ERROL PARKER | Editor-at-large | Contact
AN enterprising New South Wales farmer has made millions selling his ruined work clothing to the inner city cultural elite.
Life on the land is growing less attractive to young people as a future career in agriculture seems quite dim – particularly with the ongoing drought.
However, not for 63-year-old wheat grower and sheep grazier Michael Clarkedale – who’s found an ingenious way to supplement his income in the tougher times.
Three years ago, before returning home to work on the farm, Michael’s son Jack had a very comfortable life in the city.
He was studying agricultural economics at the University of Sydney, regularly catching up with the fellas and enjoying the lifestyle Sydney has to offer.
But Tambar Springs, where he grew up in mid-western New South Wales, was calling.
“Dad wasn’t getting any younger and running the place on his own was difficult for him,” said Jack.
“I thought I’d had enough time fucking around in Sydney so we both thought it was time for me to come home,”
“The first year was rough, my office hands weren’t up to the job [laughs],”
It wasn’t until he returned to Sydney for a friend’s birthday that he realised he was sitting on a potential goldmine.
“At the party, this hipster bloke asked me where I got my jeans from,” he said.
“It confused the hell out of me because I didn’t buy them anywhere trendy – in fact, I thought I had embarrassed myself for not packing a cleaner pair,”
“Mum bought them for me at a rural outfitter in Dubbo,”
That was when the penny dropped for for the Clarkedale family, after Jack was offered $200 for the jeans.
“I didn’t see the value in them until this dickhead tried to buy the jeans from me then and there,” said Jack.
“If this long-haired fuckwit was offering me $200 for a pair of my old fucked jeans, then who’s to say somebody else wouldn’t offer me $300… I went straight home and told the old boy and we started stockpiling.
That was when Michael and Jack founded their own fashion house, The Distressed Jeans & Shirt Collective, complete with a flagship store on Sydney’s Oxford Street.
The label specialises in buying brand new work clothes from leading suppliers such as King Gee, Levi Strauss and RB Sellars and giving them to struggling farmers around Australia.
After a period of between 6 to 12 months, the farmers are sent new jeans and shirts in return for their old ones.
“And the idea took off” said Michael.
“Who knew the market for fucked old jeans was so big?”
“Sometimes, we don’t even wash them. Just open the parcel and put a price tag on it,”
A selected number of the jeans are tailored to fit the current style, which allows the label to offer a wide range of options – from skinny leg moleskin trousers to “daisy dukes”.
The income generated from the fashion business has paid off his parent’s mortgage on the property and has allowed them to retire.
“We’ll always keep the property” said Michael.
“It’s just that now we don’t need to farm it very hard to have a decent life,”
“That’s the biggest reward of all.”