Return Co. | Skillshare Projects



Return Co.

*UPDATE: 23 May 2014

We've launched our online store with international shipping.

*UPDATE: 30 April 2014

Our video and photographic 'Opening Season' lookbook is now out.

Return Header Image

Who are we?

Return Co. is a Sydney-based t-shirt label that specialises in high-quality, Australian made organic cotton t-shirts.

The brand was founded by two individuals: Nate, a designer, and Ryo, an ex-advertiser turned gallery director. The two share a belief that a social enterprise fashion brand can leave a tangible mark in making organic cotton a standard in fashion - one t-shirt at a time.

Return Logo Tee White 01

To achieve this, we proactively share our mission and brand with our customers, standing for a simple idea that creative designs and solutions in conjunction with open collaboration can positively galvanise the game in fashion and beyond.

This open collaboration approach is embodied in our slogan: YOURS AND OURS. More on that later.

Why Return?

TS Eliot

In life, we are explorers. At the end of our exploration, we always return to where we belong with new found strength, wisdom, and gratitude for all that let us 'be'.

Some return to their family, others to their friends. Some return to a place like the beach in your home town, while others return to a feeling like the setting sun on the horizon; a moment of panoramic gold.

Our name symbolises this exploration, a human journey of departing and returing. We personally had our struggles when we were too caught up with our 'independent' ventures, completely forgetting that we owe so much of our identity and passion to other things and people: our family, our friends, the community, the planet, the universe.. and when all of those things interconnect and coexist with each other, it gives us the foundations, the grounding to stand proud and follow our own unique horizons.

The name 'Return', symbolises our desires to reconnect with a true sense of independence, uniqueness and individuality rooted in a state of belonging. Something that makes the 'me' in all of us, complete.

The 'Co.' aspect strengthens this as a prefix for unity and mutuality, or as an abbreviation for 'company', representing our self-sustaining business model to achieve our social missions. 

The Logo

Return Logo Endless Knot

The Endless Knot: an ancient symbol that without a beginning or an end, represents the intertwining of wisdom and compassion of Buddha. Other interpretations center around this idea of duality in existence: the giver and the receiver, the infinite and the finite.

Our logo represents The Endless Knot in a perfect circle, signifying the idea of harmony between possibly opposing ideas, perspectives and the decisions we make.

The perfect circle also represents our interest to 100% honour the Cradle-to-Cradle design and production model as we further progress as a brand. The model effectively minimises/eradicates any environmental and labour harm throughout the lifecycle of our products (click on photo to enlarge.)

Cradle to Cradle

Illustration inspired by Alice Payne.

Our font is Margina, and was purchased from an indepenent German designer, Max Kostopoulos.

Margina Font

'Return' - Merchandising the philosophy

Season 1: The Origin

Our first season uses minimalistic design with the intetion to refocus the attention back to the material, and the feeling of high-quality, organic cotton fabric.

There are six shirts, and two accessories from the season (click on photos to enlarge.)

Logo Tees - $60 AUD

Logo Tee White

The logo wraps around the tee to embrace the wearer, to be a part of the foundation and our philosophy imbued in the logo. The wide expanse of the logo direct the eyes to see more of the inverted shape inside of it: a 16-point star and our slogan YOURS AND OURS.

Presented in simple patterns with just enough presence and boldness, we're letting the organic cotton shirts speak for itself.

Logo Tee Black

Offered in White and black, screen printed with biodegradable water-based ink.

Embroidery Tees - $60 AUD

Even more of a minimalst design, the embroidery tees are an everyday shirt with a subtle yet pronounced difference. 

Embroidery Tee White

The patterns represent the mountains, trees and the waves. The unpatterned area represents the air, atmosphere and space. 

This everyday tee really gets back to basics, acting as a preminition of life in balance and perfect simplicity.

Embroidery Tee Black

Offered in white and black.

Natural Dye Tees - $80 AUD

Natural Dye and Screenprint Waist

Our most experimental shirt that incorporates traditional natural dye techniques with sustainable and natural ingredients developed through our partnership with natural dyer and textile designer, Sophie Blank.

These shirts symbolise our connection to nature, and the part we play as nurturers of the environment.

The blocked out dyeing technique also creates a natural dyed t-shirts for everyday wear, breaking away from the conventional, hippy/psychedelic technique of all-over dyeing. 

Natural Dye Screenprint Sleeve Knot

The undyed areas are screen printed with biodegradable, water-based ink.

All of the above shirts come in either white or black, as those are the two colours that rank highest in consumer colour preference for t-shirts: in one study, the two colours garnered 67% against all other colours.

All shirts in the collection come with customised proportions, with added length to the body for a relaxed and comfortable fit.

