BEN TREGEAR IN BYRON BAY
An excerpt from MITT Magazine Issue Nº1
Words by Natalie Shukur
Photography by David Hauserman
Ben Tregear looks like a man who makes leather goods. From afar, his physical presence is commanding —standing above six feet tall, with a burly build, an impressive mass of sun-lightened hair and a well-worn beard (this guy’s man-bun and facial topiary is very much pre-hipster), he exhibits the characteristics of an Upstate New York lumberjack or perhaps an action movie titan. Yet, when we meet on a Monday afternoon at Folk cafe in Byron Bay, his demeanour—sunny, gentle and wide-eyed—reveals an interesting dichotomy. He is one of those genuinely soulful human beings, one whose work and life motto is a simple and sincere “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” Indeed, it’s Tregear’s multi-faceted nature that allows him to inhabit many guises: surfer, skater, music maker, yogi, designer and craftsman. “Surfing cleanses me, skating keeps me connected to my youth, yoga makes me feel calm, and making music is my therapy,” says Tregear, enjoying coffee outside by the veggie patch while a storm looms overhead. It’s the latter two skills that he has chosen to make his bread and butter, as co-founder of accessories label Stitch & Hide, which, after only one year in business, has amassed a list of international stockists and a consistent flow of online orders.
After a long stint designing and manufacturing for large Australian brands and retailers such as General Pants, Tregear and his LA-based mentor and business partner, Ross Smith, realised that they craved more creative control. “We wanted the ability to make the styles and designs that we ultimately wanted to see and use,” says Tregear. “We had been working with the best factories in and around India that offer some incredible workmanship, creative abilities and an openness that made us privy to some very, very old tanning recipes and techniques that were handed down—sometimes four generations.” The collection, which features wallets, belts and tech cases, focuses on the quality of the leather, incorporating centuries-old dyeing and finishing methods. An antidote to fast fashion and flashy luxury, the pieces are practical with a hand-hewn, heartfelt edge. “We know that when you buy a wallet or belt, it’s commonly going to be kept for years, so with that in mind we make sure that every piece is made with care and detail.”
More than anything, Stitch & Hide was born out of Tregear’s desire to spend time in the country he loves: India. “My travels have certainly been influential on my life,” he says. “Living in and around India, I would have to say that Mother India [the alternative community near Pondicherry] has had the greatest impact—personally, mindfully, spiritually, musically and creatively. India is so vast in the experiences you can have, so rich in the depths that it takes you to, and such a contrast to the world where I grew up in Sydney. Almost every day of the years I lived there, my mind was blown in one way or another.”
Tregear spent four years living between Sydney and India and, when Stitch & Hide came into being, he wanted to find a base that provided a compromise between the two hemispheres. Enter Byron Bay. “While I enjoyed the bohemian lifestyle of India, I needed the faster and more efficient lifestyle of Sydney, so I figured Byron Bay would be a nice mix of both,” he says. “To live here was always on my bucket list and I guess I just thought, if not now then when?” The internet and employing a handful of talented sales agents around the country have allowed Tregear to tend to his business outside the city racket. “I think I chose my dream location to reside in and worked from that,” he says, smiling. “After a hard day’s work, it’s great to be able to put the log in the back of the car and drive to the beach for a wave.” His advice to those wanting to start up off the grid?