HOW DID PROVOCATOR START OUT?
Provocator is the second label of my company, after Usual Suspects. The story begins in 1990, when i returned to Sydney and became seriously involved with denim. I worked tirelessly for 11 years in the upbringing of some of the most successful labels of today. Although this was a difficult period in my life, it armed me with experience & knowledge to produce garments of the highest quality.
In the year 2000 i had a near death experience, falling two floors on a goods lift resulting in two broken legs. That was it, my life attitude changed. As soon as i had begun to recover, and whilst still on crutches, i launched my first denim label in 2001. It begun with absolutely no funding, compensated for by my hard work & determination. I borrowed one roll of denim, used other peoples cutting equipment & three years of time to create a successful label challenging the biggest labels in Australia.
The success of Usual Suspects fueled my desire for more, and i felt the urge to create a new label that only reflected my design flare but represented my knowledge, my way of thinking & philosophies. Thus the new rebellious label Provocator was born in 2004. Provocator is backed by my desire to expand my denim to a higher market. In 2005, the higher end denim market was in need of a revolution. I worked hard to produce the high quality design pieces that the market demanded.
Since then i've continued working on the edge, to create unique denim pieces that are setting trends world wide. I created registered trademark washes and designs, which obviously "inspired" other labels. Yet, after all these years i've never tried to sue and accuse anybody, let them try to follow ME.
EXPLAIN WHY THE NAME "PROVOCATOR" WAS SELECTED FOR THE BRAND NAME. IS THERE A STORY BEHIND THIS NAME?
The name has been formed as an idea long ago, as also Usual Suspects, it came from a period of my life when a lot of political changes were happening in Europe. The spies from the east and western blocks were colliding with each other in Greece.
Politics came into my life, when I was only a mere 8 years old. In 1973-74 during the fall of dictatorship, I remember the university students coming to my house and talking about what happened. I also remember the older ones listening to the news on the radio about the Vietnam War, the Communist party in Italy and the assassination of their leader Enrico Berlinguer, and many other events from that era. But what really inspired me for the names of my labels, started in 1975 when the head of the CIA Richard Wells, was assassinated traveling incognito into Athens. I remember listening to the news for years after, always hearing the same names mentioned, the same usual suspects being questioned and arrested.
The paradox of that is that the usual suspects at that time were a group of people that were too advanced for the political level of their time. They were a threat to the status quo of the western world, as there was great xenophobia against the eastern block (communist countries). Provocator related very well to that period, representing the acts occurring. Also, representing how I viewed them for those ten years of my life that I spent questioning political systems and trying to find the answer and the truth of the perfect world.
The Provocator meaning does not exist in the English language, other than the version created by me with my label name. Provocator comes from the Greek version PROVOCATORAS, the Latin Provocare and the French Provocature. I don’t know of any other nations using something similar to the meaning I describe bellow. Put simply, it means- A person who acts violently against someone or the system, and blames somebody else. I found all that very inspiring later on, relating it with the names of my labels on a creative and intellectual level. As from a young age , I began to study politics and world history. I was desperately thirsty for knowledge on sociology, political systems and theories.
WHY HAS PROVOCATOR DECIDED TO SPECIALISE IN DENIM?
Provocator is a continuation of my knowledge and it’s my inspiration. It’s a name that makes me fight for my beliefs and overcome my personal challenges. Denim is what I specialise in, denim is a revolution, and it’s been an inspiration throughout my whole life. It’s what keeps me young, strong and crazy… sometimes feeling as if I were still eighteen years old. My heart hasn’t changed since, I think I’ve only become more responsible and more determined to succeed in my work.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR COMMITMENT TO OFFERING A LABEL THAT IS ECO-FRIENDLY. WHAT ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS PROCEDURES DOES THE LABEL ADHERE TO?
Provocator has always tried not to use heavy chemicals, unlike most other denim companies which are just trying to achieve the washing results the easy way. The chemicals that they're spaying on their garments are very harmful to the environment. All our embellishing & pre-wash treatments such as creases, brushing, hand scrubbing ripping & tear are done by hand. This is a very difficult process, which requires both strong and talented people.
On most occasions, we use denims where the indigo dye yarns are plant derived. This way, its easier for us to fade them the traditional way, as opposed to the chemical dyeing process. We are also in the process of improving a patent to achieve all the heavy treatments such as as enzyme & stone wash, without enzyme & stones.
It's called ozone wash, although at the moment we are only able to achieve it on small production scale, not big quantities as of yet. Together with my engineer, we have worked to develop the big washing machine so that we can have a production of at least fifty garments at a time, coming out at the very fast pace of six minutes, whereas other washes take up to 3.5 hours. That means no chemicals at all, & less water usage.
