Van Diemen's Land is an Australian lifestyle brand creating premium canvas luggage and bedding.
I have long admired the swag as being central to the Australian psyche. Here, this simple canvas bed roll represents a coming-of-age for a young man. Every 21 year old worth his salt has one, yet none of them are much good.
Creating a product from scratch
One day I thought, bugger it, let's bring the swag into the modern day. And so began my sketches ...
At this point, I had very little idea what I was doing. My sketches were guided by this great post by Ugmonk founder Jeff Sheldon.
Before long, they took shape. I scanned my drawings and made them into simple vector shapes in illustrator.
I wanted to find the thickest, most old-school canvas on the market. Something rugged, with a premium look.
This took a fair bit of research, calling and visiting numerous suppliers in Sydney and a few around the country. They usually send fabric swatches free of charge, which is pretty handy, because the fabric itself it's cheap, and comes in massive rolls.
With basic sketches and idea about materials, it was time to get a prototype made. I called half a dozen fashion sample-makers who wouldn't touch my idea (due to the thickness of the canvas). Then I got in touch with Cathy at Industrial Sewing Workshop. She was awesome, taking my basic sketches and making the damn thing.
Refining the brand
At the same time, I was thinking about how to best represent Van Diemen's Land graphically.
I pictured it as a fashion brand (more like an Best Made Co. or a Deus Ex Machina), rather than an outdoors company (like a Patagonia).
With that in mind, I explored a range of logo designs. Some played off the name – Van Diemen's Land being Tasmania, home to Australia's most rugged, isolated and historic terrain.
The ones working best were the simplest – basic wordmarks.
I tried a bunch but settled on the clean, but imperfect, Monod Brun from V.H. Fleisher.
Taking delivery of the prototype
With the swag made, my girlfriend and I took a road trip down to the real Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) for a three week photoshoot.
It was a pleasure to sleep on (thank christ), in the tent, the car, or out under the stars. For what it's worth, Tasmania was mind-blowing. This is Cradle Mountain National Park:
The second product
The second product in the range is a duffel bag, made with the same principles of hard-wearing design. I was inspired by the simple canvas bag carried by soldiers & sailors (AKA: John Rambo in First Blood).
After a couple of design rounds, the prototype was sent up from Cathy and, again, we put her through her paces.
Heavy-duty zips and handles make for an extremely functional bag that won't break.
What's next for Van Diemen's Land? The limited first run has sold out, and I'm considering a Kickstarter run for the bag.
Time will tell if I man-up and go all out to properly market the brand. I might consider taking the designs to China to lower the unit price. That will only happen if I can keep quality levels up.
All in all, I'm pretty happy with the result. Building a physical product, as well as a brand to go with it, was a lot of fun.
And, most importantly, I've learnt a tonne.