Brands We Love: ZANEROBE
What's it like running a fashion label with your BFF for ten years? We spoke with Leith Testoni and Jonathon Yeo, founders of menswear brand Zanerobe, to find out.
Interview by Katie Gregory
Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Jonathon: Born in New Zealand, reside in Sydney, turning 40 this year, love the challenges of running an international brand, and hugely proud of our ZANEROBE team and design direction. I’m in my dream job and addicted to staying fit. My guilty pleasure is drinking Jamesons after a big ski day.
Leith: ZANEROBE has been around for almost 12 years now. It started from a general lack of interest in the menswear market and quest to do something different. Lots of people, particularly in the US, believe that we have only been around for a few years but this is more due to the recent popularity of the jogger silhouette. Our mantra still holds true and we are trying to do things new and interesting in the menswear market. We are very much entrenched in the Australia/New Zealand street surf scene, which drives many global trends.
How did you form ZANEROBE?
J: Very casually – I was having a beer with my old mate Leith Testoni (aka The Big Bear) and we decided to start a small project on the side of our "real" corporate jobs. Leith always had a very savvy eye for fashion so I exploited his mad skills and put him to work.
How has your personal and/or brand aesthetic changed over time?
J: We’re a trend-based brand so what we designed 10 years ago is completely different to what we’re producing now. ZANEROBE started as an Australian-based premium sport offering and we’re now a significant contributor to contemporary men’s fashion globally. We're immensely proud of the brand’s development progression.
L: Like any brand, it matures with age. We are more focused with subtle detailing and fabrications than overt and obvious garments to gain attention. This comes with time and confidence. We have reduced the reliance on bold prints and look more to exciting fabrication developments, trims and denim washes.
You guys have been working together for ten years. Is it hard balancing a friendship and a business?
J: Not if you don’t sweat the small stuff and have incredible mind-control abilities. We’re extremely fortunate to have a friendship and common interests outside of business hours.
L: We are very different people and the balance works well. We both don’t come from fashion backgrounds and we approach everything logically and without ego.
Is there a particular piece from your line that you’re super excited about?
J: I love it all but I’m gravitating to all the clean, monochromatic styles currently: classic white button-down, solid black elongated tee, Dynamo jogger-chino with knit cuff.
L: I'm excited about every piece in our collection, that’s why we do it. I still get a thrill when new samples arrive and I get to talk it through with our sales guys. It's great when you finish a showing and people are speechless – it’s a nice feeling.
Who are some of your fashion icons?
J: Leith Testoni, Tom Ford. In that order.
L: I don’t really have any to be honest, so I'm not going to make any up. I get inspired by regular people putting together great looks no matter who they are. I'll often say "great look" to people I don’t know on the street.
What have you been wearing a lot of lately?
J: Dog hair. I have a five-month-old puppy, a White Swiss Shepherd, so all my clothes are covered in white puppy hair. My wardrobe will dramatically change to a colour palette of white, off-white, bone, cream, beige and taupe.
L: Grey Marle and denim. I like the simplicity and feel of grey marles and how they look against denims, particularly washed and blown-out denims, whether they be cuffed or uncuffed.
Although it's not summer down under, what are some of your favorite things to do/places to go in the summer?
J: Manly Beach for a cheeky run/swim combo. Chill on the beach for the rest of the day and hit Papi Chulo’s for dinner.
L: You can't really beat Australia in Summer. We have Christmas during summer and we usually head down the south coast of New South Wales during this time to a small beach house one of my friends own. We get back to basic living: surfing, paddleboarding, fishing, spear fishing, prawning, cooking on open fires. I find it’s the best way to unwind.
Favorite songs to blast in the summer?
J: This mix is on repeat.
What trend do you love for summer? Hate?
J: Can’t go past a fresh light-weight-cotton "white" longer-length tee. I’m done with any look that includes Havaianas.
L: I'm really enjoying the elongated and boxier silhouettes, particularly in shorting. It's such a convergence of form, function and fashion and makes sense in summer. I like it when they collide.
How do you feel about socks and sandals?
J: If it was the name of a rad pop-up store selling ETQ black mid-tops, I’d rather enjoy it.
What’s one thing you’re looking forward to?
J: Always "next season's collection" dropping into stores.
L: I'm looking forward to brands giving up on claiming ownership of the jogger silhouette. I find it really quite humorous. Although the European and then later the Australian and New Zealand fashion community played an instrumental role in its development and evolution, I would never be so ignorant or arrogant to claim to have invented it. The “Jogger’ has been around in various forms for over three decades. Long before all the brands that are claiming to have invented them. Fashion is an evolution and a re-evolution and reinterpretation. I'm looking forward to what's next and playing a role in that evolution.
Share one cool thing you’ve seen on the internet recently.
J: I was recently overseas and Skype’d with my puppy back in Sydney. It was a quick conversation but she assured me everything was fine – "You two kids should go and enjoy yourselves." I also like this. And this is an all-time favourite.
L: I'm still pretty astounded by google image search. It's great that you can find the origin of an image when it could have been blogged so many times.