still stocking local labels, as that was the essence and personality of the shop. We were never about the money, it was always about the love and being a place where ourselves and our friends could stock our creations. Equinox, Evanova, Angelorium, Cathexis, Rumjuggler, Suzi Homemaker, Miss JamJam, Martha & Lilly, Trouble Bound Clothing, Fallen Feathers, Ignite Gear and many, many more were (and some still are) the local labels that fill the racks.
In 2005 we asked our good friend Jasmine if she would like a job, she said yes immediately and in 2006 we also invited Roxy and Ainslie to join the team. Never in my wildest dreams had I ever imagined I would have my own real shop with real human employees! Later that year the mega-wonderful Studio Robot build the first version of our website. Since opening we’ve learnt so many things that we had no idea about, it’s been a trial and error process and of course a little stressful at times, but we’ve found our way pretty well I think all things considered.
In 2008 Northbridge was transforming - there were now 9 small boutiques in the area run by their owners, most of whom had started out just like us - coming from a DIY or fashion design backgrounds, and all under the age of 25. Rent was cheap and the area was central - the perfect place to start a shop. Us shop keepers met up and concluded that something special was happening in the area and people needed to know about it, and so The William Street Collective was born. Driven mostly by Aimee (Keith & Lottie , which has now morphed into The Butcher Shop), Renee & Kristy (LaLa Orange) and myself, we started to put on events which brought people to the area showing them what a creative centre Northbridge had become in the day time. Soon there were several ‘OnWilliam’ events happening a year - Windows On William, Popsicle, annual collectable magnet sets designed by local artists, various market events, sets of artist edition Christmas Cards to name a few - all showcasing Northbridge’s creative energy whilst supporting local small business and creatives. Did I mention I really love Northbridge?
In 2009 the shop’s first 5 year lease term was up and Janelle decided she'd like to step back, do some travelling and see what else was out there for her, and she moved over to Sydney in mid 2009. From then onwards I’ve been running Red Stripe Clothing, with help from Jasmine, Roxy and Ainslie along the way. We've been the happiest family for the longest time, it's just so flipping great. I was becoming much busier than before, with Red Stripe Clothing and OnWilliam both taking a lot of my time I neglected my sewing, and pretty much stopped making clothing all together. Although somehow I did start a little accessories label, ‘Skullduggery’..
In 2012 Aimee and I founded Creative Crops - an information sharing website for WA’s creative industries. This came about organically, OnWilliam was just about Northbridge, but WA’s creative industries as a whole needed something similar. We’re very proud to watch this database grow and engage every day - Western Australia is full of amazing talent!
Now it’s 2014 and Northbridge is thriving, Red Stripe Clothing is still alive (with the totally wonderful Jasmine and Roxy still at my side) and I’ve started sewing again. I am so freaking happy - I am surrounded by passionate, creative, genuine and intelligent people who also love what they do.
Cheers to Northbridge for having us for the last 10 years, it’s been a lively, amusing and sometimes downright demented ride - and I’m thankful for every minute of it! Celebrating 10 years of having a real brick and mortar shop which started as nothing more than a whimsical idea with no planning or financial backing is something I’m really proud of. But most importantly, it wouldn’t be here without you - if you’re reading this I thank you for being even slightly interested, it’s a huge compliment. Thank you to the super wonderful people who have supported us over the years - friends, family and the incredible customers who like what we do - Red Stripe Clothing and Northbridge as a whole would not be what it is today if it weren’t for you!
Mega high fives to Agatha, Bryn, Janelle, Jenette, Jasmine, Roxy, Ainslie, Aimee, Jessee and Corndogs.
Photo GallerySome photos of Red Stripe over the years.
From a market stall in 2001, to a shop in 2004, to now!
Red Stripe Market FlyersRed Stripe flyers, 2001-2003.
Handmade on the benches and photocopiers in Subiaco Officeworks by Lake and Agatha.
Red Stripe Clothing PostcardsRed Stripe Clothing promotional postcards, 2006-2011.
Artwork by Glitter Sniffer.