Published three week ago • 29/08/14
In a take on necessity being the mother of invention, Matthew Thomson began making bags to solve some of the problems he was encountering.
As a member of a scooter club, he wanted a bag that would fit nicely on his bike.
“There was nowhere to carry anything on the scooter so I came up with a bag that would carry the weight low and in the middle of the bike,” he said
In 2000, while juggling his industrial design studies, he commandeered his mum’s sewing machine and was soon making bags for friends.
He initially sourced denim and backpack fabric from Bradmills in Yarraville.
It was trial and error and now he buys screen-printed material from Kensington’s Ink & Spindle as well as sourcing some material from Cloth, in Sydney, and screen printing his own materials.
He sold on consignment to Alice Euphemia, the FAT stores in Fitzroy and Prahran, and had market stalls at the Esplanade Arts and Crafts Market, in St Kilda, Rose Street Artists Markets, in Fitzroy, and the Arts Centre Market. In those early days, the lower price point was probably an advantage as people bought them, appreciated them and referred other people to Matt.
For three years, he had a shop and studio in Gertrude St, Fitzroy. “It was great but it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I got the shop thing out of my system,” he said.
About six years ago, he found himself at the Nicholas Building, in Swanston St, and in a shared space with a fashion design company.
Taking on staff, he outgrew the space and moved into a bigger studio and shop in the Nicholas Building. However, he decided he needed to take stock. He wanted to be successful but did not want to be overly successful in that his bags were a dime a dozen.
“I was being mindful of not being overexposed,” Matt said.
He was wholesaling to about 30 stockists but felt the margins weren’t there.
He now works by himself and uses a bookkeeper and calls on expertise when needed. “I have gone back to making bags for individuals so they can be customised for them.” he said.
And Matt is winding back involvement in markets.
“People used to go to markets to get something a bit different but now I think they go online to get something different,” he said.
He is working on a new Shopify site that will launch in September.
“It will be a lot more in-depth and responsive, working better on mobiles and tablets,” he said.
With the assistance of online marketing specialist, Alex Avery, he is honing his Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, email newsletter and blog platforms. He is also looking at optimising his website.
“The new site will allow products to be customised, and customers to access in-depth details about their products, especially care instructions and fabric designer details,” he said.
Selling advantages include that materials are sourced locally, products come with a lifetime guarantee and the products have a Melbourne story.
“Carrying laptops, and things for work and uni, cycling and travelling are popular reasons customers prefer my products, along with durability and versatile design,” Matt said. While copying is an issue, he tried to embed as many elements into his bags so they were harder to copy.
Written by Matt Thomson