ARE PROVOCATOR GARMENTS PRODUCED / MADE IN AUSTRALIA?
All of our denim jeans and garments are produced in Australia in our factory in Marrickville. All of our washes are in-house & we are the last few people in Australia conserving the knowledge of the denim industry. Realistically, nobody else knows about denim.
PROVOCATOR IS ONE OF FEW LABELS THAT WASH THEIR DENIM IN AUSTRALIA. EXPLAIN WHAT THIS DENIM WASHING PROCESS INVOLVES:
Denim is a special fabric that you can be creative with, as the surface is very easy to transform. From the visual side its like a sculpture, its art, you have to be artistic to see the final product from the start. Especially myself as a designer, i can visualise the final picture when i see the raw denim fabrics construction. As i explained above; all the handling, hand finishing & multiple washes in between hand treatments apply to offer to our customers the perfect wash & feeling for the jean they have to have, & wear to death.
Washing and producing in Australia has many benefits such as; better fitting, quality control, fast production, ability to change direction & style quickly, being close to the market as far as point of sales, being able to repeat faster & deliver new designs to our valued customers.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT THAT YOU WASH YOUR DENIM LOCALLY AS OPPOSED TO OUTSOURCING OVERSEAS?
Firstly, as mentioned above, because we can control the quality & ensure a better fitting. As we know denim can be affected by shrinkage after wash & dry. Australian made offers proper sanitisation free of chemicals, pumice stones & diseases, clear washes with optical finish so you can see & enjoy your new jeans. In china for example where most of the imported denim comes from, the water is so dirty that you cant even have a shower in it, I couldn't even shower in one of their five -star hotels when i visited the country. The washes produced are blare, there is no optical on the fabric. They use water from the fields to wash jeans, i've been there and i see whats happening to all the factories. The mid upper class Chinese people avoid buying products from their country because of the cow milk disease etc; they prefer to purchase products online, made overseas.
DOES THE LABEL STRONGLY BELIEVE IN KEEPING THE BUSINESS LOCAL AND MAINTAINING A STRONG COMMITMENT TO AUSTRALIA?
So far so good.... touch wood. Yes that's our goal, thats why our denim is still kicking ass!
ARE THERE ANY BENEFITS BY MANUFACTURING WITHIN AUSTRALIA? (E.G. DOES IT YIELD A POSITIVE RESPONSE FROM BUYERS/CUSTOMERS/FANS?)
Definitely manufacturing here is good, we decide how the product is going to look. We are creators not copiers,we start from point zero to create something new every time. We've found a bit of a problem with buyers, because they really don't appreciate the extensive work processes we undertake. Most of them prefer to buy imports very cheap from China, regardless of all the health & quality issues previously mentioned.
The retail chains work with up to 10,000% profit margins & the Australian's are just falling into their marketing traps as always. Especially with the economic crises of the last 2 years, they only care about margins.
We as Provocator, yes we can compete upon the volume only & match the prices with other products from china. The problem here is that it's a small market & big ones want to do it them-selves, thinking that money can buy everything. They're boosting their ego, humiliating fashion with cheaply made bad looking products that have no styles & direction.
WHAT OTHER UNIQUE QUALITIES CAN THE LABEL BOAST?
We have been trying to maintain our flagship stores for the last couple 9 years, whilst whilst showcasing our collections direct to the public. Also, apart from our denim line we're focusing on fashion forward up-market designs, directional pieces, as well as unique main-stream fashion styles for men & women. Our strengths for fashion & denim are both equal.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN GOALS OR AMBITIONS FOR PROVOCATOR IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
My dream is to supply top chains in Australia & overseas with our lines. I also want to have at least one flagship store in each state of Australia, so that our customers have vast access to our products.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT WORKING IN FASHION & ALSO WORKING SPECIFICALLY WITH DENIM?
The best thing is the feeling i get from looking back in the years, and saying "yes! i've made it." The power & pleasure comes from knowledge, & the ability to create myself & produce whatever i wish. Simply, the best comes mostly from the creative side, which is the power behind the label... just the product! I was influenced by the massive denim revolution back in the 70's early 80's; with new washes, treatments & styles flooding the European market. Since then, i've lived through every stage of denim's development. i believe that i carry the knowledge to fulfil my dreams by creating something new every time.
ANY OTHER COMMENTS/POINTS TO MAKE?
Yes all your questions were more about the product and i find it a pleasure answering them, in comparison with other interviews i've had in the past.