Want to stand out, be noticed and turn heads? Then look no further than Camino Apparel. The Australian-based tri and cycling apparel brand takes a multipart approach and is athlete focused – they want their customers to stand out and look fresh. AT’s Aimee Johnsen chats to Matthew Isbister to get the lowdown on this sporting fashion up and comer.
When did you get the idea to create Camino Apparel? What was the process from idea to reality?
Reece Rackley (co-founder) and I embarked on an overnight 50km hike through the Gold Coast hinterland. We had a lot of time to chat. Throughout the hike, we cut through a tonne of ideas, concepts and business opportunities together. The idea to create a cycling/triathlon apparel start up really resonated with us, given our competitive backgrounds.
What is the philosophy behind Camino Apparel?
Camino Apparel is about the journey, path or adventure – personal or professional, competitive or casual. We have a passion for cycling, triathlon and endurance events, and for encouraging people to get out amongst it; to find their own daily adventure, and test the limits. We want our customers to follow the journey with us, whether it is through our products, social media or events. We want them to feel part of the ‘Camino Comrades’.
The name Camino – tell us about that.
The name is Spanish. Translated into English, it means “The Way”. We wanted this brand to be all about creating a feel of adventure or discovery – paving your own path.
Camino Apparel is all about cycling and tri gear, were you concerned you were joining an already well-stocked market? What do you think stands you out from the rest?
We weren’t concerned at all. It’s the same as when you enter a race and have 100 people to compete against. The athlete who trains well and races the smartest performs well. We’ve applied that mindset to our business approach. We create quality, functional, stylish triathlon and cycling apparel with a difference. We have a great design team and the ability to continually release new, modern designs. This allows our customers to always look fresh and stand out from the pack.
What do you think has been your greatest challenge so far?
With every new business, the first 12 months is always a challenge. Reece, Nigel and I still have full-time jobs. So there has been a lot of long nights and lost weekends building this brand. We enjoy it though – creating and developing new apparel – so it doesn’t seem too much like a job. It’s our passion.
What has been your proudest moment so far?
We have had a lot of successful moments throughout our first year of business. We have released two seasons of cycling designs and one season of triathlon.We have signed a number of great professional athletes to the Camino Team. We started our Camino Customs program and developed great relationships with wholesale accounts.
However, I think the proudest or the ‘WHOA’ moment would have to be the exposure of the brand via our collaboration with Oakley Aus/NZ. We worked closely with Oakley to create a limited edition cycling kit that sold out super quick and had an amazing reaction globally. The kit dropped into Oakley Stores in Australia and New Zealand, plus selected WS stores and three online outlets – it was crazy to see our brand aligned with such a huge multipart brand like Oakley. We are incredibly grateful to the Oakley team, employees and athletes for enabling that collab.
You’re an accomplished triathlete yourself – how do you juggle your own racing with now a new business?
The reason I co-founded Camino was that I was wearing other brands and they all seemed the same – nothing really stood out to me. I’m now training, testing and racing in Camino every day. It gives me the ability to see what works and what doesn’t. I’m our biggest critic – If I’m not happy with the fit or the fabrics, we change it.
We have the athlete’s needs front of mind when developing our products, as we are right there with him/her. We all train and race. We are active in the triathlon/cycling community and are always asking athletes for ideas or feedback.
What are three things you would like people to know about Camino?
Camino Apparel is an Australian based brand, focusing on a multipart approach to triathlon and cycling. We have huge plans to expand this further. We have some exciting new products to add to the Camino range over the next year.
We want to give back to the sport of triathlon and help develop the grassroots of the sport. In cooperation with a local leisure facility and local triathlon clubs on the Gold Coast, Camino will be supporting a Junior triathlon series, that will focus on children aged seven to 16 years.
So the older athletes don’t feel like they are missing out, Camino is also looking at starting Camp Camino. This will be a structured fitness camp focusing on triathlon and cycling. We will have professional coaches, heath and fitness experts – multiple, group, rides situated in beautiful cycling destinations. It will be a camp for all levels, enabling all of the Camino Comrades to come together to get away from their normal life.
What is the Camino process of releasing new ranges? Are there products lines available as standard all year round and then you release new designs every year, quarter – tell us about that and why you chose that method to launch products.
We always like our customers to look fresh and to stand out. We enjoy creating new designs, products, testing fabrications and trims. Our head designer Nigel has a 15-year creative and product design background in the surf and action sports industry. This allows us to have a different perspective and outlook to the triathlon and cycling designs we have always seen.
There have been hundreds and hundreds of designs already – some we love, some we hate and some we just aren’t sure on. So we hold on to them and circle back, stare at them and then push the button for release. We love sitting down with our sponsored athletes and picking their brains on design/fabric and functionality – that’s a huge part of the process. We love to have them, and their friends take a sneak peek – this allows us the be at that ‘everyday rider, racer, competitor’ level and ensure we are pushing out a product that is not going to be lost amongst other brands offerings.
