Local label Butter Goods is a genuine international success story. Authentic and true to their skateboarding roots, its founders define what is great about Perth creators.
For any kids reading this – skateboarding, playing basketball and being in a band will set you up for life. Free wisdom, right there. For any grown ups reading this – skateboarding, playing basketball and being in a band will not set you up for life, far from it, but it’ll be fun. Back in the nineties, whence this wisdom came, adolescent life was being lived to the fullest if you were watching hall of fame Wildcats being introduced in utter, OHS-defying darkness at the Entertainment Centre, seeing bands launch CDs upstairs at 78 Records, or playing a bit role in the awakening skateboarding scene at a Boans Warehouse demo. Granted, these moments all involved other people skateboarding, playing basketball or being in bands, but the message was received.
Truth be told, great things have been borne from a Perth upbringing – yet our hidden cynicism often looks at these success stories in isolation. Oh, the naivety. Collectively, the successes of Perth-grown talents have shaped the way our creative, entrepreneurial community approaches their endeavours – with a bolshy, unperturbed confidence. Our success stories have helped define what Perth is about – for us, for them and for everybody else. Butter Goods is one such success story. Continuing to play an influential role in shaping, supporting and championing the Perth skateboarding community to a global audience, I ‘sat down’ with co-founder Garth Mariano to talk current affairs.
FQ: I’ll presume you skated growing up – what got you into skating, when and did you ever skate at that weird church / indoor skatepark in the northern suburbs?
I got in to skating through a friend I met in primary school… He and his brother skated, and I would borrow his brother’s board. From there I was instantly hooked. This was around ’98. So skateboarding was just starting to boom as it entered the 2000s. God Park! I went there a bit. We would always toy with the idea of going to the church service so you could skate for free. But could never commit to that. Saw a couple of demos there back in the day, too. Was mind blowing as a grom.
FQ: When did you start Butter Goods, who with and why?
I started Butter with my friend Matt Evans in 2008. We met in high school and grew up skating together. Prior to 2008 we had tried our hand at a few different brand incarnations and screen printing our own tees. It was always a dream of ours, I think it’s something that all kids that grew up skating and drawing logos on their school files dreamt of doing. As to why… The how is almost the why. We had both found ourselves in an office, 9 to 5, after high school. A year or so in to working the office job, we both felt pretty lost and disinterested. We both decided to quit and enrol in a graphic arts course at TAFE. Once I had enough know-how I started to mess around with different graphic ideas and one day just decided to print some tees, not under any brand, but just to do it. This sparked the conversation again with Matt about us always wanting to start a brand together, and I guess gave us that push we needed to take the plunge. When I was growing up there were a bunch of Australian skate brands that we obsessed over – Juice, Spire, Illume, Blank etc. Fast forward to 2008, there were hardly any. We wanted to pick up where they left off I guess.
FQ: What did you hope to do with Butter Goods?
We never really had any grand plans. We just wanted to make stuff that we and our friends wanted to wear.
FQ: What made Butter Goods resonate with skateboarders – and more?
Skateboarders have a pretty good bullshit filter. If something isn’t authentic, it gets shunned pretty quickly. A lot of what we were inspired by was drawn from the era we grew up skating in, which came from an authentic place. Skateboarders hate nearly everything, so If you can please skateboarders, you can generally please the rest haha. Music has played a big part in the brand from the start, referencing a lot of jazz, soul, funk and reggae artists that we love and felt didn’t really see much attention in this world. I think that we’ve grown an audience of people outside of skateboarding who really appreciate that side of things too. Skateboarding and streetwear love to reference the obvious rap shit, but we wanna see Yusef Lateef on a T-Shirt!
FQ: Do you see Butter Goods differently now – to when you started?
Definitely. It’s 10 years old, and naturally a very different beast to when we started. A lot of the influences remain the same, but it’s definitely matured and improved as we have come along. We also have employees and distributors now. I think anytime something becomes bigger than you, it definitely takes a different shape and weight of responsibility. Our international market has grown a lot, and was something we never had to consider in the beginning. Now we have to keep the northern hemisphere seasons in mind when designing a range. So many little changes happen along the journey that you almost don’t notice until you sit back and think about it. So it still feels very similar in essence.
FQ: Where is Butter Goods sold around the place? How have you achieved that?
We have maybe 150+ retailers worldwide. How have we achieved that? By not giving up haha. There’s no real secret, you just slowly pick up more stores and distributors one step at a time. The internet is a wonderful / crazy tool. We sell to so many countries we’ve never even been to.
FQ: How does Cash Only and Lo-Fi fit into everything?
Lo-Fi is our retail store here in Perth. That kind of fell in our lap. The owner of the building our office is in came knocking on our door one day saying they had an empty space up for lease in the basement and to let him know if we knew anyone that wanted to open a retail store. At first, we didn’t think much of it. Eventually we thought it could be a cool idea for us to open up a store that could be a home for our own brand and a bunch of other independent brands we liked from all over. It’s off the beaten track, so we figured we could run the brand from there day-to-day and sell products to people at the same time. It’s 5 years old now, and just earlier this year we opened our second location, across the street. So we have our original store where we mostly carry streetwear and the new store is our take on a skate shop. Cash Only is our distribution company. Having done this for 10 years we know most retailers here in Australia, so we distribute a few skate brands (Yardsale, Hotel Blue, Frog etc). We’ve been doing that for around 2 years. We also make a bunch of Cash Only gear that’s a nod to our love of golden era skateboarding and rap.
FQ: Why does skateboarding have such an impact on our wider culture?
That’s a good question. I think since its beginning (and particularly in the beginning), skateboarding has tended to attract outsiders and weirdos. Skateboarding by its very nature breeds creativity and a DIY spirit. I think that mix helps make skateboarding the genesis of so much in culture. It’s a really hard thing to explain without coming off corny. But I think it always comes back to authenticity, and skateboarding has always seen one-of-a-kind people come through that shape a generation of skaters; those cultural shifts always seem to eventually flow on and influence the world outside.
FQ: What is your take on retail? On Perth retail?
A good retail store is more than just selling things, it’s about supporting the culture they exist in and creating a place for that community. Physical retail is harder than ever these days. But when done well I think people still care and get behind it. A lot of things are just a fight against convenience now, as much as the internet has connected the world, it’s made it a lot easier to stay inside. The culture needs to negate convenience in order to survive as an independent retailer these days. Perth retail is amazing.
It punches well above its weight. We probably have more skate / streetwear stores than Melbourne or Sydney, which is pretty crazy. I feel like Perth gets behind local stores and their brands more than most cities. That really helps to build a strong scene here for independent retail to thrive and with so many stores here it keeps everyone on their toes and it creates and environment where we all push one another to do more and not get complacent. It’s a bit of a feedback loop, and I think the city really benefits from that.
FQ: Do you see Perth as having something different to offer the world? Are there any other things / brands coming out of Perth that may reflect that?
Perth lifestyle is like no other. The more I travel, the more I love Perth. It definitely has it downsides being so small and far from everything, but the weather, beach, nature and laid back attitude is so special and hard to find anywhere else in the world.
With the rise of internet and social media, we’re seeing more brands being run out of lesser known cities that before wouldn’t have been possible. No longer do you have to be from New York or LA to make it. Brands like Man-tle and Performance are personal favourites of mine that are based here. Perth has so much to offer, you just gotta lift up a few rocks to find where it’s all hiding sometimes. I think the overarching message is, Perth is the little city that could! Haha. It’s possible to do good things from here and make waves. I can’t wait to see what the next generation can do. Surf’s up! 🙂
Visit – Butter Goods