The Town & Country brand story is a veritable history lesson from an era that changed the course of surfing.
T&C Surf, founded in 1971 by Craig Sugihara, is one of the most iconic Hawaiian surf brands of our time.
T&C’s first store was converted from an old barbershop in Pearl City, Hawaii. From these humble beginnings, through the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s, the unmistakable T&C Yin Yang logo became a symbol for Hawaiian power surfing through the brand’s relationships with some of the heaviest, and most innovative surfers on the north shore.
T&C’s alumni of surfers is breathtaking; Larry Bertlemann, Dane Kealoha, Marvin Foster, Matt Archbold, Christian Fletcher, Sunny Garcia, Ben Aipa, Johhny Boy Gomes, Andy & Bruce Irons, Kahea Hart, Martin Potter, and Ross Williams. A who’s who of the north shore pecking order, along with newly crowned WSL Big Wave World Champion, Billy Kemper.
In the mid to late 80’s, a golden era for T&C on the north shore, young team riders Matt Archbold and Christian Fletcher, dubbed the “Air Brigade” were taking surfing to new levels. The excitement created by this new radical surfing attracted many shapers and team riders to Town & Country.
About this time a new crew of young powerful Hawaiian surfers were starting to make their mark on the international competitive surf scene. Sunny Garcia joined the Town & Country team at age 13 and under the coaching of Ben Aipa honed the fundamentals that ultimately lead him to the World Title. Johnny Boy Gomes built on the aggressive and powerful image flowing from Town & Country. Both Sunny and Johnny Boy were standout surfers in heavy Hawaiian surf continuing the legacy started by Dane.
While the brand has had a few starts in Australia, it’s been a few years since its been approached in any meaningful way, until now.
Late last year Harry Truscott and Jamahl Grey signed a license agreement for Town & Country for Australia and NZ, and we caught up with HT to find out a little more about their plans for the brand down here.
Who is involved in the T & C Business with you?
The players are myself, Jamahl Grey, Steve Fontes, Ian Byrne and Mitch Avakian (and his team at Nevada Projects).
It has been a lot of fun connecting the crew with this T&C Surf project. I have worked with all of these guys (except Ian) in various capacities over the years and have incredible respect for their talents. Then, you mention T&C, and everyone’s reflex reaction was exactly the same… I’m in. It was seriously that quick. The Hawaiian crew are an amazing unit too, so much history there and its been such a pleasure working with those guys already.
We all share the vision and can see the opportunity. It is going to be a lot of fun.
How have you set up the structure/business?
The brand is operated here under license with T&C Surf Hawaii, and will trade inside Happy Hour Pty Ltd as it grows to become a more serious multi branded wholesale supplier to the industry.
Jamahl and I are partners in this project. Steve heads up creative and design, Ian is shaping the boards, and Nevada is running sales and distribution nationally.
Our agreements are wonderfully loose, and everyone will share in the brand’s success. A couple of emails, and a handshake. Done. It’s unreal!
When will you be going to market?
The first range, 100% Aloha, will be in store from August 18, for spring. And we are pretty much out talking to retailers from now.
How will you be positioning the brand/range?
Well, it’s T&C Surf, so as one of the most iconic Hawaiian surf brands of our time, a lot of stuff around the brand is set in stone.
In terms of pitch, the heritage of the brand is so strong, we’ll be basing the creative and design inspiration there for a while, but re-interpreting it into something more contemporary via design, fabrications, fit and colour.
What segment of retail/distribution are you targeting?
We are going to keep the distribution pretty tight to start with, and where possible, lead with the boards.
We’ve all seen first-hand the damage that poor distribution choices have had on our industry, and as we re-introduce T&C surf to this market, we are going to do it in a very measured way.
Of course, we all hope that the brand will achieve scale and commercial success over time, but we are all committed to building a strong foundation first. Mitch has put together of list of accounts that we would love to partner with out of the gates, so those stores will hear from us soon, and if there are any accounts out there that feel like T&C will be a good fit for their store, we’d love them to get hold of us.
And finally, can you give us some details around the surfboard offering?
Jamahl and Ian Byrne have been good mates for a long time. Like the clothing, our inspiration for the boards is in the brand’s heritage, reinterpreted in a modern way.
Ian just nails that stuff and is an incredible craftsman.
We are releasing a couple of boards for spring 18, a single wing swallow tail thruster shaped to the same plan and dimensions as Martin Potter’s iconic “saint” model, and a 6 channel, pin tail single fin. Both boards are available in multiple sprays and sizes.
The plan will be to release a couple of new boards, or new sprays every season.