BEHIND THE LABEL: Reptile Apparel

Hi Daniel, can you please introduce yourself? Who are you?

My name is Daniel Agius, and I am the owner and founder of Reptile Apparel.

As a Melbourne boy, I have always taken great pride in being a humble and compassionate person who is as excited for the success of the people around me as I am of my own.

Because of that, I’ve always looked for the opportunities that Reptile Apparel and my other businesses can bring to my people.

I’m in my mid-thirties, and I started my fashion and entrepreneurial journey about four years ago.

Where are you based? 

I’m based in the western suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, which is where I was born and raised.

When did you start your brand/ label, and why?

The Reptile Apparel brand officially kicked off in 2018, but as a concept, Reptile had been something I had been moving towards for many years.

Towards the end of 2017, I really felt like I’d hit a point in my life where I did not have much going for me. I was struggling to find good working opportunities. I was low on confidence, and I was in a bit of a rut. I’d been trying a few different things here or there, and nothing really seemed to work out the way I wanted it to.

In my younger days, I’d tried my hand at modelling and whilst I didn’t really get it at the time, the pressures and expectations that came with it were really affecting me negatively.

I don’t think at the time I appreciated the effect it had on me at the time and over the next few years.

Realistically, I can see now that I went through a time of suffering depression and anxiety, and it took a lot of time for me to come to terms with that.

This realisation in late 2017, coupled with a burning ambition from within to really try and kick those feelings and make something of myself, is really where the genesis of Reptile occurred, even if it wouldn’t be officially named that for a few months.

I was very keen to make something happen in the fashion scene because I really felt like it was the best avenue for me to express myself and create something that would also help other people feel good about themselves. 

I got to work on some initial designs and started grinding. I was networking with everyone I could in the industry—manufacturers, designers, models…anyone that would listen to me and hear my story.

What I found was that there was a big community of people who were either in the industry or on its outskirts who felt the same way I did. They felt like they had to be a certain person or a certain way to fit in and get ahead.

The journey soon became about transformation, and that’s really, how the concept of “Shed Your Skin” started.

The name Reptile was born out of this idea of shedding skin and becoming a new and improved version of yourself.

What has been your biggest hurdle so far in your business journey, and why?

Probably the biggest hurdle I had to overcome was myself.

It took a lot of hard work on myself to build myself up to a point where I felt confident enough to go out there and try new things. Like the saying goes…life starts when you exit your comfort zone.

Beyond that, the biggest hurdles were just learning the ropes as an entrepreneur and business owner. There’s no job description or guide for it. There are some great examples out there, but none that you can just seamlessly slip into, so you do need to be prepared to have a go and fail. 

Entering the fashion trade had its own unique challenges, particularly for someone like me who didn’t have any formal design training in fashion. Everything was done based on feel and feedback.

What has been your brand’s proudest moment so far?

There are so many of these for me and I can’t pick one, so I’ll pick my favourite three.

Number one would have to be the launch of Reptile Apparel. It happened to fall on my birthday, and we had just finalised our first photoshoot that week. I was surrounded by 30 people just there to help me celebrate the special day.

Number two would be the formalisation of our partnership with pro boxer Joel Camilleri. I’ve been on Joel’s journey for some time so to be able to support each other on our respective paths has been an honour. To see him up there in lights wearing our stuff still blows me away. We love collaborating with him.

Last, but not least would have to be the recently held Ego Expo. To see our first-ever runway show and see the models strutting their stuff wearing Reptile…it was just a really, emotional weekend for me. I’ll never forget it.

What sets your brand apart?

For me, it’s our authenticity to ourselves and our community. We don’t strive to be like anyone else and we make a point of being a brand that represents those that are ready to shed their skin. It’s not just a tagline to us, it’s a real, genuine message and representation of what we want our apparel to be to everyone who wears it.

I also like to think our commitment to our local partners - suppliers, printers etc. - helps us stand out as a genuine Melbourne brand.

Tell us more about your current collection.

We’ve called our latest collection, “The Evolutionary Collection”. It’s a bit of a departure from our usual stuff, but we felt like this was an important step and it’s named as such because for us it feels like the next step in our evolution. I think one thing you would have to say about Reptile is we’re not afraid to take risks and try new things.

