*Click through photographs by Bess Maria Zewdie to see collection and store.
At 19 years old, Melbourne mates Anthony Sacco and David Strangis took a big lunge into the world of fashion retail, bright-eyed with big, entrepreneurial dreams. Almost ten years on, the pair were named Smart Company’s Fastest Growing Top 50 2014 and Hottest 30 Under 30 2015. Their label Bronze Snake has made $7.4 million over the last 12 months, boasting a long list of high profile clientele, and an ever-growing presence on the Australian fashion market – all built on the simple concept of “great products, great prices and old school customer service”.
We sat down with National Manager Jessica Stephens, at the label’s bricks and mortar store in South Yarra, Melbourne, to talk all things Bronze.
What’s the origin story behind Bronze Snake?
It’s owned by two young Melbourne guys, they’ve been friends since school, David Strangis and Anthony Sacco. They’re still great friends, they spend every day together – breakfast, lunch, dinner – so there really is a bit of a bromance happening (laughs).They had an idea of starting a business together and they did a few things, a handyman business and they did food trucks at festivals. They were on the lookout for a store, and they came across a store in Fitzroy, and they decided, ‘let’s do clothing’. That’s where it all started from, which was in 2006. It started off just really basic, that one pair of jeans, one t-shirt. From there it’s obviously built on, but definitely very hard to start with. They had night jobs, it wasn’t a success story overnight, it’s been a long time in the making. Now we’re in Sydney and Adelaide, and hoping to do Brisbane and Perth, and keep going.
Did David and Anthony have any sort of fashion background, or was this new territory for the pair?
Not at all. So Dave did accounting at university, and Anth was a real estate agent. Both normal Aussie guys, love a beer on the weekend, and definitely not fashion oriented. They saw a gap in the market, everything had prints at the time. They just thought about plain decent clothes, brought in the drop crotch jeans, which have become pretty popular now, everyone has a pair of those. They just sort of created that together, and here we are now.
How did you become apart of the Bronze Snake story?
I’ve been here for two years, I’m a recent addition to the family. I was at university studying psychology, and this was a part time job to start with. It has become more of a career and I’ve taken on more and more responsibilities, and been lucky enough to be part of the journey so far, opening new stores for them, and working closely alongside them, which has been a really good opportunity.
The drop crotch jeans are definitely the Bronze Snake staple. Is that what kick started the brand?
Yeah, so we’ve had one pair of jeans, it came in a couple of colours to start with, and then they had a t-shirt that came in a couple of colours. Everything has sort of broadened from there – different styles, different colours, different cuts.
Being such a creative hub, Melbourne has quite a competitive fashion climate. What do you think it is about the Bronze Snake brand as a whole that has made it stand out and hold its own?
I think definitely our designs are quite unique and our price is very appealing to a lot of customers. We have new designs come in every week. Also, we focus a lot on customer service. You go into a lot of stores, and customer service quite often isn’t up to scratch, and we really hope that when every single person walks into our stores, they feel comfortable being in here and leave going ‘wow, that was actually really nice’. We don’t push, we don’t up-sell, we don’t do things like that, we don’t approach people twice. We’re really laid back. We’ll make conversation about their day, and make them feel comfortable coming to us. I think a lot of customers find that really refreshing, coming into a store and not feeling like they’re being hassled. A lot of brands are renowned for the ‘double approach’, the ‘double check-up’ in change rooms, etc. We definitely want to feel like we’re there to help, but without the pushiness.
The online space is rapidly becoming an important tool for any emerging designer or label. Would you say social media has played a huge part in Bronze Snake’s marketing strategy?
Social Media has definitely been a direct correlation to our success. We find that social media allows us to advertise to a really broad range of people but also be selective. With Facebook, you can select a target market, which is fantastic. Also we use a lot of celebrities, or people with a high following, to post photos of them wearing our clothes, and, therefore, a 100,000-500, 000, or, however many people they have following them, sees our clothes.
You mentioned earlier that Bronze Snake has extended its presence to Adelaide. How has the response been so far to the new store you opened up in April?
I was there for the initial five weeks, and I just went back this week to check up and hire another person because we’re a bit busier than we thought, so that’s a good problem to have.
Have you had many high profile people walk through the Bronze Snake doors?
A lot of footy players, like Taylor Walker, captain of the Crows, Steph Claire Smith, who’s a model, Olly Peak, another model, captain of Port Adelaide Travis Boak, Brooke Hogan, Monica Clarke….we’ve had Michael Klim. That’s definitely helped as well.
Where do you see Bronze Snake in five years time?
Hopefully around Australia even more, New York, Paris, London, let’s take it worldwide. Definitely a dream for me would be to get into Brooklyn in New York, I think it’d be amazing there. Just keep growing and hopefully a bit more of a household name in five years time.
What’s one word or phrase you would use to describe Bronze Snake?
Minimalistic. It suits a wide range of people, it’s adaptable. A 50-year-old could wear the same t-shirt as a 16-year-old.