Matt had worked in aged care and seen how style and function could conflict when people with different needs bought and wore their clothing. Some people would wear clothes that weren’t designed for their needs, putting themselves in discomfort if not pain. Others would need to sacrifice their style, choosing from a medicalised suite of options that were as fun as a trip to the pharmacy. Matt felt the situation wasn’t good enough – globally, adaptive fashion was expanding and great brands and labels were already making clothes that were both chic and fit-for-purpose. Matt wanted to build a curated ecommerce platform to bring these brands to the Australian and New Zealand markets. A social impact to be proud of and a business opportunity to support it were ready and waiting to be realised.
Zoom forward about 10 months and Matt and his team have managed just that. Despite a global pandemic and the largest economic downturn since World War II, EveryHuman has sprung up on Vogue and has announced a collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive for Australia and New Zealand, just as he envisioned. We checked in to see how he was doing and what lessons his story might hold for other brands and businesses looking to weave design, purpose, business- and maybe even systemic change.
Hi Matt, we’ve been cheering you on and loving your progress. In the early days of EveryHuman we remember you telling us that collaborating with Tommy Hilfiger was an indicator of success you were pinning up and aiming – 10months later and you’ve done it! Congrats. Fill us in on the story?!
MATT: [LAUGHS] Thanks! Yes, as you know, when I first started this business I’d always said that one of my goals was to launch a line with Tommy Hilfiger. It’s great to have gotten there. In terms of how: well, I managed to get an initial introduction through a friend- and then it was really a matter of me chasing and chasing until it paid off.
We now have exclusive rights across Australia and New Zealand. We just launched the collaborative on the website last week – it’s a limited range to start but you’ll see it grow through the coming seasons with bigger ranges and more diversity.
What do you think it means more broadly, Matt- do you think we’re reaching a ‘tipping point’ in the fashion industry?
MATT: I’d always said that by 2020, there’s going to be a lot of stuff coming out. There’s more and more small brands popping up in Australia and this is a great thing. I’m talking about brands like Inc Kid; Christina Stephens; and many more. I also think we’ll continue to see bigger brands come on board to adaptive clothing- and we’re seeing both ends of town coming onto our platform as we build and grow. Inclusive fashion is definitely ramping up.
We’re really keen to hear more about your brand too, Matt. What kind of feedback have you been getting from customers?
MATT: People love what we’re doing and they love the brand. We get lots of comments and feedback thanking us for not being ‘dorky’ and making the brand cool and fashionable- it’s bright, bubbly and people love it. I think a great endorsement has just been seeing customers sharing our brand and posting about their new clothes on social media.
There’s a deeper side to the feedback we get as well. We often hear from parents – some have written to us and shared stories like ‘for the first time in 15 years my child has been able to be put their own shoes on- thank-you’. That’s a wonderful thing to be involved in and personally satisfying to hear these real life stories.
That’s awesome. I remember you’d also talked about helping build a movement, as well as a business. Are you finding your connections are growing in the community alongside your business?
MATT: Oh definitely. We’re getting a lot of opportunities to contribute and engage with the broader community of people living with disabilities. Later today, I’m speaking at a People with Disabilities start-up event and generally, we attract a lot of interest from students and people looking to create or contribute to interesting business ideas with impact. The community we’re in offers great connections and I come across a lot of good contacts and ideas through those circles.
Great to hear. We sensed that this trend of consumers wanting to find and reward companies that have a broader social mission seems to be strengthening during COVID. Equally, it must be pretty tough out there running a new business in the midst of such uncertainty. What’s your sense and what do you think the landscape looks like for people looking to start businesses like yours?
MATT: I think there are so many opportunities to take a sector like disability or aged care and make it feel more sexy and aspirational. I saw a little of this opportunity through the business that my dad built- and I’ve taken those lessons into a different area and opportunity with adaptive fashion.
In terms of starting anything, it’s definitely a hard thing to take the step of actually doing it rather than thinking or talking about it. And we’ve had COVID hit us right at the start which definitely gave us the “oh shit, what have I done” moment [laughs]. But it’s working out pretty well and it’s all worth it. There are a range of different impacts and responses to COVID and it seems the business impacts does differ between segments. For us, we’re online fashion and we’re faring okay.
One really practical thing that has helped us get established during our first year and through this time has been PR & media coverage. I agree with you, I think that because of COVID, a lot of people want to find good news stories and be part of them- especially in regards to local businesses. But it doesn’t just happen- we went out and hired a PR & advertising company to contact media outlets and news agencies so we could get our brand and story out into Australia and New Zealand. As a result, we’ve been fortunate to get quite a bit of media attention over the last few months. That has really helped us tell our story, share our products and grow.
That’s awesome Matt and it sounds like good advice. Before we leave you, what’s next for EveryHuman - do you have a new success marker you’re chasing?
MATT: [laughs] There’s a lot I’d love to do but we’ve also got plenty to get through in the short term. We’ve just launched Tommy Hilfiger last week and so work to support that will continue to we’ll build on it into the coming seasons.
More generally, I’m keen to keep expanding our product offering - bringing in new lines like sensory friendly clothing and port-friendly clothing. I’m also keen to keep building exciting collaborations- Nike would be a next big partner that makes a lot of sense. But let’s see!
For now, it’s about establishing ourselves in Australia and New Zealand, and delivering during what we hope is a busy period over Spring and Summer.
Well, we’ll be here cheering- thanks for the chat, Matt!