Text: Adriana Giuffrida Images: Bassike
Simplicity was once a dirty word. Now it’s the one thing you can’t get enough of. Luckily for Deborah Sams and Mary Lou Ryan, simplicity is what they excel at. After meeting 12 years ago and striking up a friendship, the pair began their label Bassike in 2006 as a solely jersey-based brand. Four years on and Bassike has reached cult status and expanded its line to provide a range of luxurious basics made in Australia – picture a sheer organic cotton singlet with a perfectly washed denim jean and tailored jacket – all the essentials are there for the picking. Adriana Giuffrida speaks to Mary Lou Ryan about the Bassike principle.
Adriana Giuffrida: How did you guys meet. I know that you both worked at Ksubi together in the past, but wanted to know more about how you knew each other and how your working relationship began?
Mary Lou Ryan: We started actually working at General Pants group together, we were both buyers there, and that was over 12 years ago. From there, we became really good friends and we ended up living together, and then we both moved, but we remained very close friends ever since.
AG: How did Bassike begin for the two of you? Was it something you always knew you would want to start, or was it more organic?
MLR: We always spoke about doing something together in some capacity and we’ve always worked really well together. We also have a strong friendship and have always complemented each other, in work life and personal life, so we always wanted to do something. We felt there was a gap in the market, especially in the Australian climate, for a decent T-shirt that was based around luxury jersey and basics. We thought no one was really doing that, you see it coming out of the States or Denmark, but it terms of Australia. That was really our climate, so we thought we would come up with the idea of doing jersey basics and other casual staples. Now we’ve branched into whole new categories of denim, tailoring and shirting.
AG: The great thing about Bassike is that anyone can wear it and still maintain their own identity and personal style whilst wearing it. Was this always something you wanted to accomplish?
MLR: It was not a conscious decision, but it does feel good that all types of people can wear Bassike and feel good.
AG: I really admire that you make all your garments in Australia. Was it always something that you intended, as well as using organic jerseys? Or was that more your point of difference?
MLR: We have always been socially conscious and when we started our own label they were the things we wanted to look into. It wasn’t necessarily that we wanted to be a big ‘organic’ brand, it was more about what felt good and what felt right for us at the time. Supporting local community was really important, because everything has become so globalised. You also have more control over your product. We are in our factories all the time and it’s more about creating a unique product. Doing it locally and using organic cotton allowed us to have a uniqueness; our own identity.
AG: Is there a difficulty to sourcing these products?
MLR: There is a lot of planning that goes into the management of purchasing organic yarn. The yarns are sourced from all over, and we bring that into Australia and we knit it all locally and dye it all locally.
AG: In the past you have used quite simple colour palettes and solid colours in your collection. I have noticed that you used a little bit of print in the winter collection, is this something you will further endeavour to do?
MLR: Digital yardage prints is definitely an area that we will expand on. With the simplicity and colours of our collection, it is important that we don’t become one dimensional.
AG: You have branched out with Bassike Premium, which features even more luxurious items. Do you see any other areas where you may expand the brand?
MLR: Bassike Premium will always be part of what we do. We won’t create a Bassike Premium collection every season. It’s more about when we find an amazing fabric and feel inspired to create. This is more an experimental brand for us, that will come and go over the years. We’re always evolving. We are looking to expand our knitwear and shirting and we have the foundation now, so we’re developing those categories.
AG: Your label has expanded so quickly. It frequently features in all kinds of publications and is stocked in over 50 stores nationwide, not to mention the online component of your business. Where to next for Bassike?
MLR: For us it’s about organic growth. Hopefully in the next year we will have the same following internationally as we do locally.
AG: Last year you didn’t show at RAFW, but you are in 2010. What can we expect from your show this year?
MLR: The decision for us was more about ‘our message’. Obviously when we started a lot of our products were really centred around jersey, and a lot of people know us for that. But for a long time now we have been doing denim and tailoring. We’ve done all sorts of other product outside of our jersey, but not a lot of people know us for that. So we thought this was a good opportunity to show our other products and show that we are not really a jersey brand, that we do go into other categories.
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Text: Adriana Giuffrida Images: Bassike