Of course, we’re still a relatively young label, so trying new things is part and parcel of our journey.

One thing we are striving to do with all future collections is to release them in two categories: REPTILE and SIGNATURE.

The main difference between the two is that the REPTILE part of a collection will be more an urban streetwear look, whilst the SIGNATURE part of the collection with be more neat casualwear. The styles, colours and fabrics used in these two categories will be the main points of difference, but both categories will still tie in nicely with the wider collection.

What’s coming next for your label?/ What are you excited about?

We are looking to move into kidswear. Within our network, a lot of our customers and our people are heading into the part of their life where kids become a real prospect or an actual reality, so we want to make sure our little people feel like a part of the squad.

Beyond that, I’m just really excited to get a lot more consistent with our capsule drops. I feel like every time we do something new we’re getting better and better at finding and refining our voice and style, so I want to keep pushing and making great fashion for the people who love our work.

Tell us more about your products in general. What inspires you?

In terms of my inspiration, it’s always changing.

Maybe that’s part of me coming from a non-traditional fashion background, but I’m always trying to do something different with Reptile and I think that’s good thing because it resonates with our message of, “Shed Your Skin”.

As a mantra, I think it’s good for life as much as it is for Reptile. It’s a representation of the challenges we face and the way that we constantly have to evolve to overcome them.

This is what inspires me to continue to make Reptile products.

How do you source your products? 

One of the things that was super important to me with Reptile Apparel was the idea of using this brand to support the people around me.

We work with a tightknit group of manufacturers based in Melbourne and we have an in-house team of around 15 people, three of which are involved in actually coming up with designs. 

We cast a wide net for design inspiration and have great conversations with our suppliers to discuss our ideas and how we can bring them to life.

How do you ensure your production is ethical and eco-friendly?

By ensuring we only work with Melbourne-based manufacturers, we believe we are playing our part in ensuring that the people who bring our products to life are working in great and in fair conditions.

Because we’re not jetsetting all across the globe to source our products, we feel like we’re doing a decent job with respect to our carbon footprint.

Of course, this is an area we are always looking into and we’re constantly assessing what else we can do to better improve the eco-friendly nature of our products.

We’ve recently started producing organic tees, which I absolutely love.

There’s no doubting that our customers are more concerned about the environment and as a brand it’s definitely something we want to keep exploring.

What are your predictions for the future of ethical and sustainable fashion?

There’s no denying it’s the way forward and if you’re not already on board, you’re going to have to be sooner or later. 

At Reptile, we’re keen to get ahead of the curve wherever we can, so it’s something we’re always looking at.

Reptile is all about making positive changes for our people, and what better positive change than to help make the earth a better place?

Do you give some of your profit to charity? Which one? 

Reptile Apparel is a proud partner of Bully Zero. We are big supporters of their work and have been since establishing the partnership in 2020. Over the course of that partnership we’ve partnered on a whole range of clothes, ‘Repzero’, from which we donate 100% of our profits back to Bully Zero.

We also donate $2 from every Reptile product sold outside of the Repzero range.

The money raised helps fund BullyZero’s bullying prevention campaigns and education.

The only shame has been COVID19 stopping us from doing more together. 

What advice would you give to any Australian entrepreneur/ designer who wants to start their own label now?

I think the most important thing is to have a purpose and be clear on what that is. Are you starting this because you have a certain message you want to spread? Are you in it because you genuinely believe you have something unique to give the world? Is it about money? I don’t think there’s a right or wrong purpose to have, but whatever it is you have to really believe in it and be committed to it because business is a cruel world.

For me, I’ve tried to stick to three key principles: 

Persistence, Consistency and Patience.

You need all three to last the distance and if you have a “Why” that drives you, I think they should all come pretty naturally. 

You don’t mind being persistent if you believe in it. 

You’re consistently putting in work if it means something. 

You’ll have the patience and trust that what you’re doing will come good if you really believe in it. 

Daniel, thank you for your time and sharing your inspiring story. It’s been a pleasure talking to you. We’ll keep an eye on all the exciting things you’ve got lined up in the months to come, and cannot wait to see more things coming from you and your team.

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