At this stage, our plan for Camino is to release three cycling and two triathlon apparel seasons each year. We aren’t bound to a definitive amount or to a drop date yet, being so young, and obviously, brand awareness and growth has a huge impact on this. As we grow, we plan to introduce a staple 12-month program of the product.
The Season 2 line has just been released – tell us about that line?
Sure, we dropped the Vapor Collection, our Camino Apparel Season 2, before Christmas, in line with the Oakley X Camino launch of the product. The Vapour Collection sees our offering expand substantially on a multisport level. The Vapor Collection was custom built for the hot summer months transitioning into spring. It offered a refined fit with increased functionality. All of our products use lightweight fabrications, firm fitting, highly compressive, yet with high moisture wicking properties, allowing the athlete to stay cool on those hot days but also providing the ability to insulate on cooler days, which is great for managing your core body temperature.
We are just wrapping up our Season 3 development and putting all the finer points together for a release before winter.
You mentioned your collaborative collection with Oakley – that is big step for a relatively new brand, You must be pretty pumped having the support of such a big powerhouse like Oakley. How did that all come about?
It was an amazing experience to work with the Oakley team. Like you’ve said, it’s a big step for such a young brand. We’d only dropped one season before this.
It came about with some chat that grew into some serious conversation. We kept pinching ourselves, and thinking: “This won’t happen.” We threw around some ideas of a collaboration kit. Within a couple of weeks, we had a meeting booked at Oakley HQ in Melbourne.
The three of us jumped on a plane and met up with the Oakley team to present our idea. The rest is history. We are very grateful to all those guys, especially James Hodge and Ben Goss of Oakley Australia for getting it over the line. Huge thanks also to Vic Payne!
It made sense – we shared the same core values around performance and quality, developed with an emphasis on technical benefits, functionality and a multi-sport approach. The collection included a jersey, bib, cap, socks and water bottle.
The Oakley Cycling Kit presented by Camino, is now sold out.
How would describe your designs? Who/what is your inspiration?
It’s hard to pinpoint specific people or influences. As mentioned, it’s great having Nigel on board. His design direction and influences aren’t impacted by a long background in cycling and triathlon, so he throws new ideas, looks and approaches down for us to view and test – it’s refreshing. Nigel and the team draw from a large base of inspiration – it could be walking through the streets of places like Tokyo or Melbourne and viewing streetwear styling, blending influences from other industries like outerwear, high-end fashion and urban directions.
We respect all the other brands within the industry, and there are so many great ones. But we really don’t look to them for design inspiration. Otherwise, you fall into the trap of looking the same.
You have a few great Aussie rising star ambassadors including Jake Montgomery and Renee Baker. What made you want to align with these guys, what are the qualities you look for in your brand ambassadors?
We target athletes that present themselves in line with our core brand values – the men and women that we think will best represent our brand and themselves professionally and enthusiastically.
I remember how tough it was starting off in the pro ranks back when I was racing, so we wanted to help out these types of athletes. The guys and girls with a great attitude and work ethic – athletes that we believe are rising stars and personalities in the sport.
Each of our athletes has unique and interesting stories on how they got to where they are. This is what Camino is about – finding ‘The Way’ and creating interesting journeys.
Jake have been through some really tough times of late, and we’ve tried to be there, supporting him and his family the whole way through his recovery. It was awesome to put the whole Camino Crew together on New Year’s Day for his first road ride after his accident.
Our pro team is growing. Currently, we have Jake Montgomery, Lindsey Lawry, Renee Baker and we recently added Katey Gibb to the ranks. We also have some age group brand ambassadors that are part of our Camino Comrades. We like to create a team environment when we go to races. At chosen races, we’ll have the Camino tent up, and we’ll get the whole team together to hang with, friends and family to help support while racing.
What is ‘The Collective’?
‘The Collective’ is a way in which the cycling community can come together to embrace and appreciate our Camino apparel. Camino’s range and styles will be forever evolving, with creative inspiration drawn from different markets, trends and countries. We want you to stand out, be noticed, and turn heads. We want you looking good for your daily adventures. We will constantly be creating stylish, innovative and fashionable apparel. Camino appreciates the support of all our followers, customers and those within the tri community. And we are in the process of building initiatives, programs and incentives to offer ‘The Collective’ members. As well as exclusive previews, deals and information before our public range releases.
‘The Collective’ is the only place where you will be able to have exclusive access to deals and information on what is happening next with Camino.
How does one get into some Camino Apparel in their collection?
Camino Apparel is available online at caminoapparel.com. If you would like to try it on before you buy, we have Camino in a number of stores, details of which you can find on our website. We also do Camino Custom Apparel. If you would like your team or club to stand out, we can create stylish custom designs for cycling kits and triathlon race suits. You can find all the information about this on our website.