Furoshiki/Multipurpose Scarf - $30 AUD

The multipurpose scarf, or the furoshiki offers incredible versatility of use. It is conventionally used in Japan to wrap a gift, wine bottle, your lunch, tied around the neck as a scarf, and even used as an eco bag for your daily groceries.

Natural Dye Screenprint Furoshiki

The furoshiki encourages great creativity in its use and wrapping techniques, involving our customers to think outsdie the box as seen in the examples below.

Ways to Wrap Furoshiki

Organic Cotton Socks - $20 AUD

A patternised, reimagination of our logo. Offered in three colour combinations

Organic Cotton Logo Socks

At the lowest price point from the season, these socks allow us to extend our brand exposure and take up among consumers who are keen to own our philosophy and design, but may not have the budget to spend $60 AUD + on a t-shirt.

Our Target

Primary target: Creative leaders

Demographic: men, 28 - 36 young professionals in the first world. Income $80,000 - 150,000, mostly in the creative field e.g. film, music, art & entertainment, advertising & design.

Empathy Map Creative Leaders

These guys are often considered as stylish in their social group, only as a result of a realisation that style is created not out of a passing fad, but authenticity: what you wear (the representation of self) is a true expression of who you are, who you aspire to be, what you care about.

They are not afraid to be different, in fact, crave to express their individuality in their private life whether in ways that are subtle or bold. 

As they are very creative-minded (artistically or not), they recognise the importance of simplicity: an everyday, timeless, and often overlooked philosophy of living that aids them to care about what's important and weed out what is not.

These are the people who seek a meaning beyond the façade, who are aware that fashion can be as superficial or profound depending on who you are.

Secondary target: Fashion followers

Demographic: men, 27 - 36 young professionals in the first world. Income $60,000 - 100,000, mostly in the creative field e.g. film, music, art & entertainment, advertising & design. 

Almost exactly the same on the surface as our primary target, but in the process of establishing their foundations in their careers. They also tend to be followers of trends that circulate the media instead of creating their own.

They are very aware of how people are & behave around them, so much that often they base their individual expression based around what other people think are 'cool' or 'in'. They are still in search of their own voice, but with a little help and inspiration, can achieve this by building their very own positive self-image.

With regards to fashion, they have role models that they aspire to be like and take their cues very seriously.

In order to increase our brand consideration in this target, we will negotiate with and involve the crème de la crème of our primary target: respectable artists, musicians, and other creatives who excel in their own selected fields as ambassadors for the brand.

Fringe target: Girlfriends

Demographic: women, 27 - 36 young professionals in the first world. Income $80,000 - 150,000, mostly in the creative field e.g. film, music, art & entertainment, advertising & design. 

They're the girls who share the same values and charisma as the primary target. They have better ideas than men do about what guys should wear, and would recommend and buy for guys if they see a product that is outstanding. 

They also rock an oversized shirt (styled with leggings, etc.) from time to time. 

Depending on the market reaction to our first collection, we may possibly market the furoshiki and socks to the girlfriends as our primary target.

The Competitor Landscape

We have identified the brands who are our current and future competitors in terms of price point, quality and appeal (price point increases from top left to bottom right.)


Specific tactics to claim market share in this space will be fleshed out as we progess through our collections. This is also an area where a start up business like ours could use guidance and mentoring from experienced labels and industry figures.

Channels & Distribution

Most of our sales will take place online in the form of our own Big Cartel website (WIP).

Other social media channels will be utilised to drive traffic to our online store (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube), along with a limited physical presence in selected retail stores in fashion and health food partners (e.g. Incu, Via Alley, Kinfolk Café etc.)

PR & Marketing

Ryo co-directs a Sydney gallery and art production team, Himiko Gallery. The gallery is currently holding mix media art events to promote natural/organic/biodynamic wine, where Return Co. will be involved for direct exposure amongst the artistic-inclined, young and mature professionals market in Sydney.

Through our creative partnership with the gallery, we provide our organic cotton tees as a 'canvas' to an arsenal of independent Sydney artists and design-saavy consumers worldwide. A six-monthly campaign and event will be launched at Tap Gallery Sydney where we collect and display the best 50 designs 

Our social media & retail activities will support this creative community based on the philosophy imbued in our slogan: YOURS AND OURS - the proactive sharing our brand and mission with our customers. The website will collect and display artwork, while our other acitivities will support the campaign e.g., YouTube interviews of selected independent Sydney artists who are designing for the campaign, which then gets shared on our Facebook and Twitter.

We will also be liaising with independent fashion magazines (e.g., Fawn Magazine) for coverage and exposure, especially for the purpose of driving traffic to the website and the campaign. We can also provide special offers to creative participants to purchase our products at a discounted price.

