Zanerobe Q&A: About the brand

Successful Australian fashion label and Bird & Bird client, Zanerobe, is a progressive men’s street wear brand that was founded by Leith Testoni and Jonathon Yeo in Sydney, Australia in 2002 and is now a worldwide brand. A team from our Sydney office caught up with co-founder Leith Testoni to talk about building the brand globally, which is more than just about making apparel, but creating a design aesthetic oozing street scene culture and making waves as a youth movement.…

How has Zanerobe grown to become more than just a clothing brand but a cultural movement?

Our brand is based on some pretty simple models. We design what we want to wear and we work with people that resonate with us and we want to work with. It’s largely an organic process based on mutual respect between us and our collaborators. We generally have close personal relationships with our photographers, social media influencers, musicians and artists. This creates authenticity in our partnerships and a sense of community. We try to support the people that support us by furthering their own objectives and helping them to realise their goals as well as the objectives of the brand. I hope to think that we have given back more than we have taken from these partnerships.

What challenges have you faced growing the brand in a global marketplace? Has the increasingly competitive online marketplace been an opportunity or challenge to the brand’s growth?

Each market presents unique challenges. The online marketplace and proliferation of social media is a double- edged sword and has really changed the mode of operation. We have been around long enough to have seen business before and after these influences. Online obviously provides greater visibility of your product and access to the global community. It also provides visibility to competitors and imitators who can quickly identify what products are successful and replicate quickly. This really gives you a shorter timeline to reap the commercial benefits of styles that you have made investments in designing and marketing. This enforces the importance of continual innovation and progression.

How important has intellectual property protection been to managing the brand’s global growth?

Over time we have learnt to be diligent and protect our IP but for a young and growing business it can be a cost prohibitive process. It’s also where a lot of innovation takes place – in smaller and younger businesses that may not have the financing to protect their IP across the globe. There are people and companies looking to exploit this. I think it’s vitally important but it has to be balanced against commercial viability and should be carefully considered with the right advice and experience.

What is the future for the Zanerobe brand? Do you see technology playing a larger part for the brand?

Innovation is our number one priority and we hope that this is what we will eventually be known for – playing a role in the progression and innovation of menswear. We will also continue to experiment with our digital programs, whether that will be online commerce or media. We will get involved with projects that inspire and motivate us and some of these projects will yield financial rewards and others will be put down to learning experiences. We have some sub-brands coming that will further our integration with technology, particularly around innovations in fabric developments, but you will need to keep an eye out on what they are. One of the things I have learnt is not to give out too many details until you have all your “ducks in a row”, IP protection in place and are ready to implement in the market.

Originally published in BrandWrites 6th Edition. Co-authored by Oliver Smith and Emma Cameron.