AFICIONADI: CHRIS HARDINGE
Photography By Osborne Images. Interview By Daniel.
On this edition of the ‘About A Brand’ series we have Chris Hardinge, one of the creators behind the lifestyle brand, Aficionadi. The brand is a fusion of cycling, pop culture and street style. It’s about living the lifestyle you want off the bike!
The latest Bermfest collection is a return back to the fun times of the 90s with retro graphics and pop colours.
With a growing fan base both on and off the trails, its definitely exciting times ahead.
Lets find out a little more about Aficionadi.
Tell us about the brand and how did it all begin?
The aficionadi is a cycling and pop culture inspired lifestyle brand dealing mainly in T Shirts, created by Chris Hardinge and brothers Matt & Mitch Osborne. The focus is on what a passionate cyclist would choose to wear when they are not riding #UntilTheNextRide. You wouldn’t wear your cycling jersey to the pub! The word ‘aficionadi’ is plural for the Spanish ‘aficionado’ meaning 'A group of people who like, know about, and appreciate a particular interest or activity'.
It all started in late 2012 when I decided to try a one off print run of novelty cycling tee’s for a bit of fun. I sold 50 in 3 weeks, and thought it might be worth exploring it further. It took another year of research and wear testing to be 100% confident that the products ranged were the best I could offer.
Matt and Mitch joined the brand not long after the initial launch. With their background in photography and mixed media and mine in apparel, it was felt that we could work well as a team to give the project a greater chance of success. So far the focus has been specifically on the mountain bike market, but we plan to build future ranges for the complete cycling and actions sports markets.
Describe the brand in 5 words.
Unpredictable cycling T Shirts with style.
What inspires each range? Any key influences?
The story and marketing that accompanies each collection is very important to our brand. The inspiration comes from all the lifestyle pursuits that we enjoy as a creative team, giving more depth than just cycling prints which can be a bit one dimensional. So far we have delivered three ranges with three distinct inspirations, ranging from 90’s retro, 60’s comic strips and professional sports parody. We definitely get mostly excited about some mad retro action!
Influence comes from sources as wide as music, bike frame colour trends, 80’s retro art and the U.S. streetwear market. We all respect different brands with a few on the list being retro surfers @Brothers_Marshall , iconic streetwear labels Supreme and Stussy, futurists ICNY and the legendary Johnny Cupcakes.
Describe the process in bringing a collection to life.
We mainly just ping topics around on social media until a general collection direction sticks. It’s like a bunch of kids having a laugh or making up a funny prank. Things normally escalate too far, and have to tone it down! From there we create inspiration boards on Pinterest, and comment on what we like about certain art styles and colour combo’s that we think will work for the season we are working on. Based on a budget we will then plan how many different styles we will produce for the season. Everyone takes the responsibility for a product. It’s really cool to say that each of us have designed different products from start to finish. Having three opinions is good for a different point of view when you get a creative block, even though we don’t always agree on the same thing and end up finding a middle ground. We’ve dialled in the manufacturing, based on the size of our brand and built good relationships with our suppliers which really helps. We also create a marketing launch plan, photo shoot the products and seed to influencial media. This process takes around 2- 3 months for us which keeps us up to date with fast moving trends.
What are the highlights of the brand so far?
On a simple note, I’d say having someone come up to me say that they love their aficionadi T Shirt. It makes all the hard work worthwhile. As a creative team, the Bermfest collection launch is a highlight. We set up a fake website www.bermfest.com and pranked everyone into thinking we were launching a mountain bike event. This was picked up by all the major mountain bike media in Australia and has helped to get us noticed.
What are the future aspirations for the brand?
Most importantly, to continue to have fun and create cool gear that people like. A dream would be to be able to leave our day jobs and work on this full time.
Is there a dream collaboration you would love to do?
Probably someone crazy and far out like Greg Mishka @mishkagram where there are no boundaries!
Any advice you can give others wanting to start their own label?
There’s probably a hundred things I could say, based on our experiences in just one year. We are far from being in the situation where we deem our label successful at this early stage, but I think that any label, big or small can offer some really relevant advice…..
My top three tips are:
Do it for the right reasons. If you are there just for the money, the passion won’t show in your creations and marketing.
Have a really strong direction for your brand and have a point of difference in your chosen market.
Everything you do can reflect a positive image to your brand. From the garments, photoshoots, clothing labels and even post packs you send them in. Attention to detail separates the good from the mediocre.
And... finally. Your all time favourite trail to ride?
There’s so many trails in this world, I’m sure our favourites will continue to change as we experience more, but at this stage ‘The Juggernaut’ at Hollybank MTB Park in Northern Tasmania would be the favourite. This 10km point to point downhill experience gives you the ultimate flow opportunity for riders of all levels. There is some gnarly stuff out there we are yet to tame!
We thank Chris for his time and sharing the aficionadi story with us. A special thank you to Osborne Images for providing the photography for this interview.
Check out the latest at www.aficionadi.bigcartel.com.