What do you get when you merge a Samoan musician and a Maltese-Australian with a background in mining? The faces behind edgy children’s clothing label, Youngblood Apparel.
Crystal and her husband Saija began their brand journey after the birth of their first son, Alijah in 2014. Living in the remote locale of Mount Isa saw Crystal relying heavily on the offerings on social media “literally everything had to be shipped out as there were no amazing brands that suited our style available locally,” she says. Entering Alijah into numerous brand rep searches, she quickly built up a strong network of Instagram peers that would later boost the following for her fashion label. “We were lucky to have an amazing following on our son’s account while launching our label,” says Crystal. “Not to mention the amazing Mama Makers who shared us around.”
Pre-launch the family moved to Brisbane and in August 2015 Youngblood Apparel was born, and a few short weeks later Crystal and Saija discovered they were expecting baby boy number two, Zaviah. With unique names a common theme within their family, the name for their business couldn’t be any less so. Wanting to conjure the concept of bringing something new and young and fresh to the fashion world, the design duo settled on Youngblood to present their vision to the world. “It was catchy,” says Crystal, “it meant change to the children’s fashion game.” She adds that as the brand has grown and cultivated its aesthetic and following, its name has been refined in the process, “We’ve lately been referring to our Brand as YBA, a little more class as we introduce Adult Fashion.”
Confessing to a love of 90s tattoo chokers, I can’t help but wonder if that isn’t what has inspired the recent introduction of fishnet and mesh style fabrics into Crystal’s sartorial oeuvre. “We are totally digging the look and feel of those (fabrics),” enthuses Crystal. “We wanted to be different. We wanted to make amazing clothing, limited editions, original fabrics that you couldn’t buy in your everyday store. We love handmade and supporting small but so many stores were becoming mainstream with the same fabrics being used over and over. We don’t generally follow any fashion trends, we create what we like plus combos that we believe work. I guess my quirkiness and Saija’s urban style mix well together.”
Crystal defers to her husband not as only as a huge source of inspiration but also as her right hand man, “from our designs and samples to fabric choices we decide everything together.” But the duo does have other pairs of hands working away behind the scenes, “we have a small tight-knit team of seamstresses who are also Mamas and last but definitely not least, Talisa (@koa.and.ohana) our amazing graphic designer and brand rep, we wouldn’t be where we are without her, she really is amazing!”
Speaking of brand reps, what is the designer’s take on social media and its role in the make or break of small, handmade business? “It’s an important part of our business,” says Crystal. “Without social media we would be non-existent. I can honestly say, 98% of our business is driven by social media.” There is a pleasant hurdle that comes with online popularity of course, and that is the all-important supply and demand. Crystal admits that maintaining stock levels to meet customer satisfaction can pose a challenge at times. “The response we receive to each of our new releases is insane,” says the designer. “We have amazing customers and thanks to their support we feel like we are doing something right! It’s a challenge to keep up!”
So what advice would Crystal give to fellow makers and aspiring designers and entrepreneurs balancing the demands of family and business? “Be patient and don’t give up,” she says. “It’s hard work, long nights, early mornings, sacrifice – but it is totally worth it. Be organized and prioritse your time, and above all, be passionate and love what you’re creating.”
Preparing to launch their first official collection for AW17, which Crystal predicts will be epic, there are exciting things ahead for this innovative brand, which will also be opening wholesale applications for the first time. “We are very excited,” she says.
Something I ask many of the designers that grace this online collective of fashion editorials is what they would choose if a genie presented them with three wishes, and this has to be one of my favourite answers. Crystal prioritises “an unlimited supply of fabric” as wish number one, “we are addicted,” she adds. For wish number two, the designer would like for YBA to be known globally, with her designs, newborn to adult, being worn worldwide. The third wish comes courtesy of her husband, “Saija said endless Wisdom – he believes it is the key to everything.” The perfect marriage of creativity, passion and immense insight, YBA is undoubtedly a brand to watch and learn from.