Street smarts: on the road to fashion success

Japanese-inspired streetwear from Shinzo. Picture from @shinzotribe on Instagram
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Being successful in the streetwear space is tough. Amos Adams Jones reports on someone who's staking a claim.
Japanese-inspired streetwear from Shinzo. Picture from @shinzotribe on Instagram

“How cool would it be having your own clothing line. It can’t be that hard, can it?” 

The truth about starting your own clothing line in 2022 is that it is “that hard”. 

An  Australian Fashion Council report in 2021, Discover the Australian fashion Trademark, estimated that the fashion industry contributed more than $27 billion to the Australian economy in 2020-21. 

But the founder of fashion education platform fashioninsiders.co, Dessy Tsolova, says 99 per cent of apparel brands will fail “due to a key combination of these three factors: greed, need and vanity“. 

It is even harder to be successful in the popular streetwear space, which dominates young fashion. 

The late designer Virgil Abloh, creator of the fashion label Off-White and previous artistic director Louis Vuitton’s menswear line, told dazed online magazine  in 2019 that streetwear was definitely “gonna die, you know?”  

Abloh said streetwear had become so popular that overexposure would eventually make it seem irrelevant and outdated. 

Street smarts: on the road to fashion success
Alex Mihail is looking to expand the retail options for his streetwear brand. Picture by Amos Adams Jones.

But there is one Melbourne based streetwear brand looking to prove that wrong.

Alex Mihail, co-owner of Melbourne streetwear and skateboarding company Shinzo Street Tribe, has found success in Australia and internationally selling a wide range of clothes and skateboards. 

Shinzo opened a three-day pop up shop in the heart of Fitzroy in July 2022, bringing hundreds of customers.

The name Shinzo translates to heart in Japanese, and many of the designs are based on Japanese and anime culture while also referencing ’90s hip-hop. 

“I just like to do stuff that’s nostalgic because that evokes emotion and that’s a good way to build the brand, to remind people of their childhood. It creates emotion, which is a big motivator for me to be successful,” Mihail says.  

Social media is usually good tool for start-up companies to get their brand communicated to as many people as possible. The @Shinzotribe Instagram account has 18,000 followers.

Street smarts: on the road to fashion success
Promotion of Shinzo apparel from @shinzotribe Instagram

But when asked on the impact of social media, Mihail said it’s not enough for success.

“It can be used to reach people that you wouldn’t usually reach, which is a great tool,” he says.

“But you shouldn’t rely on social media by itself. You should have other avenues to be successful like having your clothing in retail stores or doing community events, because you get that face-to-face action.” 

Shinzo is stocked in the Greensborough skate shop Locality Store, and is in talks to expand into other retail stores. 

So how has Shinzo been able to define themselves from any other streetwear brand?

Mihail explained that “strong messaging“ and knowing what you’re doing to bring value to people is important to be successful when running your own brand. 

You can find Shinzo’s products at https://shinzostreettribe.com/