Stab Magazine | Otis Carey Signs With Billabong
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Otis Carey Signs With Billabong

Gumbayangirr/Bundjalung man Otis Carey to lead the Billies resurgence.

news // Jul 7, 2016
Words by Jed Smith
Reading Time: 3 minutes

In the bleached surf industry of 2016, the smartest thing a brand can do is accompany innovation with embracing their roots. Surf heritage is good enough that the need to reinvent the wheel has substantially lessened. So when it came to their newest family member, Billabong looked to their roots. 

Gumbayangirr/Bundjalung man Otis Carey has signed to Billabong on a surfing, art and fashion design deal that will weave traditional indigenous culture with contemporary Australian surf. The Coffs Harbour-based surfer and artist was on the road headed north when Stab found him. He told us he hoped the deal would provide a platform to inspire black and white youth across the nation.

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“I just wanna influence other indigenous kids, but not only indigenous kids – non-indigenous kids as well – and create a positive impact, really,” he says.

After parting ways with Insight a few years back, Otis has spent the last few years making ends meet with support from several subsidiary sponsors as well as side-jobs in manual labour, fashion design and art. He caused a major stir in the Australian art world recently when his show Ngaalgan at the China Heights gallery in Surry Hills sold more than $24,000 worth of art. The works were deeply informed by indigenous history and culture, and his desire to continue the proud traditions of his people.

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“I paint contemporary indigenous art,” he tells Stab. “The way I can best explain it is, it’s a broken-down form of traditional symbols and stories that aren’t giving all of it away but just enough for people to understand. I think it’s super important. I just wanna do my part and share my culture in the best possible positive way. I think it’s super important to be able to have that outlet for other people to experience.”

Billabong had watched Otis’ career trajectory with interest for some time, as it grew to co-exist in the art world. The catalyst for the partnership was a collaborative product collection (releasing 2017). It was a breezy experience, which made apparent how natural a fit Otis would be for Billabong, who’ve had strong cultural ties to indigenous heritage with team riders of yesteryear.

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Otis will join Creed McTaggart, who you’ll know from the dazzling Australiana video series, Real Axe, along with former Insight head creative, Steve Gorrow, manning the brand’s fashion department. “I’m pretty tight with Tobes and Creed,” says Otis. “It’s nice to know I’m signing with a company that I’ve already got relationships within… those guys don’t give a fuck. They just like creating things and I really like that about them.”

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“I really look up to Stevie Gorrow,” Otis adds. “He’s a creative genius and a mastermind when it comes to creative campaigns. I’m really excited to work alongside him.”

The deal has Billabong poised to re-establish itself as a leader in classical Australian surf culture and fashion with Otis on the forefront.

“The’ve given me quite a bit of freedom so it’ll be really interesting to get into creating with them,” Otis says.

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