Public Art

Through the gallery and our connections with the Sydney Street Art community (567 King), we are involved in public mural creations in cooperation with property owners and the council.

We have ideas to take a similar approach, and increase our brand exposure via non-traditional marketing campaigns e.g. launch a public art campaign sponsored by Return Co. to paint the trash bins in the City of Sydney to encourage mindful waste disposal.

Trash Bin Public Art

The Japanese Market

As Ryo is a native Japanese, we have strategic plans to tap into the Japanese market utilising his family connections with hair, make-up and beauty school, Be-Staff - amongst other connections in the fashion and beauty industry.

As documented in the book, Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia), the Japanese have a strong focus on quality. Combine that with a sense of 'fashion bravery' which continuously pervades in the Japanese fashion scene, a currently niche product and brand like ours has the potential to grow much more quickly in the Japanese market vs the west.

Inspired by Business Model Generation, we also have our own business model canvas which we can provide on request.

Extra Credit 1 - Universal Appeal of Brand Name

Our brand name adaptability test video with non-native english speakers pronouncing our brand name and reactions to the word: Return Co.


Extra Credit 2 - Logo in Various Sizes

Here is our logo in various sizes.


The prodcts are: 1. iPhone App, 2. Clothing Tags, 3.  Portable Leather Ashtray, 4. Sustainable Sunglasses, 5. Tote Bag, and lastly a billboard below.


Extra Credit 3 - Application of Brand to a Car

What it would look like on a Kia Soul (click on image to enlarge).

Kia Soul Return Logo

Considering our brand's attention to the environment, these designs will also be suitable on a hybrid SUV or sedan.

Our Slogan: 'Yours and Ours'

Yours and Ours Return Slogan

Our slogan represents our business and creative approach of open collaboration, of proactively sharing our brand and mission with our supply chain and customers.

With the rise of the internet, the level of transparency a business applies in their decisions and activities can make or break the business.

Business Collaboration with manufacturers and producers

In 2012, Ryo collaborated with Matt Dibbayawan of Daddy Issues Production on a video documentary, Urban Myth Sydney, finalist of Vibewire/Vivid Ideas Fellowship 2012.

As the brand progresses further, our plan is to lauch a crowdfunding campaign (e.g. Pozible, Kickstarter) to raise enough funds to send and accompany a film team from Daddy Issues Production. Why? To tell the story of our Sydney organic t-shirt manufacturers, and our organic cotton producers in India.

By telling these stories that are usually out of our sights, sharing it on our website and social media, we can bridge the emotional distance between our consumers and producers, and encourage an appreciation for how our decisions as consumers may influence the lives of our friends in the cotton fields and textile factories.

The campaign will also help us tell the story of organic cotton: its benefits, and any potential areas along the production line that may require further attention.

Businesss Collaboration with Independent Accreditation Bodies for Ethical Practice

We are applying for an Ethical Clothing Australia accreditation before the beginning of production for season 1.

Creative Collaboration with designers and artists

As mentioned earlier, our creative partnership with Himiko Gallery allows us to provide our organic cotton tees as a 'canvas' to an arsenal of independent Sydney artists and design-saavy consumers. A six-monthly campaign and event at Tap Gallery Sydney will collect and display the best 50 designs.

These third-party/crowdsourced designs can then be included as part of our collection in season 2 onwards.

Creative Collaboration with our customers

The involvement of our customers is further encouraged as people vote for their favourite third-party/crowdsourced design that they would like to have made.

These are some of the specific examples where our slogan: YOURS AND OURS: the proactive sharing of our brand and mission can bring together an eclectic and powerful group of talents to unite and work together to galvanise the fashion industry.

Our second collection will see designs and products that directly merchandise this philosophy.

Signing Off

Yuki x Ryuichi

Instead of plastering our faces of subtle mediocrity, here's an image of both of our respective white-furred pets, Yuki x Ryuichi Sakamoto.

We would like to thank all of you guys for your time to check out what we're about. 

Our partners, collaborators and mentors

Sophie Blank, natural dyer and textile designer
Giacomo James Zadro of GJZ Photography
Andrew, Nick and the guys at OCC Apparel/Certton
Rebekka of Ethical Clothing Australia
Elizabeth Chai of Oddfellows
Jess of Fawn Magazine
Mik of 567 King
Matt Dibbayawan of Daddy Issues Production
Himiko Gallery
The Yamaguchi's of Be-Staff
Atsushi Shimao
Ryo Yasukawa
Shuhei Toda
Clary Castrission of 40K
Yvon Chouinard and Patagonia
and our friend, Joey from Urban Myth Sydney. R.I.P. my Kiwi brother.

Thanks to all of our family and friends who support us from the beginning and will be there at the end.

With respect,

Ryo x Nate


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