With Jacob Byrne, 26, Burleigh Heads, Qld
Y’remember when Rhythm was the co y’went to for trunks, doncha? Eight years ago when this Stab ship went to sea, it was Rhythm
we feted for their short-leg trunks and original prints.
Slowly, oh so slowly, the world followed the lead of this small, family-owned company from Burleigh Heads. The world changes, the world shrinks, but Rhythm still eats away at the surf dream, is still from Burleigh Heads, still squares its shoulders with its trunks, but is now a go-to-co for chinos, shirts, tees, fitted button-ups and jackets. And, yeah, the trunks are still peaches, if y’wanna know.
Stab placed a telephone call to their design manager, Jake Byrne, on the continuing excellent conduct of the lil Gold Coast brand after seeing these photos (at left). Is it not a thrill when a designer knows the mechanics of a cutback?
Turns out Jake is the son of GC shaper Ian Byrne and the nephew of Mr Allan Byrne, channel-bottom maestro. The surfboard upon which he dances so viciously is a 5’3” single-to-double his old boy shaped.
So, I say: that’s a bitchin job y’got, head of the hipster HQ. How’d you land in the post?
“When I was a kid I’d just draw on everything. I’d spray paint anything I could get my hands on and while I was still at school Jamahl Grey (the cat who started Rhythm) asked me to do some t-shirt prints.”
Jamahl and Neal Purchase Jnr, surfer icon turned designer, also told Jake that as good as he was, he needed to learn some computer skills if he wanted to progress in the game.
So Jake went to the non-prestigious design school CATC in Surfers Paradise. Won the graduating student of the year (“Probably wasn’t that hard,” he says) and started hawking his freelance wares around: first, to designer Rama Mc-Cabe who was then at Globe, and to various pals and co’s. Soon, Jamahl lit up Jake’s phone and he was back in the fold of the company that gave him his first bite of the surf industry apple.
Three years lates here is Jake Byrne, Brand Manager of a company with cred, and one that has even started to get a decent sorta foothold in the American market.
His day kicks off around eight, maybe eight thirts, and Jake doesn’t get to put his feet up til after six. Some weekends he’ll soak right up, especially now when he’s in the quicksand of putting together catalogues. Jake will be there from the very beginning of a range, meeting with the sales guys and the design room, from concept to the time the finished product arrives, individually sealed in plastic bags, and packed in brown cardboard boxes.
“It’s a tight little group. It’s not a massive team. There’s Nick Chalmers, my sister Sharnie works part time for the gals and Neal Purchase doing some prints for me. Very hands-on, there’s no slacking off for anyone.”
Does he have a design ethos?
“Everyone tells you to follow certain rules, but I believe in what looks good.”
Is there shit that you’d never design, like, even if whatever surf chain promised a mega spend?
“If it doesn’t fit the brand and what we’re trying to say, I put up a pretty big fight not to do that stuff. You’ve gotta look back and make sure you don’t cross the line of the brand’s morals to make a few dollars.”
Ah, but then, does he sometimes have to take his personal tastes out of the equation when he’s chasing even just the smallest morsel of commercial pie?
“I put a large percentage of myself in it, but you kinda have to branch out and hit all the different sectors you have to hit, commercial as well as your forward styles.”
By commercial, Jake means the longer, as in 19” inch long, microfibre boardshorts whereas forward means 15” colourful print shorties.
But, says Jake, “we really don’t hit that super commercial one, the 23” legs, stretch fabric, and all that jazz.”
A smart colour palette is part of Jake’s game. And, so, Rhythm targets their fan club in the city and on the beach or, as they call it, Studio and Cabin.
“I’m working on dark rich colours. Deep colours, like forest green. The Studio range, which is more for the city kid, we use dark rich colours, and the more
surf guy, we play with khakis and beiges and use heavier cottons.”
And, one more thing: the secret to a sizzling cutback?
“Speed and push harder at the end.”