Stoked to have a really inspiring this is me going on this week with Danny Clayton of Salt Gypsy. She chats about her blissful childhood in NZ, why the world needed surf leggings and why if you’re being ripped off by big brands you must be doing something right
I grew up in Auckland, New Zealand as a child of the 80s self-esteem movement and a young solo mum who taught me: “Girls can do anything, better than boys!” Summers stretched forever, camping in the Far North, snorkelling, boogie-boarding, rock climbing, exploring beaches and general running-amok-ness through the camp ground with the other kids in our gang. I’m the oldest of six kids from two families so there were always babies around, which meant I left home as soon as I could!
Did I always love surf and fashion? I’ve always been around the ocean and surfing more than half my life now so yes, I love surf but I definitely wouldn’t claim to have a natural affinity with fashion or being super trendy!
I was working for Billabong, New Zealand as a sales rep for three of their smaller lifestyle brands (Von Zipper, Nixon, Kustom) a few years ago where my interest in trends, fashion and surf really began to develop and merge. Suddenly it was my job to be ahead of the game which was a new experience at the time and one that has led to where I am now.
I’ve just spent the last three years working as a surf guide in the Maldives so all that water and tropical sun time equates to a lot of sun exposure and damage. I had a couple of cool rashies but nothing to protect my legs. On researching existing lycra leggings in the marketplace I couldn’t find anything that was either affordable (under $100 – surf guide wages mostly consist of waves!) or my style. At the time, Xcel and O’Neill both had one pair on offer, along with Skins compression leggings and a couple of brands with super-fruity digital prints. So, out of necessity I made a couple of pairs for myself, wore them constantly in the Maldives last year, gained encouraging feedback and some bespoke orders, and have been trying to keep up with demand since.
We have definitely been putting them through their paces in big surf – particularly from a swell that hit Indo in September. They stayed on the whole hour I was rumbled down the reef from Padang Padang to Bingin so I can attest to their staying-put-ness! Man was I stoked I wasn’t in bikini bottoms.
Salt Gypsy has been my baby for the last two years and it’s been awesome to see it evolve from a personal blog to a bonafide business.
The best things about running my own company? Being the master of my own time, connecting with like-minded female surfers across the globe, showcasing self-sponsored, everyday chicks who charge, drawing together my passions and skills which is now driving style in the lineup, and the exhilaration of throwing myself into the unknown shouting, “Hell yeah, let’s make shit happen!” The hardest? Not knowing how you’re going to feed yourself or pay next month’s rent.
Do I ever get designer’s block? Yip and I head straight to the water when I do – or to the fabric market or collaborate like we recently did with the girls from Rue Stiic.
My advice for budding female entrepreneurs? Have dreams? A big vision? Well… they ain’t gonna happen without action so do your research, be clear and specific on what value you provide to the world and just start. Nothing will ever be perfect so be prepared for it to evolve as you go. Be authentic. And this is a biggie. People – your customers, your peers, your colleagues – are not stupid, so walk your walk because banging on about this, that and the other without following through is lame. People see through the talk and man, we come across some talkers. Be original. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel but what’s your point of difference? What value are you creating for your customers? Find (or create) your niche, and own it – by being authentic and original. Collaborate, ask for help, learn as much as you can about the things you don’t know (like how to create balance sheets!), have fun and put out the good vibes. This stuff gets me so amped so feel free to shout me a coffee and pick my brains.
Am I worried my products will be ripped off by the big brands!? Funny you ask as it’s already happened! Does that mean we’re successful?? Rad 🙂 As recent as this afternoon we have had to double-take images of surf leggings from several businesses (including one iconic global surf brand) that look ridiculously similar to what we’ve been creating over the last year. But that’s ok – more covered pins = less cases of skin cancer we hope! Surf leggings are not a fad for us, they are our business. It is what we wear out of necessity in our daily life moving between the beach and the street. If anything, it just compels us to keep thinking outside the box and lead the way 🙂
Anything else I’d like to chat about? Firstly, to our fellow Northern Hemi Salties who’ve ordered from or connected with us already – hollaaa!! We know you ladies up there in Europe are coming into winter but if anyone is heading off on surf adventures over the next few months we’d be stoked to bring a little tropical lycra-love to your mailbox with a 15 per cent discount at our online boutique: bespoke and pre-made surf leggings, rashguards, surf shorts and our new, super awesome travel wraps. We have Surf Packs and special Xmas goodies on their way soon too. Enter discount code: coolermagisrad. And if we don’t have what you’re looking for, we know our indie surfwear labels and can point you in the direction to find styles right for you. Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for checking us out and keep charging!