Get 10% off all Salt Gypsy products using code StillStoked10!
The third article in a series of inspiring ladies killing it in the career department, we meet surf fashion pioneer and brand owner Danielle Clayton. Danielle is not only a ripper surfer but is also owner of the unique surf brand Salt Gypsy. We caught up with her on what Salt Gypsy is all about; her motivations to push the boundaries of functional surf fashion; running female-focused boat trips for advanced surfers and what it’s like to set up your own indie brand in a competitive industry of established surf brands.
Unless you were a pink girly girl striving to be the pretty, blonde, butt-flashing stereotype mainstream surf brands perpetuated, there wasn’t much on the market for female surfers with alternative style.
Hey Danielle, tell us about Salt Gypsy.
Creative collaboration, passion, play, service and authenticity. These are the core business, brand and personal values that form Salt Gypsy.
Salt Gypsy is a surf lifestyle brand for women who crave style in the line up. We offer products and experiences for the discerning woman of the water; surf and après-surf wear, boat trips for advanced female surfers, and curated surf and independent design news from around the world. Basically I’m trying to create an authentic female surf company my younger self would have aspired to work at.
What inspired you to create product for female surfers?
Salt Gypsy began life on a boat in the Indian Ocean quite literally off the smell of an oily rag
I originally created Salt Gypsy as a personal blog while I worked my third season as a surf guide in the Maldives back in 2012. The aim of the blog was twofold: to discover and support indie surf labels being created by authentic female surf creatives (at the time this was Kali swimwear, Muther of All Things, Tallow, Seea, Surfkini AU) and to create a global community of like-minded female surfers. The kind of women I wished were on the boat with me – those who like to drink beer, talk shit and hunt barrels.
I’ve worked hard the last 3 years to build and grow this community and concurrent to this has been the growth of a Salt Gypsy product line – something that came from my personal need to protect my skin from sun damage without looking naff as frankly, there wasn’t anything in the marketplace.
What were the motivations to create functional surf wear and not just mainstream surf fashion?
Being a New Zealander and having lived and surfed in the tropics for several years, I am intensely paranoid about skin cancer. Tans may look “pretty” as one person once commented but they sure as hell aren’t pretty when melanoma rears its ugly head. We Antipodeans have extremely high statistics of skin cancer so it’s simple – I wanted to protect my skin in surfwear that reflected my personal style and not make me look like a nana or Olympic athlete.
Unless you were a pink girly girl striving to be the pretty, blonde, butt-flashing stereotype mainstream surf brands perpetuated, there wasn’t much on the market for female surfers with alternative style. Thank god things are changing.
What makes Salt Gypsy unique? What do you want women to feel, think and do wearing your products?
I’m out there with you in the lineup not sitting in a corporate surf company ‘inspired’ by people like you and me.
I want to see style in the lineup. I want women to feel confident wearing surfwear that reflects their personal dress sense or style – and not feel like they have to be a pro or kickass surfer to wear it. You know when you try on an outfit and you feel banging in it and full of confidence for a night out or a work meeting? That’s how I want you to feel in your choice of surfwear. Then take that confidence and go surf, you might surprise yourself. Lucky for us ladies of the sea, there are now several slick indie labels producing quality style x functional product so mix it up, have fun and support indie businesses.
What makes Salt Gypsy unique? Authenticity.
I’m out there with you in the lineup not sitting in a corporate surf company “inspired” by people like you and me. I’m creating functional product directly as a result from our collective experiences in the surf.
Also, I’m building this thing from the ground up with no external capital or investment. Salt Gypsy began life on a boat in the Indian Ocean quite literally off the smell of an oily rag and nothing lights a fire under your ass quite like not knowing how you are going to pay next months rent. So yeah, please support indie surf labels and buy some Salt Gypsy surf threads!
You are a pretty amazing surfer yourself, where did you learn to surf and how has that knowledge and skill helped you develop the brand?
