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Paradigm is the Australian label inspired by vintage sportswear

How an obsession with '90s spray jackets lead to an independent label

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In just one year local label Paradigm have turned a lot of heads—mostly because their brightly coloured jackets inspired by vintage sportswear are hard to miss. Ben and Alex are two mates who started the label after struggling to find the NBA style spray jackets of the ’80s and ’90s that they were nostalgic for. While that nostalgia has played a big part in the success of Paradigm so far, Ben and Alex aren’t resting on it. They’ve expanded to selling tshirts and caps, and are about to add a swag of other products as well. Ahead of their first anniversary pop-up this weekend the guys explained their goal for making the vintage inspired label have an equally inspiring future.

How do the two of you know each other?

Ben: We went to high school with each other. So I guess we’ve known each other since we were 12.

Where did the idea for Paradigm come from?

B: We’ve always worn old jackets from the ‘80s and ‘90s and struggled to find ones in good condition. We were travelling through Central America and were in Guatemala. In Antigua there’s a huge market and we found heaps there. After Guatemala we were in the US and were wearing the shit out of these jackets we bought and getting comments from people on the street. Because they’re a loud piece of clothing you do get comments, but we got more than usual. People kept asking, “where’d you get it from?” and we realised that outside of Guatemala you’d have to get them from vintage stores because they’re all like 20 years old. It’s so hard to find ones that are in a good shape and condition. That’s where we noticed a gap in the market.

How long ago was that trip?

B: Around Christmas 2014.

Alex: We started talking about it and doing little bits. It took about a year and a bit before we got the first jackets made.

B: A massive thing for us was wanting to find the right material.

A: They’re all made of that more crunchy material that we were looking for.

It’s funny because with those old spray jackets it’s as much about the texture and even the sound.

A: Yeah exactly.

Why do you think you’re attracted to this style of jacket? Is it purely nostalgia?

A: All of the starter jackets that they used to wear in the NBA, all the colours and combinations. The colours are such a big memory.

B: Nostalgia is bang on. We’re both big basketball fans and were born in ‘90s.

That ‘80’s/’90s sportswear aesthetic is having a moment right now. Do you worry about that passing and you getting left behind?

B: The thing we’ve told ourselves, and who knows if it’s true but, is that it might be a trend in Australia right now and in the future it might not be. Outside of the jackets we’ve got other products and while the jackets are our best known hopefully there’s as much long-term interest in everything else we’ve got going on.

A: When you find someone who loves the jackets—they love the jackets and won’t really care about your more basic tshirts. But we actually sell so many more of the simple product like tshirts and caps. It’s about balance. We can do extremely loud jackets that pop but keep that base of simple product as well.

Outside of the jackets there are tshirts and caps, what other product are there?

A: At our pop-up this weekend we’re launching a heap of new stuff. We’ve some hoodies and some crewneck jumpers, some bumbags, a couple of new caps, new tshirt styles, and longsleeves.

B: Another new jacket as well.

A: The other big thing we’ve got coming up is a collab. Jansport do this collab with 1st Product and we’re getting involved.

Is that for a backpack?

B: It’s a three way collab with Jansport, 1st Product, and us. We’ve combined our logos and done a whole design which goes on the front of a bag. We’ll also have an anorak jacket with the same design too. That comes out around August/September.

For Paradigm products do you two do all the designs?

A: After we had our first pattern made we were able to give it to the manufacturer and can have it modified to our designs. We have a template that we can change the angles and geometric-style shapes on.

And the colours you guys pick yourselves?

B: Yeah, we source all of the colours in Bali where we manufacture. I quit my old job and headed over there and started sourcing from fabric markets. It was a lot of searching through stalls trying to find the right stuff and then strapping it to my scooter and riding through Denpasar to the manufacturer.

And are you very particular when it comes to colours because you’ve got that nostalgic idea?

B: Most of our jackets are quite retro but we’ve also got an all-black that’s quite simple. We try to do a balance of retro and modern. That way we’ve got something for everyone.

Paradigm are celebrating their first year with a pop-up store and party this weekend (July 15 & 16) at 194 Kerr St, Fitzroy.

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