Hidden Champions series part 3: Nobody Denim

Nobody Denim has built itself into a brand known for quality and style. Co-founder John Condilis told Brent Balinski about the company’s journey and its plans to grow.

“I guess it’s a passion of mine to have control and the ability to experiment,” explained John Condilis, managing director at Nobody Jeans, which he founded with his brother in 1999.

“And I don’t mean that in a negative way, it’s in a positive way. What we’ve established, is that we’ve had a vision of how we create our own mad scientist laboratory in which we develop and innovate and progress, in our space.”

Having control over everything – in the form of a fully integrated design, manufacturing, and distribution site – came about after an Enterprise Connect business review towards the end of the last decade.

This was necessary, Condilis told Manufacturers' Monthly, “In order for it to progress and work efficiently, we needed to have the best structure with all activities planned under one roof.”

Everything has been done out of the Fitzroy facility since 2011, with the benefit of greatly shortened lead times and increased responsiveness to customers’ needs.

The decision to keep things [very] local was a response to the uncertainty in the textiles, clothing and footwear industry, said Condilis, who avoided the lure that saw many in the industry move offshore. Others simply folded, unable to be competitive as tariffs lowered to around ankle height.

“The trend was to find a manufacturing partner outside of Australia,” explained Condilis of his contemporaries.

“No-one in the fashion space, or in the clothing space, knew where things were going. It was all about margin and cost. The value-add of quality and being a little bit more innovative almost went out the door”

John Condilis and brother Nick followed in their father’s footsteps (he ran a denim laundry for Dachet jeans) running a denim laundry in the 1990s, before beginning their own jeans label in 1999.

“Nobody” retained a laundry service for local companies, though had to cut staff drastically in 2000 (to five) as clients’ local textile manufacturing evaporated.

Condilis said he learned from the industry’s difficulties, adding of his company that, “I guess I was on a mission” to bring Nobody back to good health.

“It was about us developing a value-add product that focussed on quality and focussed on the right fit,” said Condilis.

“And with the right style.”

The company has developed a reputation for stylish, premium denim products, with everything manufactured in Fitzroy. The emphases are on quality and customisability.

Due to an absence of local suppliers, material is sourced from global denim mills.

Having close control over and visibility of the company’s supply chain is deeply important, believes the managing director.

The company gained Ethical Clothing Australia accreditation in July 2010.

“We – all employees – like to have our head held up high saying we’re doing the right thing and we’ve got nothing to hide,” he said.

The focus on desirable, well-made products has gained a lot of attention in the fashion world, with Nobody’s jeans seen on the likes of Rihanna, Naomi Watts and Miranda Kerr.

Condilis puts Nobody’s domestic and export sales at about a 90/10 breakdown, and aims to bolster exports, but not before the company is structurally able to cope with this. Without the correct infrastructure, it is impossible to properly service demand.

“If your back-of-house is not functioning properly and the correct infrastructure for global distribution is not in place, any company would find it very difficult to meet demand,” he said.

Condilis believes there’s a need for all Australian manufacturers, especially those in textiles, to think in terms of a global market.

“It’s no longer just Australian or Victoria or Melbourne,” he said.

“Everything is quite transparent and there are greater opportunities.”

 

For an introduction to Manufacturers' Monthly's Australian Hidden Champions series, click here. Part one, featuring PWR Performance Products, can be seen at this link, and part two, featuring Anatomics, here.  

(Images: supplied.)