Behind The Scenes - A crazy year with Neri and Manu

Last time Neri and Manu sat down to open up about Ottway, it was over a year ago. Funnily enough it was during a lockdown and once again, here we are in Melbourne working from home. 
It’s been one hell of a crazy 12 months to say the least, both personally and professionally for this dynamic duo. With all the challenges and hurdles that have been faced, so too has there been epic adventures, good times and the continuation of the Ottway story.
To carry on from the last behind the scenes (which you can find here), let’s take a seat with Neri and Manu as they flick through some pages of the past year then speak a little about what's next...

Straight up - Describe the past 12months in two words?

HARDWORKING & INSPIRING

We know so much of the inspiration behind the brand has stemmed from your love for adventure and travel. What has this meant in the past 12 months and where have you been finding it?

Developing an outdoors community-based brand, as we pride ourselves at OTTWAY, while living with an unprecedented lack of freedom and with social restrictions wasn't an easy task… We took the challenge and put all of our energy and creativity into it. Making the year not only count, but even better than the previous one!! :)

We focused way more on the day-to-day and finding beauty within our local community. Surprisingly, we became even closer with our friends and made even more than ever. There was not much opportunity for moving around and we had to stay strong together. We learnt to appreciate more what we have and celebrated every glimpse of freedom. The desire to adventure was there and we unleashed our imagination. 

All these feelings and experiences were translated into some of the most powerful campaigns so far: Be A Rarebird, Outside is Better and Drifters. The 3 campaigns shared the same aspiration... finding freedom.

It has been exhausting, but all the hard work pays off and it wouldn't have been possible without the support of our amazing team, friends & community - THANK YOU!!

Now a year ago, Ottway was working from home, but if it wasn’t for Covid you were in a co-working space in Melbourne. What does the Ottway office look like now? What drove you to make the decision of building the Ottway Flagship Store in the middle of a pandemic?

Mid-March 2020, just before Lockdown 1.0 commenced all around Australia we were operating OTTWAY in between a self-storage unit and a co-working space. Days later, we found ourselves working remotely from home in front of a laptop and we felt like something was missing… the whole thing didn't feel as real. It was like creating a virtual reality. 

That was the turning point for us, we had the urge to make it real, to create our own space where we could bring the team together and share it with our community. 

We took the risk and sealed the deal in May. This big white warehouse became our driver to stay motivated and creative. Finally the 7th November 2020, restrictions eased in Melbourne and we were able to officially open the doors… A DAY FOR THE BOOKS!

 

Today, this space is the epicenter of the OTTWAY world. A place to share stories, feel the OTTWAY lifestyle and good times! More than just a store! Our Melbourne flagship space is:

- A warehouse: everything Ottway is managed in house by hand (with love)

- An office: The creative hub of creating our vibe plus the meet-and-greet area

- A front-shop: Filled with all the Ottway styles and designs, the showroom of true vintage and all our collection memories.

- A space for Community: Events, gigs, exhibitions and surrounded by an amazing neighbourhood full of vibrant cafes and generous people.

Let's talk campaigns and products. There have been some amazing new designs and epic campaigns in the gone year. What have been your two personal favourite releases and which campaign stood out the most?

In terms of new designs, the Cream Rarebird Jacket is definitely our spoiled child at the moment. We knew we wanted to create a cream version of the Rarebird since day 1 and we took our time to come up with it. After several attempts, frustrated samples and a long manufacturing process due to the handwoven pattern... it is finally out! We struggled a bit, as there are some other brands out there trying to imitate the Rarebird concept but we didn't want to rush it - Good things take time!

Another highlight was the Jack Overalls release, it was something new for the OTTWAY family and we weren't sure if the community was prepared for it. Well, we are now working on the brown version (oops.. Spoiler!! haha) It’s been a clear indicator and gives us motivation to expand the OTTWAY designs beyond shirts and jackets.

Regarding the campaigns, it's hard to choose as we put so much effort and eagerness into all of them. But probably given the circumstances that we were living in, Outside is Better, was the most awaited one. We just did what we loved most and recorded it: good friends, cabin vibes, bonfires, surf, chill … you name it!

How’s Gloria coming along?

Gloria is a dream. We once dreamt of building our own cabin, being off-the-grid, reconnecting with nature and creating a community around it. Everytime we are in Gloria this dream is for real, it is happening. Fire is cranking, candles are lit, fresh pasta is on the table, acoustic guitar and singing is on and our good friends are smiling. There are no distractions, we are all living the moment. 

While we enjoy the goods of Gloria, we are also working on becoming self-sustainable: rain-water tank, fire-heating, composting toilet, solar panels and a small veggie pad. This is all we need and we are pretty close to having everything fully operational.

Tell us a bit more about the sustainability program Solo Sunny Days. What is the mission and impact so far?

We aim to improve our communities by giving the gift of clean energy. At a personal level, we are environmental enthusiasts and installing solar panels in community-owned projects around Australia is a fundamental motivation for us to keep pushing everyday. Together, we have contributed to the installation of 412 solar panels and we are now working on our 5th community-owned solar project located in an amazing sustainable kindergarten in South Australia.

Beyond the solar power installed itself, we want OTTWAY to inspire and help educate others towards the fight against climate change and the deterioration that planet earth is facing. We are currently exploring ways where we can engage with our community to go one step further.

There's no denying, Ottway has grown a lot recently. What does that mean for the future and what’s next?

We can't be thankful enough for all the daily support. We started OTTWAY with a sole mission, to create a community of like-minded people. Where happiness and outdoor living are on the front seat. It might sound like a cliche, but OTTWAY never started as a business decision. It was a way of re-designing life for us. 

The goal is to keep growing our community, sharing the good vibes and making as much of a positive change as we possibly can through our sustainability program. 

The intention is to be a bit more on the move once we go back to full normality, so we can run events interstate, meet more people and why not… setting up another OTTWAY venue up north.

Another dream is to be able to replicate all these experiences and livings in Europe where we have good friends and a growing community. If the circumstances allow us, we would like to spend some time there too.

Final one… if we dig a little deeper on the socials, it doesn’t look like you two are adventuring Australia at the moment… Tell us more?!

After almost 2 years without seeing our families due to the travel restrictions, we have managed to finally come back to Spain for a 3 months period - we feel so lucky and fortunate! We are also making the most of getting inspiration and creating while in here!

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