Kyle Robinson is chatting about Paper Mache Tiger from across a pool in a basement warehouse in Shoreditch. Given the heatwave engulfing London on the day we meet, it would be refreshing if it were filled.
Instead, we’re seated at the base of a concrete shell, reminiscent of the Dogtown skate era. A series of small tubes display a range of sunglasses from Croatian label Sheriff & Cherry, while pieces from Parisian label Etre Cecile, Francis Leon (Australia) and Reece Hudson (New York) hang on in-built racks. These highly sought-after – rather than well-known – labels have played a prominent role in ensuring Melbourne-raised Robinson’s success, with everyone from Susie Bubble to Christine Centenera taking an interest in his fashion marketing, wholesale and distribution company.
The concept for the pop-up shop we’re sitting in – Beach in the East (BITE) – was one Robinson worked on with his wife, renowned fashion consultant Yasmin Sewell. The point of difference – and an indication of the duo’s influence – is the fact that the majority of stock was created specifically for BITE by labels including House of Holland, ACNE, Joe Duke, Jill Urwin and Peridot.
While taking us through his favourite pieces, Robinson apologises for looking “not so fresh”. Rather than a result of a hedonistic fashion lifestyle, it’s his 22-month-old son, Knox Rocket, who has caused his fatigue.
“I had a 4am start,” he says. “Teething sucks.” Even on minimal sleep, Robinson is a bundle of energy and while he talks a million miles per minute on social media’s dethroning of PR and issues working with Australian businesses, his parlance slows and his face relaxes when he discusses family. He has just returned from a seven-day road trip with his dad and brother following the Tour de France. “I don’t even like bikes, but I’m addicted to the tour.”
His father, a former fashion designer who ran a bikini store in Melbourne’s Southland in the 1970s, has been a huge influence. “I started off studying fine arts, but dropped out when my best friend died. I decided to start up my own [eponymous] fashion label. My dad’s old store was called White Water Surf Co. [and] I actually used one of his newspaper adverts as a T-shirt print.”
Robinson suddenly rushes off into his office, only to return with the said T-shirt. “Look how 90s the cut is…I’d love to revive dad’s store.”
While his label sold well, Robinson lost most of the earnings (“I was young and naïve”). He worked at Fat in Melbourne before venturing out on his own as a buyer for TV shows and corporate clients. In 2007, he moved to London where he worked as an art director assistant to Paul Nathan. When designer friends began sending him their wares in the hope of him finding a European stockist, he decided to open his own sales showroom, founding Paper Mache Tiger in the process.
Nonetheless, Robinson doesn’t live fashion day in, day out. “Fashion has been good to me, but I’m not really that into it,” he admits. “My best friends are schoolteachers, tradesmen or in bands. I don’t really hang out in the fashion crowd; maybe that’s why our business works. I’m more into design and art, creating, building and treasure hunting.”
He’s also into spending time at The Sisters, his parents’ cafe in Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula. “I’d love to move back to Australia – it’s something Yasmin and I talk about all the time – but I just don’t know how it would work. London is one of those places; you can’t wait to get out, but as soon as you’re back it feels like home.”
And home it’s sure to remain. Robinson and Sewell recently bought and renovated a Heritage II-listed apartment in Shoreditch’s Arnold Circus. It’s the same area where Robinson set up his first office five years ago. “It’s funny to look back,” he says. “You get to see just how far you’ve come.”