Adelaide high school friends Charlie Hender and Will Swale’s clothing label ORTC was only ever meant to be a side hustle. Prior to founding the label in 2016, Hender worked as a gardener for a local landscape designer and Swale a cellar hand for Adelaide Hills vineyard Sidewood Estate. But after releasing their first swim line in 2018, they decided to dedicate their attention to the label full time.
It’s now stocked at more than 200 Australian retail stores (including The Iconic) and 60 stores in the USA.
The label is an amalgamation of the pair’s love for quality, timeless fashion and coastal living – initially designed for their fathers and friends. It was their mothers who inspired their launch into the fashion industry, though. “Both of our mothers run or have run successful fashion and homewares stores, and we grew up entrenched in the retail and wholesale world,” says Swale. His mother, Min, owns local homewares and fashion retailer One Rundle Trading Co. And Hender’s mother, Rhonda, who passed away in 2014, had a store in Adelaide’s south-east.
In October Hender and Swale, both now 25, opened a retail store of their own – in the former board room of ORTC’s current office and warehouse space in Norwood. “As crazy as it seems, the timing just felt right to finally convert this space into our very own store,” Swale says.
Mirroring the label’s aesthetic, the retail space blends crisp white and midnight navy. Natural textures such as Tasmanian oak timber bench tops, white cabinetry and a vinyl timber-look floor impart a breezy, coastal feel, and handmade steel display bars contrast with the soft linen furnishings.
Hender designs all ORTC collections from the Norwood office. “I’m self-taught, and I thank Youtube tutorials for all of their support in the early days,” he says. “My Youtube history is filled with how-tos, and I’d say the first skill I learnt was to draw technical fashion drawings using Adobe suite.”
He and Swale work closely with manufacturers and suppliers in China, travelling there often to handle the fabrics and ensure they’re selecting the highest quality natural and synthetic options. “This year has been a little different, with the travel bans. We have put a lot of trust in our team in China, and they have our quality ORTC finished products in mind always,” Swale says. The pair recently shifted to a sustainable, 100 per cent recycled polyester for their swim shorts following a visit to their manufacturing partner.
There’s also a small number of products that are finished in Adelaide – including the custom letter caps, which are machine-stitched then hand-finished by a local seamstress at Chapel Sewing Solutions in Parkside.
ORTC’s latest collection is a unisex sweats range, fitting for the global switch to leisurewear during the pandemic. The spring/summer collection features bold swim shorts; linen shirts in sand, white, green and navy; crew-neck sweaters; and linen shorts.
The brand also recently launched ORTC Custom, a premium custom merchandise service to produce quality clothing and accessories for local businesses.
ORTC Clothing Co
33 King Street Norwood
Mon to Fri 8.30am–4pm