With the release of Lo-Fi's newest 'Dream Peace' range we thought it was a good time to connect with the man behind the brand - Garth Mariano to discuss the new store, Cash Only distribution, photography and the future of the Lo-Fi brand. All photos by Garth Mariano.
So, you previously worked in skate retail, how does running Lo-Fi compare to that?
The skate industry has changed so much in a short time. Same could be said about retail in general too. Lo-Fi is definitely different to a regular skate store. Whilst a lot of things are different, the essence and behind the scenes of the day to day are much the same. It's still all about communication and relationships, between the store and the brands you carry and between the staff and the customers. Whatever the store it all boils down to getting those right.
What is your vision for Lo-Fi and has that shifted much from your original intention?
Up until this year the direction had stayed much the same but we recently opened our second store which has opened up the whole skateboarding side of things for us. Prior to this, Beyond Skate was in that space, so we left the skateboarding side of things to them. Having grown up skating, we've always wanted to have a skate shop, so to be able to do this with our second location is a bit of a dream come true. We've made our first run of boards, which is cool. Our direction will take on a bit more of skate influence, but definitely in our own way. Skateboarding for us has always been there, but now with the skate shop it allows us to be more involved in that way and support a whole new list of independent brands.
Does your design process for Lo-Fi differ from your other brands or is it a similar creative process across the board?
I try to keep all the brands feeling different from one another. Sometimes it can get a little blurry, but for the most part they all have their own unique identity. Lo-Fi is definitely the most fun to design for. It's on a smaller scale, so there's less pressure and with that comes more freedom.
When it comes to appropriating imagery for Lo-Fi, do you have specific areas of interest you pull from is it all quite random?
Some of the things that we reference are quite meaningful, others are just for fun. I like to draw from old books, magazines, tapes, records etc. I spend far too much time in thrift stores and swapmeets so I end up hoarding a lot of those things that catch my eye for whatever reason. It could be anything, old counter culture magazines or books about insects or the paranormal to an old vintage tees or some sketchy bootleg figurine.
What’s your favourite piece from the upcoming ‘Dream Peace’ range?
Maybe the 'Mason Tee'. Luca Lozano did that graphic. He smashed it! (Pardon the pun)
Lo-Fi just hit the five year mark. What have been the highlights and low points so far? How is the new store going?
Running your own business is filled with so many highs and lows. One of the biggest lows is an inability to switch off sometimes. It's tough to get away for a long period of time. That's a trade off of running a small business. But, you also get to do what you love everyday, perspective is everything. I consider myself extremely lucky to get paid to do what I love, so even when there are lows, I try to remind myself of the bigger picture. Opening our second store is big highlight for sure. If I could tell my 14 year old self that I would have a skate shop one day, I would have flipped haha.
What’s next for Lo-fi?
Working on slowly growing our ranges, introducing more cut & sew and accessories. Couple of collabs in the works and a bunch more Lo-Fi Radios on the way.
What does an average day look like for you?
Not very glamorous. Get to work early, juggle too many things at once and just try knock as much off my to do list as I can. Go home, sleep, repeat. Haha.
We all work hard! You have to... our office is above the shop, so there's a always crew about to act as a good distraction, so thankfully even though we're always working spirits and banter is always high!
I hear you're a bit of a photographer? What equipment do you favour? What type of thing do you like to photograph?
I wouldn't call myself a photographer but I do like to shooting photos. Nowadays to be honest I shoot so many lookbooks for Butter / Lo-Fi that ends up being mostly what I put my energy in to. Otherwise I like shooting some holiday happy snaps if I'm out of town. A new surrounding is always fun to capture, good for the memories too. I mostly use my Contax T3 but just recently picked up a G2. I've always wanted one and finally bit the bullet, so looking forward to shooting with that.
Tell us about Cash Only? How did it come about?
Cash Only is our distribution company. We have been distributing a few brands here in Australia for a while (Yardsale, Hotel Blue, Frog Skateboards etc), but without a real name for the distro. We decided to make it a proper company, and make some gear while we're at it. It's just a fun project, we just make tees homage to rap music, movies and golden era skateboarding.
What brands do you look up to?
Patagonia, they're at the forefront of making an ethical and eco-conscious change in the industry, I really respect that. We're trying to make changes where we can here too. I think every industry needs to look at how they operate and how they can make positive changes to help make this place we all live a better future for all.
Otherwise, the list is long, but I particularly love what Online Ceramics and Brain Dead do.
Are there any other Australian brands we should be watching out for?
Pass~Port & Pelvis are the best! But everyone should know those brands already. Some others that people should check out – Performance, Hoddle, Private Joy, Crawling Death, Come Sundown & 823.
Stream Garths top ten current favourite tunes below.