Inside the Designer's Studio: Barney Cools

by Maddison Costello
Posted: October 14, 2015

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Barney Cools’ work space is cooler than your average office. We stepped inside the label’s Sydney warehouse to find out what goes on behind the scenes at one of our new favourite street wear designers.

Meet Barney Cools, an Aussie menswear label creating the uniform for a life spent in the sun. Their collections – fun printed tees, easy-as crew-knit jumpers and perfect summer shorts – are made for surfing, skating and cutting loose.

Barney Cools has a name for this lifestyle: “Poolside Etiquette”. It’s the title of their debut collection and the brand’s unofficial motto. Conjuring images of floating lilos and drinks with cocktail umbrellas, Poolside Etiquette is the daydream that inspires BC’s summer-proof threads.

Barney Cools Warehouse

The BC team are experts in bridging the gap between work and play, and have turned their headquarters into a place where fun things happen. With friends dropping in for live DJ sets in the middle of the day, impromptu photo shoots and the odd party, the converted warehouse has a sense of freedom and spontaneity.

We stepped inside their office for a day in the life of a too-cool-for-school fashion label, and chatted to creative director Nat Taubman about business, leisure, and all things “Poolside Etiquette”.

Tell us the story behind Barney Cools – how did it start out?

It all started when I red-carded myself from the big city life and was living in a tree-house in the treetops above Whale Beach [on Sydney’s northern beaches]. I fell in love with the laidback lifestyle, chilled beach vibes and the fact that I never had to get out of my boardies! Living this way made me realise that there wasn’t much in the market that tended to this lifestyle, and it was that realisation that was the birth of BC.

Barney Cools Branding

Can you outline the scope of Barney Cools’ growth so far?

In 12 months we’ve gone from selling only through Surfstitch.com and our online store to being stocked in Glue Store, SDS, Culture Kings and Universal Store in Australia, as well as Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, Urban Outfitters and Hype Beast abroad. Having grown so much in 12 months, who knows what the future holds?

How many people do you have working for Barney Cools now?

We have a tight team – we’re the awesome foursome!

Barney Cools Awesome Foursome

Tell us about your studio – how did you choose the location?

We share our head office with brand Zanerobe (which distributes Barney Cools in Australia and the US) in a big warehouse in Rosebery. It’s an impressive space with lots of boys’ toys and cold drinks to keep us happy.

Barney Cools Warehouse Space

What does a normal work day at the Barney Cools studio look like?

There’s nothing normal about our days – with the amount of travel we do and the number of weirdos collectively in our head office, it’s hard to get any sort of normality. But a strong coffee is a good start to the day and a quick game of ping pong gets the brain ticking.

Barney Cools Skateboard Safe Office

Can you outline the key roles in the studio – who does what?

I oversee everything from designs to marketing and sales. Jakey is brand manager. He’s the hustler on the ground getting stuff done. Davey, who we recently got on board, is our new designer. Taking him on has really freed up a lot of my time and allowed me to focus on the bigger picture. And then there’s Tommy, who works across digital and domestic marketing as well as doing all our copy.

Barney Cools Work

How do you pick the right people to work for Barney Cools?

The culture and vibe is a massive part of it, and then there’s work ethic. I need people who are able to back up a few 12-hour days in a row – work hard and play hard.

Barney Cools Team

For people who aspire to work for a street wear brand, how do you get a foot in the door?

Be different, unique and genuine. Great design sells itself, so as long as you back your product, the rest should be relatively natural.

Your connections with DJs and musicians seem to be a big part of the brand. Why do you think music is so essential to your aesthetic?

Barney Cools is a lifestyle brand, and music is a big part of our lifestyle so it was a natural fit. It’s a good excuse to have tunes blaring in our office at all times. The general manager and accountants aren’t such big fans of the volume, however they are getting used to it!                                                  

Barney Cools Office                     

Where do you go to get design inspiration?

It would be a combination of travel (recently, Hong Kong, the USA and Mexico) and vintage sourcing. There are strong vintage aesthetics being recycled currently so it’s fun searching for retro garments at the markets and on eBay and Etsy to help build a story.

Barney Cools

Where did the #PoolsideEtiquette idea come from?

The poolside vibe has always been an underlying aesthetic for Barney Cools. “Poolside Etiquette” became our reference for a certain lifestyle: being lucky enough to live your life poolside. When I was a kid I envisioned “yacht life”, but poolside life is a lot more attainable for us and most people. (Unless you’re Tommy who works with us, who is rich and has a yacht!)

What to you is the coolest thing about Barney Cools?

We’ve managed to bridge the gap between life and work. We come in to the office every day and we have a really good time. We have an awesome crew, ping pong, skateboards, bikes, beer, a DJ set-up and endless banter. There are absolutely no negative feelings about coming to work. When I travel heaps I actually miss the office.

Barney Cools

What are the future plans for the brand?

We’ve experienced massive growth since our launch, so it’s about building the foundations of the brand and the business to support the growth, then we’ll take the show on the road. We are keen to spread the word of Barney Cools in the northern hemisphere, which will also allow us to chase the summer when winter hits in Australia!

All photography featured in this article is courtesy of Al Kalyk

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Maddison Costello

Maddison Costello

Is an online journalist with a particular interest in fashion, lifestyle, travel and food. Her work has appeared in Qantas Travel Insider, Dubai Tourism and InStyle Magazine. Maddison currently works at Bauer Media Australia and has previously worked for CLRI (NSW), Nine Network Australia and The Intermedia Group Pty Ltd.

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