I’m conscious about developing my style
Man, did I learn the long, hard way – on a shortboard on Auckland’s West Coast 16 years ago. I learned to duckdive and read rips and currents very quickly but standing up was a different story and took years. It wasn’t until I spent my first season in the Maldives and had concentrated surf time in warm water that my skill level increased tenfold. Not that I would call myself an amazing surfer at all and I’ll never be a whipper-snapper aerialist, but I’m conscious about developing my style to feel confident in bigger surf, try my hand at pulling into barrels and reading waves better. I’ve learned to be tenacious (one of my favourite words ever) and it’s this that forms the backbone for what I’m doing now in developing Salt Gypsy.
What are your thoughts on the community that comes with being a woman or girl that surfs? How do you think girls do or do not support each other?
I like surfing with other women, especially if they surf better than me. I always think, “if she can do that so can I”, and it helps drive me to surf better.
Interesting question as the female surf community encompasses so many different types of board riders and women from different ages and walks of life. If I look back to when I first started in the mid-90s in NZ, there were definitely very few girls who surfed so I was usually surfing with guys. Meeting other girls in the surf would go one of two ways – either super friendly and encouraging or super competitive and cocky.
I don’t know if it’s changed that much? I’ve been travelling and living in surf-cultural-melting-pots the last few years (Byron Bay, Gold Coast, Maldives, Bali) and still encounter the same two attitudes from other female surfers.
Generally though, if there are women in the water, the vibe is a lot mellower to when there isn’t. More smiling, more laughs, more relaxed. I like surfing with other women, especially if they surf better than me. I always think, “if she can do that so can I”, and it helps drive me to surf better.
You suffer from a heart arrhythmia that can cause sudden death. Has this condition changed the way you have approached things in your life?
I live by a very life-is-too-short mantra … make it a good one, be kind to others and surf as much as you can.
Having a genetic heart condition like Long QT absolutely changes everything about how I choose to live my life. My family and I found out about it in May 2002 when I was 22 years old. My mum went into cardiac arrest one night, survived (thank goodness), and ended up being diagnosed with Long QT. We 4 kids were genetically tested and all told we also had the same mutated gene!
I stared death in the face of my mum that night in May and have never felt more intensely frightened in my life. So when you are 22 and told to never surf again because of the increased risk of going into cardiac arrest while being in water, well, mum nearly died in her sleep so fuck it, I’ll keep surfing thanks.
I haven’t let Long QT stop me from travelling, surfing and crafting a life I enjoy living. But that’s not to say it’s not stressful at times or a pain in the butt. I take daily medication to help reduce the risk of cardiac arrest but it’s not a cure or 100% preventative. I’m also in the process of making a decision on surgery so I can have safer pregnancy/s and motherhood when the time comes. Not a simple decision when your active life and daily health will be compromised.
You could say I live by a very life-is-too-short mantra so may as well make it a good one, be kind to others and surf as much as you can.
What advice would you give to any one out there wanting to start their own brand?
There seems to be a proliferation of people starting “brands” at the moment but a lot are just mimicking others and don’t actually offer anything overly authentic, different or rad. You have to ask yourself – and any business book preaches this – what value are you providing for others? Why should people buy from you?
My advice: don’t copy others, create a unique product that provides value for your customer and have fun!
What was the best advice that you have ever been given, who gave it to you and can you share it with us?
From my stepdad, Mike, a quote from Calvin Coolidge (Former US President):
Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
I live by these words.
What do you wish you knew when you started out, that you know now?
Production management is a nightmare! Oh, and other businesses big and small will blatantly copy you. It’s a dirty ol’ game out there.
What does the future hold for Salt Gypsy
A whole lot of epic-ness and fun: new collaborations with other female surf creatives, sampling new styles now and I have 2 surf trips lined up for 2015: the Maldives in June and the Mentawais end of October. Holler for more info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Waves you can expect on a Salt Gypsy boat trip to the Maldives. Surfer Caity Griffin.
To find out more about Salt Gypsy and to shop their awesome functional surf product including Salt Gypsy surf leggings, go to their website and get 10% off all Salt Gypsy products using code StillStoked10!