There are certain points in life when you act on your gut instinct. You back yourself in on a whim and go with the flow. These moments are empowering but the results not always successful. Though sometimes, you come out on top.
This is certainly the case for local Adelaidian Van Vlassis. After learning how to screen-print t-shirts in his parent’s garage in 2012, his street-wear label Average Cat has gone from strength to strength. Almost one year to the day since he opened his first slick flagship store in the now buzzing Regent Arcade, we caught up with Van to talk all things streetwear, retail and trying to stay on top of arguably the most competitive area in fashion today.
What is Average Cat and how did it start?
Average Cat is my streetwear label which I started back in 2012. I learnt how to screen-print t-shirts in my parent’s shed and went with the flow from there. I spent most of my early years online but with the help of Renew Adelaide I managed to secure my first flagship store in Regent Arcade and now I hold my own lease in a new space one year on. It’s pretty crazy really when I actually think about it.
How did you come up with the name Average Cat?
Back when I was first starting out, I was sketching out some ideas for a logo and I had this idea for a cat to be incorporated somewhere, but I wasn’t 100 percent set on it. As I was drawing, the song Hell on Earth by Mobb Deep came on and there is a line in the song which goes:
“I ain’t your average cat/fuck rap/ I’m trying to make cream and that’s that.”
I love Mobb Deep and that was the moment where I thought, ‘yep, it’s meant to be’. I still use the same name and logo today.
Was streetwear always going to be your chosen career path?
I think if you asked me seven years ago I would have said no. I suppose it stemmed from my university study as an accountant and my love of fashion. Studying as an accountant wouldn't lead most people to start a street-wear label, but I grew to really appreciate small business and now, here I am!
A retail flagship store has been a relatively unattractive proposition in the last few years across many areas of business – what do you think is important about a brick and mortar retail experience?
A brick and mortar retail experience is crucial to Average Cat and I think all street-wear brands. At the most basic level, street-wear has been and is still inspired by the street, so you should be able to walk in off the street to grab yourself some threads!
A flagship store also speaks volumes about what a label appreciates. I hope when people walk in to Average Cat they understand what I value in streetwear – an eye for small details, quality cuts, quality materials and also a sense of fun. When you come in to the store the product is the focus, and that’s what a good retail store should offer. It’s really easy to get distracted while shopping online or even in some retail stores because there is too much going on. I try to keep it slick and minimal ‘cause it’s what I like. I hope people dig it.
They say streetwear has gone through a three-stage evolution – hip-hop in the ‘80s, denim and fluro in the ‘90s and accessories and sneakers in the noughts. What do you think the next big trend in streetwear will be?
Honestly I don’t really know and I won’t pretend that I do ‘cause I really don’t think anyone does. [Not knowing] is both daunting and exciting. Street-wear has never waited for anyone to catch up or give directions as to the next trend. So when I’m designing I try my best to keep an eye on what is going on around me but at the end of the day I design what I like. Recently, I’ve expanded my range to include a lot more ‘cut-and-sewn’ pieces, which is something I’m really proud of. Potentially the next big trend is to move streetwear to a more cut-and-sewn style – like high fashion lines do, which focuses on the cut and fabrics used over all other elements like big graphics, but I really don’t know.
What is the hardest thing about owning your own street-wear label?
It’s definitely trying to balance everything. 30 years ago it was probably enough to provide a quality product and that alone would be enough to compete with your rivals, but people expect more from brands these days, especially in streetwear. They want to see the brand on blogs and on people who look like they know something about streetwear. So as the owner, head designer, marketing strategist and general manager of Average Cat I get spread pretty thin sometimes. That just made me sound like a total wanker didn’t it...
No not at all – truth’s the truth at the end of the day…
Yeah I suppose so. I still feel like a wanker though.
Average Cat has grown from an online business, to a pop-up flagship store and now a fully-fledged flagship - what is next on the cards?
There are a few new things happening with Average Cat which is exciting, ‘cause you can’t stay the same for too long in streetwear. We’re going to start offering a slightly different in-store experience from what we have done in the last 12 months, which is exciting but I can’t give too much away at this stage. I’m super excited about it. It’ll hopefully be launched within the next month so definitely keep your eye out. Also, we’re working on some collaboration projects with some local friends which is great too – Adelaide is changing and being a part of the small business community keeps you really motivated. Definitely keep your eye out.
Van Vlassis and Average Cat are both anything but average. With Adelaide’s cultural capital growing and the streetwear game forever changing, we might just see Average Cat put Adelaide on the streetwear map.