Abandon Ship Apparel started its life in Glasgow, Scotland in 2011. The drunken brain child of friends and flatmates, Richard and Duncan, the brand was developed over several trips to the pub. The drive to make some beer money and general disillusionment with their jobs finally made them “put their money where their mouth was”. So, the brand was started with £300, a dot com and zero expectations.
The story of the brand's name, Abandon Ship, isn’t as exciting as the story of the brand. Very simply “Abandon Ship” featured in two songs Richard was listening to on heavy rotation at the time, the nautical theme is strong and always relevant within culture and “AB” at the beginning of “Abandon” meant the brand would always be at the top of any list it featured in. The “Apparel” was added as the domain “abandonship.com” was taken. Plus, apparel sounded better than clothing and “ASA” looked cool!
The original goal of the brand was to create striking designs that would be immediately recognisable as Abandon Ship without relying on heavy branding and emblazoning the name across every product. They wanted to create clothing that was desirable for the art and made a statement rather than cool by association. This was a direct response to the overly complex band t-shirts of the time and the trend of streetwear brands relying on their logo to sell apparel. Although the ethos of the brand has grown over the last decade, these original guidelines are still clear in all its clothing.
Abandon Ship Apparel was very much a forerunner of the “Bedroom Brand” era of independent clothing brands in the UK and their growth and journey is intertwined with the development of social media in the last 10 years. The brand literally operated from Richard and Duncan’s shared flat in Glasgow for the first year with stock kept in Richards bedroom. In early 2012, the point in which it became a full time endeavour, Abandon Ship was managed from Richard's attic in Leicester for almost a year. They then took on their first office space back in Glasgow and operated the brand between the two cities. Their first sale came from a post on Tumblr and the brand has had an Instagram account for almost as long as the platform has existed. To this day, Social Media is still an integral part of how the brand communicates with its customers globally.
Between 2012 and 2015, Abandon Ship saw astronomical growth which turned their original £300 investment into a £1.2 million annual turnover within 3 years. The brand was available across the world and in large retailers like ASOS, Topman and Foot Asylum. They opened stores in Glasgow and London and continued to build and grow a dedicated audience of customers as they travelled the world. Abandon Ship made a name for itself as a brand that creates high quality products and enjoys a party!
Unfortunately, with such quick growth comes growing pains and a steep learning curve. Abandon Ship was almost lost forever in late 2015. With high operation costs and the loss of key wholesale customers, the brand found itself on a cliffs edge and was forced into liquidation. At this point the partners decided to go their separate ways with Duncan following his passion to become a tattoo artist. Richard decided to use his own money to buy back the rights to the brand they had spent almost 5 years growing from the ground up in order to rebuild.
With that decision made, Abandon Ship began the second chapter of its life as a new business at the beginning of 2016. With the lessons learned from the original businesses successes and failures, Richard aimed to create a scalable and sustainable business with reduced overheads that did not rely on outside forces to create revenue or control its direction. This was the beginning of a difficult period for the brand as it found its new identity and recovered from the previous year's devastation.
From the lessons from that period the brand became stronger. Returning to its small, low-fi, independent roots with a clear creative vision and art style, the brand began to reinforce its cult status with its existing fans as well as new followers. With a strong voice and a policy of transparency, Abandon Ship remained a force within the alternative clothing scene and was able to use its platform to discuss social issues and raise awareness as well as funds for multiple charities.
With the brand's new beginning it also moved its operations from Glasgow to Richard's childhood home, Dundee which was also the location of his other business at the time, Hard Grind. In the new city Abandon Ship flourished, set up its current warehouse and was instrumental in other projects in the city. However, it wasn’t until late 2018 that the brand found a true home in the city with the opening of the Abandon Ship Bar; a reflection of the brands art, ethos and lifestyle in a venue. With the launch of the bar came a new era for the brand which gave it the confidence to push new and interesting products beyond apparel.
And so, closing out a very brief history of the brand, we didn’t even discuss that time they got stranded in Belgium or the amazing artists they’ve collaborated with. Why did they buy a mobility scooter? Those are all stories to be heard over a pint in the bar.
Abandon Ship continues to create art focused clothing and use its voice and transparency to discuss important issues and hopes to do so for years to come.