How One Teaspoon Has Remained Iconic And Continues to Thrive, After 20 Years
Meet the designer behind the world's most stylish and well-known denim shorts label celebrities are obsessed with
One Teaspoon CEO Liz Roberts launched the rock and roll brand in 2000
She wanted to curate a selection of denim pieces not yet on the market
The 'Bandits' shorts became a worldwide sensation and celebs loved them
Now One Teaspoon is focusing on sustainability and its new athletic range
In today’s era of fleeting and fast fashion, it’s always an achievement when a brand stands the test of time, and in One Teaspoons case, not only stands the test of time, but also knows how to maintain its signature style while also evolving with the times.
Denim and fashion brand One Teaspoon recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and after two decades, it’s bringing with it a new direction.
Founded by Jamie Blakey in 2000 in Australia, One Teaspoon has always remained true to its Aussie roots and iconic rock and roll glamour.
After two decades of making waves, CEO Liz Roberts — who joined the brand over a decade ago — is taking over the reins as One Teaspoon’s sole owner, and continuing in her role as CEO. Blakey decided to retire from the business, after celebrating the brand’s 20-year milestone and achievement.
The One Teaspoon brand has managed to strike the perfect balance between being trend-based, yet still timeless and relevant across the board in its women’s, men’s and kids’ collections.
“As we go forward into a new strategy for the brand — not so much a revolution of brand but more an evolution of brand, we are taking it forward with a refinement and a reflection on brand values,” Roberts explains. “We are updating the brand values and evolving them into something that’s more in line with 2021. And certainly for a pandemic to happen in our 20th year, what is typically a celebration of a brand, it became a wonderful moment for us to stop, reflect and somewhat recalibrate, and now look to go again into a new landscape, which is very different from where the brand started 20 years ago.”
While One Teaspoon initially launched with a tighter edit of products, it did eventually expand into a wide range of product categories, including footwear and even homeware. Denim remains a strong cornerstone for the brand, especially its cult “Bandits” denim cutoff shorts, which are One Teaspoon’s iconic, hero product.
In addition to its signature, clear-cut vision and designs, as well as quality fabrics and craftsmanship, One Teaspoon’s long life, in the otherwise fickle fashion world can also be attributed to the support of key influencers (who authentically personify the brand’s attitude and lifestyle) and its successful distribution model — remarkably, at a key moment in the brand’s history: the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.
“Interestingly enough, when the GFC hit back in 2008, I saw it as an opportunity because people weren't buying into luxury anymore,” Roberts shares. “There was now this void in the market — and we sit as a designer brand, but at that lower entry point of luxury. As a result, I actually saw this as a big opportunity and a demand for a brand like ours on an international level — and that international distributors, agents and partners would be looking for a brand like One Teaspoon, which is more accessible but still boasts that luxury feel. So we started traveling around the world and meeting with people for distribution.”
One Teaspoon’s sales team had pitched the brand a few years prior, but they didn’t experience the same positive response: 2008 proved to be the right time for it to expand on a global scale. One Teaspoon had hit the sweet spot of having the right price point, combined with the international recognition of being a designer, entry-level luxury brand. In other words, it was just right for the moment.
“We signed up about 20 countries in the space of 12 months! That big push during this 12-month period really set the brand up for the next 10 and 15 years, from then.”
One Teaspoon is currently stocked in over 40 countries globally. North America has always been its second strongest market (the largest accounts include Free People, Shopbop and Revolve), after its home base of Australia. And now, Russia and Israel are notable strong recent growth territories.
While One Teaspoon’s signature item, which helped catapult the brand and continues to dominate in the shorts markets, are the denim “Bandits” cutoffs, another style more recently helped the brand thrive during the pandemic: the “Shabbies,” which really took off during COVID-19.
“We have a new long jean style called the Shabbies, which has really taken off during the pandemic,” Roberts shares. “It’s our signature slouchy denim but with an elasticated and drawstring waist, so perfect for the work-from-home wardrobe, for those who don’t want to give into an actual trackpant!”
Key influencers and celebrities like Elle Ferguson, Chrissy Teigen, Vanessa Hudgens, Margot Robbie, and Kourtney Kardashian have also helped put the brand on the global stage. And a key thing to note: this celebrity and influencer endorsement happened organically, without paid sponsorship.
Another secret to One Teaspoon’s longevity and success has been a strong sense of intuition when it comes to both product and partner development, in terms of design and distribution.
“When we first started with the drop-crotch styles, which is our number one selling jean, we had that out in the market for four years and nobody bought it back then,” Roberts shares. “But we just kept showing it and showing it, and then eventually it was a couple of women from Free People who were in Australia for Fashion Week and they stopped into one of our retail stores, and they said, ‘What are these baggy jeans?’ We told them, ‘We've been showing you this style for four years now’!”
They bought the drop-crotch silhouette, and the rest of the industry followed suit. While most brands would have otherwise dropped this style after two or three seasons of not getting picked up, One Teaspoon leaned into their intuition and trusted in the style.
“That intuition says ‘no, we believe in this, this is going to catch on. That's what tends to happen with most of our best sellers. It just might be a slow burn in the beginning, but then they really take off.”
Another key lesson has been the power of saying ‘no’, as Roberts shares:
“One of the earliest things I learned in business, is that sometimes the hardest — but a necessary — thing to say is no. So many opportunities come along in the business landscape, especially if you're a successful brand. And the easiest thing to do is say yes all the time, but it's very hard to pick and choose, and actually say no to a lot of them, because they're just not right. Yes, they might yield an immediate result, but they're not good for the long-term of the business. And I think that's definitely one of the keys to our longevity — we don't take quick wins. There have been certain customers that we haven't gone into partnership with because I don't agree with their values or their business model. We really are thoughtful about where we're placing the brand, what our distribution looks like, and what products we’re releasing to the marketplace. It's a much more thoughtful process than just chasing sales at the end of the day. As a brand owner, if you want to be truly proud of what you're doing, you do have to let go of the outcome often and stay true to your values.”
As for what’s coming up next for One Teaspoon?
“We really want to tap into this next generation of girls that’s coming through, by making them feel really good about themselves,” Roberts shares. One way is by launching a mentoring program for young girls in Australia, which will include workshops to help in the realms of self-confidence, navigating social media in the current social environment, and tips for coping better in life as a strong, empowered female.
The brand is also currently rolling out a series of music collaborations — the first one is set to launch in pre-fall.
Also noteworthy: One Teaspoon has managed to retain its entire team in Australia, and is even growing its retail footprint with new global store openings. A new flagship store opened in Sydney’s iconic Manly Beach esplanade, adding to its three Australian locations, while two new flagship stores are scheduled to open in Poland over the next two years. (One Teaspoon already has three concept ‘shop-in-shops’ in Poland.) The brand also boasts nine stores in Taiwan.
One Teaspoon is also set to extend its ‘casual luxury’ signature style into a new leisurewear capsule, set to hit the market in September. “Not high performance athleisure, but our sophisticated yet gritty take on this booming sector. You might not wear it to the gym, but you will want to wear it for the rest of the day. The ultimate in comfort but still cool,” as Roberts explains.
The ultimate in “comfort cool”, and that brand of edgy-meets-effortless is exactly what has led to One Teaspoon’s cult status throughout these two decades.
“We know who we are, we’re not trying to be somebody else,” Roberts asserts. “And I think that gives our partners a lot of confidence that they're going to get good sell-through every season. We just really stay true to who we are.”