- Text by Alex King
Golfers are better known for their habit of getting regularly struck by lightning than setting the world alight with their sense of style, but that all looks set to change as The Driftwood Tales makes its presence felt.
Former O’Neill creative director Martijn Andriessen founded the brand to free himself from creative constraints and to inject the sense of freedom and adventure he knows so well from surf and skate brands into the world of golfing apparel.
How and why did you start The Driftwood Tales?
I’ve always worked for brands, whether on the ad agency or the brand side. For creatives that can be pretty frustrating at times because you have all these ideas but the client or brand owner often wants it done differently. You can only influence other peoples’ brands to a certain level and at a certain point that was just not enough for me anymore. About a year ago the stars aligned nicely, so I decided to quit my job and get started.
I’ve been doing sports like surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding and various martial arts all my life but I also happen to love golf. Coming from that action sports background with all its cool little lifestyle brands really made me want to create something similar for people like me who love golf but hate the games’s dress code. People who don’t solely belong to the golf tribe and get their style references from elsewhere. They surf, they’re into art or music, they travel… and they golf. But there’s not a single golf brand out there that caters to this group.
Why can there be cross-over brands in surfing or skateboarding but not in golf, while a lot of the time it’s actually the same guys doing those things? So I thought it would be interesting to create an authentic and quality cross-over golf brand. A brand that tells a lot different stories but all these stories are connected through golf.
Is it a good time to strike it alone?
For me it was. I studied product design, worked for ad agencies on brands and worked on the brand side as well. Starting my own brand was only logical, the full circle thing.
Looking at the still-not-so-good global economic situation I think it’s actually a really good time. You have to be really creative right now since there’s still not a lot of money around but if you can make it through these times the rest will be easy and you are ahead of all the others who wanted to play safe and waited it out.
There are a lot of likeminded people out there, all setting up new shops and willing to collaborate on projects. You just have to connect with them and do it.
What were you doing beforehand?
I worked for the last six years as a global creative director for O’Neill. Before that I was a creative in advertising.
What challenges have you faced?
The biggest challenge is me. Coming up with the brand idea, strategy, products and everything else creative was relatively easy, but that’s what I’ve been doing all my life, kind of. But all the other stuff like finding manufacturers, sales, PR, webshop, productions etc. are completely new for me. I always had other people doing that for me, I was just the creative.
Now it’s just me with a little help here and there from friends, but basically I’m reinventing the wheel here and reinventing myself in the process at the same time. It’s a really humbling experience. I’ve never been a networking guy and now I really must force myself to get out of my cave and go out there to meet people. It’s scary shit but I’m loving it. I feel like I’ve learned and grown so much this last year, but there’s still a very long way to go.
Who or what do you take inspiration from?
Some of my best inspirational trips are trips to Bali. I always come back full of ideas and with an overload of energy. It’s the combination of the local creativity of the Balinese, meeting interesting new people, the latest hot Australian brands in the shops and all mixed with playtime in some of the most perfect waves on the planet. Throw in some great Indonesian food and ‘hello new ideas!’ I get similar body and mind dynamics from a city like LA.
One other thing that inspires me but on a whole other level (you are allowed to laugh) is watching Shark Tank. 99% of the products there are horrible and it’s really American but it’s so good to see how people put themselves out there and really go for it. Some are doing great… others aren’t that well prepared and get squashed so it’s kind of similar to what the market can do to you. And I’m arrogant enough to think ‘hey if this guy who’s making removable paint masks for sports fans is successful, then I should be too’ haha.
Are there any indie brands out there that you think are doing great things?
Mast Brothers Chocolate are awesome. It’s just chocolate but they take it beyond chocolate. It’s so inspiring to see their love for chocolate and everything that comes with it. I love how a brand like this not only has a good product but how every little detail tells their story, all the way from packaging to a sailboat to get their own cocoa beans from somewhere tropical.
What does independence mean to you?
Independence can be a scary thing. It’s just you. If something goes wrong there’s no one to blame but you. But it’s also the best feeling ever when things go right because it was all you.
Independence means that everything you learned before that point in time has got to come out now. It means self discipline. It means surfing or golfing when others are not and not surfing or golfing when others are. Lay-days are no-pay days. It means adventure, but most of all it means nobody telling me what to do.
What’s the single greatest lesson you’ve learned from setting up your own business?
I once read somewhere ‘trust your struggle’ and that’s so true with things like this. It’s so easy to start doubting yourself in the beginning when you’re hardly selling anything and you only get one new Instagram follower per week. Be prepared to have no life, to be broke and to fail a few times. But if you have a good story and a quality product and you stick to your beliefs and surround yourself with the right people, then it’s only a matter of time before people will pick it up. Trusting your struggle is probably a bit easier when you’re a bit older and not just starting out at 20 though.
What are your ambitions for the future of The Driftwood Tales?
Right now we’re doing apparel and obviously I want to extend our still small collection with other apparel pieces every season. But I’d also like to add other kind of products that fit our brand story. We already did a small collaboration with a café racer motorbike builder and produced a golf café racer bike. And why not our own whiskey or chocolate? I’m also working on putting together our own event. With a brand like this, the sky is the limit so I think we should go for world domination.
Check out more from The Driftwood Tales.