We ventured to Woolloomooloo to catch up with Sydney locals Jack and Peter of clothing label OSO.
Venturing way down the dodgy end of Bourke St – no, we don’t mean the Oxford St crossroad with all those pesky charity muggers but further towards Woolloomooloo where dozens of friendly mattresses/homeless dudes hang out – we stumbled into OSO. OSO is Spanish for ‘bear’, he is a palindrome and his dads who are mates from the Snowy Mountains of NSW, are raising him to be a street wear label with savage ninja bearing.
We chatted to Jack Coles and Peter from OSO (there’s also Tom who is a co-founder, but he is currently off being serenaded by Spain) who told us their favourite Spice Girl was ‘Naughty Spice’ - they may have just invented her - and how they have taken recycled clothing to a place out of The Sound of Music, where kids wearing OSO can actually find themselves partially adorned in fabric Jack’s grandma used as curtains. The most endearing part of this DIY fashion set up is the unassuming attitude these friendly small town skaters have.
From the good old days of learning to sew pockets on T-shirts from his mum and playing shop at Glebe Markets, Jack and Peter have now set up a live-in shop because hey, why not. The landlord told them it was a requirement since the place is technically a ‘business’ property. The front of their Bourke St home is decked out in full-recycled glory - a 1950s refrigerator, a hand crafted timber and wood counter, a cash register from god-knows when that surprisingly still works and a bunch of skateboards that are mainly around for convenience sake. If you need proof just check out Pete’s blackened knees and worn-to-death Vans. Amongst all that there is a sizable gathering of affordable and quality original tees, sweaters, beanies and canvas backpacks they sell in between uni classes and other side jobs.
BYO: How did OSO start up?
Jack: All we wanted to do was pocket tees. Just with a really cool looking fabric on a T-shirt.
BYO: Had you seen it anywhere before?
Jack: No, to be honest. It sounds so dicky but we were kind of a little ahead of the curb with it but we were so slack with it that it never got anywhere at first. It was probably about 3 years ago when we were living together and I remember doing little samples when I first got the sewing machine.
Once upon a time it was like we’d cut out all the fabrics and Tom would sit there with the iron and iron them out and stick them on shirt and I’d sew them. It was really arts and crafty.
BYO: Who have you gotten to do designs for you?
So most of it is a guy we met in high school - one of those kids who is just a freak at everything. He’s an amazing musician, incredibly smart and then he started getting into drawing, particularly tattooing. About 2 or 3 years ago we started watching his stuff and you look at his Instagram and it is just ridiculously good stuff. We just hit him up and said would you like to draw some designs for us. That’s when we made the transition between doing pocket tees and doing printed tees was through his first design.
BYO: So what’s it like when you see someone in the street wearing one of your tees?
Peter: It stands out for me especially – in a big crowd I’ll be able to see it straight away.
Jack: Particularly if you see someone with a pocket tee you know we found that fabric and there was always a little bit of a story behind each of the fabrics. Like this used to be my grandma’s curtains or something. And then this guy is walking along -
BYO: Wearing your grandma’s curtains!
Jack: Yeah! My mum had this fabric when I was growing up and she used to make all of our ski clothes out of it – our jumpers and t-shirts and stuff. It was a really Aztec-looking thing and it’s really, really cool print. I went home and found a bunch of it, brought it back to Sydney and started making the pocket tees out of it. And these people are walking around with fabric I had my entire childhood and they don’t even know. To them it’s just a T-shirt. We see it like, ‘I remember making that t-shirt.’
BYO: Why was the 100% recycled element important in the beginning?
Jack: Tom’s mum is really quite down-to-earth and she’s really a bit of a hippy so he sort of pushed that at first. It was a little bit different from just going into say a General Pants or something and there’s a hundred of those shirts sitting on the rack and you’ve got it and then 10 other guys at the same time have bought the same shirt ‘coz it’s cool. Whereas if you come to us we’re like, ‘yeah, there’s one or two of these’ and there’s a cool story behind it too.
We want to start going into making our own clothes, not just finding a blank T-shirt and doing our own thing with it. [They are about to launch their first collared shirt design]. We sort of found that it sucks that the more we are trying to do things on a professional scale - you can’t really sell a bunch of those T-shirts to someone. For a wholesaler you have to have exactly the same [shirts] so you’re a bit limited with the recycled fabrics.
BYO: Are you making this clothing as stuff you would wear yourselves?
Peter: Yeah. My whole wardrobe is what we have on the shelf.
Jack: We’ve got to be careful every time we print shirts not to take one for ourselves. Because then our friends won’t buy them coz we’re always just wearing them.
Peter: I’ll be like, ‘I like this one so much’ and he’ll be like ‘nup, you can’t have it.’
BYO: So, a bit off topic but if you had to pick a favourite Spice Girl, which one would you choose?
Peter: Naughty Spice
Jack: Naughty’s not even one of them.
BYO: How did you even imagine her?
Peter: She’s definitely got half her head shaven.
Jack: Spice Girl of 2013.
Peter: What are they again?
Jack: Posh, Baby, Ginger, Sporty and Scary.
Peter: I’d probably go Sporty Spice.
Jack: Yeah, I liked Baby Spice and Ginger Spice growing up as well. But now I don’t like Scary Spice because she’s in my face too much - in Jimmy Craig ads and everything.
BYO: Tell us about this Bear Hunt you have going on.
Jack: It’s our Christmas party for this year. It was a concept we thought of that’s like – we wanted to do a x-mas party because our friends have been so good at buying all our stuff that we want to sort of help them out. We all start here and we’ve chosen 13 pubs all around this area. Basically we will draw names out of a hat and put together a $500 bar tab and then whoever is the ‘bear’ dresses up in the bear suit and they can choose any of those 13 pubs and run to one of those pubs with the $500. Then they sit there in the bear suit and they can just drink as much as they want until about half an hour later everyone here (who will be dressed up as hunters) chasers them down. You have to just go to any of the 13 pubs you think they might be at. And when you find them you can sit there and drink with them.
BYO: Tt’s like ‘Sardines’.
Jack: Yeah, yeah, you hide with them. It’s in a couple of weeks. We’re really excited. So we’re going to film the whole thing and make a little promo video out of it.
BYO: What kind of bear suit do you have? And can we come?