LIKE lots of good ideas created in the bush, clothing brand Ringers Western was formed while a few mates were sitting around a camp fire having some beers.
The newly launched clothing label was started by workmates living on a remote 404,685.6ha Kimberley cattle station, El Questro.
Ringers Western co-founder and El Questro pastoral manager Andrew Macdonald is now focussing most of his time launching the business.
In the past 12 months he has transitioned from a hands-on station manager who spent much of his time catching scrub bulls or looking for cattle in the chopper, to being fashion entrepreneur.
He is deeply passionate about the brand, but admits he is surprised how his work has evolved.
“It started when we were just out having some beers around a campfire,” he said.
“One of the boys had come back and his shirt had just ripped, again.
“And I just thought ‘we should make our own gear, make gear that doesn’t rip… and if it does rip we will blame ourselves, opposed to blaming some other bastard’,” he joked.
The clothing line sells a casual range, including hooded jumpers, T-shirts and trucker hats; and work wear, leather goods and even children’s clothes.
It’s going to be a one-stop shop for rural people, or for people who like country clothing.
Although El Questro could be seen as somewhat remote, being situated about an hour outside of Kununurra in the outback, Andrew has always been surrounded by talented people.
His supportive wife Anika has her finger on the pulse of women’s fashion, his brother-in-law Matteo Salerno (who doubles as a chopper pilot and lawyer) has helped organise the business, and his cousin Anna, who is also an accountant, has helped organise the finances.
And, more than 3000km away from the station on the sunny Gold Coast, his retired mum Julie has been hard at work posting and sorting their goods in Queensland.
“I worked out how much it would cost me to be posting everything out from Kununurra – it was astronomical,” Andrew said.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do it,” he said
At the moment Julie’s lounge room is spilling over with stock, as boxes and boxes of Ringers Western clothing is being prepared to be sent off to customers.
Even Andrew’s eight-year-old son Octavius has helped out.
“He is at school, but he will do anything to come with me if I am ever out checking cattle or anything like that,” he said.
“He gives me ideas with the designs too; he wants everything to have a big, aggressive bull on it.”
Before Ringers Western was launched, the name was starting to make waves on social media.
“I started doing the social media stuff on Instagram. It was just taking off through the roof,” he said.
“So we started thinking about what else we could do with that, we were gathering such a following.”
Ringers Western has 13,000 followers on Instagram and more than 6000 on Facebook.
The posts on the Ringers Western page sum up the daily tasks of a ringer.
There are shots of people working wild cattle through the yards, mustering on horses and, of course, having a good time on the land.
The raw and real photos show the hardship of the job, but also shed light on the comradery and stunning scenery of the outback.
The images make the remoteness seem romantic, and make an everyday ringer look like a hero.
Having a brand based on a real Aussie station worker was essential to Andrew.
“So ‘ringer’ is the term you use for people who work cattle up in the Top End. You can say they are stockmen, you know a jackeroo, or a jillaroo – they are the cowboys.
“There is a mentality that goes along with being a ringer.
“In Kununurra we have a term called ‘ringer for a dollar’, because you are working your arse off for not many dollars.”
At the moment Andrew is on the Gold Coast helping send off the goods, and travelling to rodeos each weekend to promote the brand.
Although the stock travels Australia wide, sales have been on the east coast.
The tyranny of distance has made it difficult, as his wife, son and two-year-old daughter Elouisa are all still on the station in Western Australia.
But Andrew said his family’s support had never waned.
Before starting in the cattle industry, Andrew worked in construction then joined the Army Reserves.
He spent a 12 months in Timor as a platoon commander then returned to El Questro, where he worked for more than five years.
“When I came back my wife and I were on the property. When you go up there, everything seems free,” he said.
“You are not encumbered by traffic, encumbered by people, you just have great real people around you.
“Everyone has a story up there.
“There are the most amazing characters everywhere you go.”
Andrew doesn’t describe himself as an entrepreneur, but said he is not the kind of person who could ever work “nine to five for somebody else”.
“I have always enjoyed doing things that are a challenge in life,” he said.
Although he is off the land at the moment, Andrew is still working the hours of a ringer, starting early and finishing late to push along the business.
Social media has been a vital tool in establishing Ringers Western, because it gave him an audience even though he was in an isolated location.
While the rapid growth is welcomed, responding to the masses was a challenge while still trying to look after El Questro’s 12,000 head of brahman cattle.
“I will get messages from people and I could be doing anything, out on a horse or in the chopper,” he said.
“It’s important to us that we get back to everyone… even when I was out in the middle of nowhere.”
Ringers Western has never employed a model to present its clothing lines.
“And we will never employ models,” Andrew said.
“We want the real people of the outback. We want to keep it real.
“Everyone on our page is real.”
At rodeos Andrew will approach dedicated competitors and offer them some clothing, in return those people will post pictures of themselves wearing the garments on social media.
“I have been amazed at how willing people are to have their photos taken,” he said.
“Even the young boys we have on El Questro, they all have their own Instagram accounts and have been feeding the Ringers Western page.”Keeping the brand as Australian and real as possible is a running theme in the business.
Instead of their logo being an image created on a computer, Andrew opted to use a picture taken on El Questro Station of a Kimberley clean-skin bull.
Visit www.ringerswestern.com for more information.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.