Aussie Label Ottway’s Breezy, Beachy, Unisex Shirts Are Inspired by Nature – And Days Long Past

Written for Broadsheet

“From a very young age we’ve been on the move,” says Neri Sacristan of herself and her partner, Manu Lopez-Velez. “Our parents are explorers and travel enthusiasts, so it couldn’t be any other way. For us, travelling doesn’t necessarily mean taking an eight-hour plane, but just being curious and getting out with the willingness to discover something new every day.”

Sacristan and Lopez-Velez are originally from Spain. Lopez-Velez moved to Australia to work in renewable energy and Sacristan followed soon after, working as a freelancer in both marketing and photography in the fashion industry.

“We moved to Australia around six years ago, and we haven’t stayed home for a single weekend since then,” Sacristan says.

In 2018, the couple launched retro clothing label Ottway, inspired by the tall forests, fern-filled gullies, waterfalls and rolling hills of Victoria’s Otway Ranges.

“It’s a beautiful area down the Great Ocean Road that we’ve been exploring since we first arrived in Australia,” Lopez-Velez says.

Ottway’s collections are all vintage-inspired, unisex and made in limited numbers as part of a commitment to sustainable practice. The design direction is often born from the couple’s recent travels, or a specific moment in life they want to share.

The label’s most recent collection of three shirts, called Time Flies, was inspired by their childhood memories. “Times when we were having fun, just doing life, and being carefree,” Sacristan says. Those vibrant memories are expressed in colourful prints and patterns, designed to be loose-fitting for a laid-back, beachy look.

The Gibson is a sand-and-white-striped number with two chest pockets (“perfect for your sunnies or yo-yo,” says Lopez-Velez), made from 100 per cent linen. The Marley, with its geometric pattern in brown, white and sand, is reminiscent of laminate flooring from ’70s kitchens. And The Reggie features a mix of zigzags, diamonds and stripes in navy, mustard and brown, with pops of red and yellow. The Marley and Reggie are made from rayon, a lightweight manufactured fabric made from natural materials. All three shirts are priced at $99.

Each Ottway shirt comes with a short description of the design inspiration stitched on the inside of the collar. The shirts in the Time Flies Collection also come with a note encouraging customers to stay in touch with their inner child.

Other designs include a vegan-suede jacket inspired by the Night Parrot, a native Australian bird; a long-sleeved cotton shirt that draws inspiration from the Pacific Ocean; men’s shorts; and unisex belts.

Lopez-Velez and Sacristan now live together in a Victorian house in Port Melbourne. They regularly travel to Ottway’s production factory in south-east China to select the buttons, peruse the fabrics and review production processes for the label.

They’ve also launched a sustainability program: some funds from every purchase will go towards installing solar power in community buildings around Australia. There are already two in operation. The first is at Coorabell Hall community centre, an arts hub near Byron Bay; the second is at Woonona Bulli School of Arts in Wollongong, which provides mental-health services for teenagers and young adults.

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