In a upstairs flat in Marrickville, Sydney back in 2006 Catt and Jamie had an idea. We discussed how all the womens cycling garments were pink and emblazoned with flowers. So we decided that the world needed something less obvious and more chic.
We acquired our first sewing machine from Lyn Miller who at the time was the Australian distro for Velocity and Phil Wood. He was going to make panniers with the machine but never got around to it with family life. It was a black lock-stitch Singer, he said it was from the 50’s. It was on a industrial table and had a clutch motor, It was perfect! It cost $300 which at the time for a working bike messenger was a lot of money. We loaded it up onto his ute and carted it up a flight of stairs to the first floor. Anyone who has ever been inside this flat will know how the internal staircase was configured and trying to negotiate a commercial machine around this was not easy. This machine was so old that trying to source even the most basic parts like needles was difficult, we eventually found a guy in Queensland who had some that were the correct size. He refused to take any money for them and said “take me for a ride on your yacht when you’ve got one”.
We started off making some cycling caps, (none of which were ever finished) before we re-evaluated the whole cycling apparel thing. The number of variables was off-putting and we didn’t really have the skills to deliver our vision, so we pulled the pin on that idea.
We very quickly redirected our efforts to the messenger market. Given that both of us had worked on the road for a number of years and were still working it seemed that we had the first hand experience to back this up. The first ever product was a top tube protector, it was black and had a small square label with a gold star on it. At the time I wanted to be this unbranded entity making messenger products, kind of like the anti marketing. There’s two problems with that, the first is nobody will know how to find you and the second is it’s a stupid idea.
We needed to come up with a name, there was no brain storming or anything to that effect. The name skin grows back was mentioned in passing and agreed on, it was all very casual as we both sat there drinking tea. Our first labels were produced with an upside down bike and said “made down under”. The woman handling the order remarked “you do know the bike is upside down?”
We continued to make messenger specific products in a room approximately 3 metres square, the room was so small I had to ask Catt to stand up from the machine while I rolled material out on the floor to mark the patterns. Looking back I had no experience at all with textiles, none. Catt had the actual skills and I was just product developing which again I had no experience with. Catt recalls the time she made a phone pouch and I said “I don’t like it”, to which she replied “how about you make it yourself”, so I did. This was the first time I sat down at a machine. Between us we assembled top tube pads, phone pouches, lock loops and hip packs. These were really well received by our friends in the Messenger scene, it was also a boom time for fixed gears so these products translated directly to this crew also. I could do a whole new post about this period of my life.
Later on that year was the Cycle Messenger World Championships in Sydney. Scooter had placed a bid at the Edmonton Worlds the previous year that had a pretty small attendance by his account. So it was locked in, thanks Scooter! I was fortunate enough to be present for almost every meeting, it was incredible to watch a small group of messengers organise a world event. Any city that has ever hosted a Worlds will know what I’m talking about. The point is that Worlds is a big deal for the Messenger scene, riders will be travelling across the globe to come to Sydney and we were hosting them. This was pretty big for skin grows back as it introduced us to the world. I’m not saying this is before the internet or web stores but it wasn’t the same back then, you couldn’t just start a online store from your phone. Worlds was a huge success and everybody had a blast, many of our friends left with something from skin grows back and fond memories of their time in Sydney.
That is a brief summary of why, where and how skin grows back started. There are many other chapters in this journey to where we are at present. I feel grateful to have made it this far 10 years later and to be still doing what I love. I have no formal qualifications, my only real working experience has been as a travelling bike messenger. I have no background in textiles or product design which I have been criticised for. Everything we’ve learned so far has been through hands on trial and error. We started a business in our spare time with about $500 in a tiny room. Ten years later we have over 30 sewn products and customers all over the world. The brand is now renowned for technically styled functional products of the highest quality. We continue to expand our knowledge of the carry industry and introduce new products regularly.
We would like to thank all the people who have supported skin grows back as customers and all of the people who helped behind the scenes. We look forward to the next chapter in this journey.
Catt & Jamie