With less than two weeks before Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia kicks off, when I visited the Double Rainbouu studio it was surprisingly calm. Situated in a repurposed warehouse just outside the bustle of the Sydney CBD, the Resort 2020 collection neatly hung in the corner promised another colour-fuelled runway. Far more extensive than the handful of Hawaiian shirts they first started with in 2016, it is a testament to the growing success of designers and founders Toby Jones and Mikey Nolan.
“In the beginning [Double Rainbouu] was playing to our strengths but we just started off as a shirting brand so starting off small and simple,” Mikey explained to ICON.
Though not formally trained, the pair have worked in the local fashion industry in art direction and graphic designer for a culmination of almost two decades. First meeting at Insight in 2002 and then moving to Ksubi for another 11 years, the creative duo left thinking they wouldn’t return to the high-paced industry – little did they know they’d be redirected into the world of design.
“We left Ksubi thinking we wouldn’t work in fashion anymore, because the last couple of years were quite tumultuous,” Mikey said when reflecting on the previous years. “And we did a couple of other things, did a bit of freelancing for a while and did a couple of things that didn’t work out – though a good experience. And then we thought, ‘We do kind of want to keep doing something in fashion’.”
Mikey and Toby both agreed on something simple. So what sparked the return of the Hawaiian shirt?
While travelling through Bangkok, the pair came across markets selling copious amounts of ugly Hawaiian-style shirts. For print designers, it was a quirky idea that at the time had not been explored by other labels. Providing the cornerstone for a broader beachwear line, the Australian brand reignited the love for the once-comical ’80s-style shirt, based on simplicity and a distinctive aesthetic. The psychedelic prints were quick to gain traction and not before long, Double Rainbouu was seen in global stockists like Opening Ceremony and Barney’s.
“We hadn’t planned on that … we had to shake things up a little bit,” Toby recalled. “We were three months into launching this tiny little store with five shirts and we kind of cold-emailed Opening Ceremony,” Mikey added. “They emailed back about three hours after … and the next day the head buyer at the time ordered for immediately delivery … and [Opening Ceremony] bought a second season within about six weeks. One month after that we had Barney’s wanting to order in-season as well.”
Leading the fight for the humble silhouette, luxury fashion houses such as Prada begun its own iterations of the style and according to Toby, “the short-sleeve shirt is definitely is here to stay for quite a while.”
With that in mind, the creative duo with a small team on-side are looking to present the latest collection at MBFWA. And with a strong focus on “night swim”, towelling and swimwear will collide with relaxed tailoring – appealing to slow paced lifestyle of their home country. For Mikey and Toby, there is a “strong desire to do something a little bit more refined and a little bit more of a sophisticated colour palette,” though the bold sensibilities of Double Rainbouu are not lost. The rack that stood in front of me still teemed with flowing silhouettes and unique prints that are synonymous with brand, but according to Toby it is a bid to “elevate” the collection.
Like seasons past, Double Rainbouu has joined another sneaker brand to combine street and style. Collaborating with Superga, the brand will offer up two unique iterations of the classic court shoe in a black-and-white print as well as a more minimalist rendition, and looks to apply the brand’s pastel rainbow gradient to the silhouettes. It’s collaborations such as this that has Toby and Mikey excited as they look to more partnerships throughout Summer and into 2020.
Lighting up the Chinese Friendship Garden next week, for all the colour, flair and style, stay tuned for everything happening on the ground at the Double Rainbouu Resort ’20 presentation.