There’s very little if anything that surprises in the way of collaborations these days, which is why Driza-Bone creative director Justin O’Shea thought supersized — literally — when he had the opportunity to bring a new partner into the Australian heritage brand’s universe. Just when we thought we’d seen it all, along comes a murdered out Mack Truck Super-Liner that would make your average Greyhound bus seem like a feeble Smart Car by comparison.
“I grew up in a mining community, so trucks were obviously a big part of my upbringing,” O’Shea tells me over the phone. “When I was thinking about the idea of what I can do to collaborate and do some interesting projects with the brand, it was like, well, which others share a similar story or a similar purpose?” Fashion is having a moment with big fast machines right now, and when picking a date for a grizzled Aussie outdoor veteran such as Driza-Bone, it’s hard to think of a better fit than the most rugged and toughest automotive company in the land.
Mack Trucks are a worldwide symbol of pure heavy metal — beastly machines overflowing with torque and horsepower that have captured the imaginations of people everywhere. “I played chicken with a Mack Truck,” boasted JAY-Z on Watch The Throne banger “HAM,” while rap’s greatest weirdo, Kool Keith, came through with an homage on his hysterically bizarre 2001 album, Spankmaster. “You see Kanye in Wyoming with his space-age trucks and shit. It's all these big rigs and heavy brutalist machinery,” says O’Shea. “I feel that’s a vibe at the moment. I wanted people to get excited by the sheer scale of it.”
Driza-Bone last peaked in the ‘80s, finding favor among London cool kids (including a certain Kate Moss) as well as cowboys in the Outback. Established in 1898 and worn by the very men who built Australia’s highways (a neat callback to the truck), there’s a rich history to be unearthed. But having served as buying director at e-commerce giant Mytheresa prior to spells at Brioni and then his self-funded label SSS World Corp, O’Shea has been in the game long enough to know that revival stories can feel a bit empty when they don’t have any contemporary wow factor attached. “The biggest challenge for me is how much from the past can I bring back, considering the modern consumer doesn't know and probably doesn't care,” he explains. “Bringing in made in Australia outside stuff that fits into a similar rough and hard-wearing ideal is an interesting way of doing so.”
The pandemic has been tough on expats everywhere, not least Australians in Europe who have been unable to return home due to exorbitantly priced flights and stringent quarantine rules. O’Shea has been running his new gig out of Germany, which while difficult, hasn’t stopped him cutting wholesale partnerships with the likes of Selfridges. It’s a good fit — Britain, if you weren’t aware, tends to rain a lot. The crossover success of Barbour in recent years proves there’s a market for hardy functional gear that extends beyond crofters, albeit O’Shea — who now lives on a farm not far from Munich with his family — isn’t bothered about breaking the mould.
“I'm not looking to challenge the status quo,” he says. “I see a functionality and purpose for this brand, which is to make a great product that has a place in people's wardrobes. Not every brand is meant to collaborate with Prada or Nike. Instead of trying to jump on the back of everything, which is obviously popular in street culture, I just want to play in our space.”
It might sound like a cliché, but sometimes the biggest challenge is just staying in your lane. Especially when you’re behind the wheel of an 85 ft behemothic truck.