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UGG Since 1974

Hannah and Todd Watts

Kirra Smith for Inside Gold Coast | September 2019

If you are one of the lucky people who’ve had the pleasure of owning a pair of UGG’s in your time, you’ve got these two to thank.

Hannah and Todd Watts are the owners of UGG Since 1974. The much-loved Australian business has been in their family since well, 1974 and in that time they’ve amassed a slew of loyal followers from international celebrities to Gold Coast locals.

We sat down for a chat with the pair about making UGGs for Gigi Hadid and how you can get your fur baby printed on your very own pair.

How long have you been Gold Coast locals?

Todd was born on the Gold Coast and I moved up from Sydney with my family when I was 10 – so we’ve both been in the area for quite a while and have seen a lot of changes in our little city.

What do you love most about living here?

Having our work, our home and the beach all within five minutes’ drive of one another is hard to beat. Plus, the opportunity for small business here is pretty unique and another reason why we love being on the Gold Coast.

How did your business UGG Since 1974 come about?

Our business was started by Todd’s grandfather in Sydney in 1974 (hence the name, UGG Since 1974), and has now been in the family for three generations. Over the years, the focus of the business has grown from being wholesale only, to a full scale manufacturing and retail model where we now have 4 stores within Australia and a growing online presence. While it is common knowledge that UGG boots are an Australian innovation, most people don’t realise that the word UGG in Australia is not owned by any one company, rather it’s a generic name for sheepskin boot (just like sneakers), so just because the product you buy says “UGG boot”, it doesn’t mean it was made in Australia. In fact, 96% of the world’s UGG boots are now made in Asia. We’re one of the only manufacturers in Australia who actually produce 100% Australian made UGGs.

Why are UGGs the perfect winter accessory?

Once you’ve had a proper pair of UGG boots, there’s no way you can go back. Nothing beats the feeling of sliding your feet into your favourite UGGs on a cold winter’s morning. Aside from being crafted from the fluffiest Australian merino sheepskin and being handmade from start to finish on the Gold Coast, buying a good pair of UGG boots from UGG Since 1974 means you can guarantee they’ll be lasting you for many years to come.

Tell us about your customisation options, what’s on offer?

This year monogramming has been the clear stand out, with many locals opting to add their initials on the back of their UGGs or their name in metallic foiling across their sheepskin slides. We’ve also recently launched our custom-made Pet Printed UGG boots, where you can supply your favourite image of your 4-legged bestie and have the artwork printed all over your UGGs. We made a pair of these each for Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik earlier this year featuring their hairless cat – they were certainly one of a kind. You can also change anything from the sheepskin panels to the logo and the top binding, so if rainbow is what you’re after, that’s what you’ll get. We receive lots of orders for sporting teams or corporate groups, since we can craft products out of vintage jerseys or come up with a custom corporate design for local businesses too. The options are literally endless.

Why do you think people are beginning to support Australian made products more and more these days?

Great question! Probably the most satisfying part of our business is seeing the support from our Australian customers grow year on year, and this is because people are taking such an interest in caring where their products are made. It’s all about knowing who has made your products and from what, and supporting businesses which operate here in Australia as opposed to buying products which are mass produced in Asia, where the average wage for factory wages is between $1 and $4 per hour. Any given pair of UGG boots will pass through at least 20 pairs of hands here in our workshop, but if you take it back to the beginning, our products provide jobs for hundreds of jobs in our Australian supply chain: from the sheep farmers to the truck drivers, right up to the photographers to customer service team that assist us on the front line. So few things are genuinely Australian these days and people want to make sure things continue to be produced here for their kids and grandkids to enjoy one day too.

Another important consideration is sustainability, and “buying less but buying better”. By this, people are choosing to invest in things, which have a story behind them, and will last years to come, rather than constantly buying and throwing away cheaper items, which just create waste (both financially and environmentally). We only use ethically sourced Australian sheepskin and put a strong focus on using environmentally friendly processes and recyclables in our packaging solutions.

Everything you sell is manufactured on the Gold Coast, talk to us about your tours…

We open our workshop doors during the week to allow people to see the age-old manufacturing process of sheepskin UGG boots, and since factories in Australia are becoming more and more scarce, our tours have become a hit with locals and tourists alike. Once you see the work involved in making an entire UGG boot from scratch, and the happy faces of our talented craftspeople who do the work, it gives you a new appreciation for products, which are handmade, one by one. Plus, those who grew up on the Gold Coast in the 70s and 80s get a kick out of seeing the old Gold Coast Roller Skating Rink again through a fresh set of eyes (our workshop is located at 23 Christine Avenue, Miami which used to house the old roller skating rink many moons ago).

What’s in the works for the rest of 2019 for you?

We’re in the final stages of designing a brand new retail store in The Rocks which is due to open in October this year, located in the old Coroner’s Court in Sydney (the building itself is more than 110 years old). We’re also launching our sister brand to UGG Since 1974 later this year: enter Wild Wool™, which will feature product lines handmade on the Gold Coast like luxurious leather hats, chunky woollen knits, leather handbags and accessories and of course, sheepskin apparel. Plus, keep an eye out for us during November as we swelter in the heat for about two weeks to install our annual Christmas light display on our site at Christine Avenue, we love Christmas so much that it wouldn’t be right to thank the community for all of their support throughout the year by putting on something for the locals to enjoy come Christmas time.

Tell us your favourites on the Coast…

Cafe for breakfast: We have to be diplomatic here as we have lots of family in food on the Coast, so that makes it an equal tie here between Bam Bam, Paddock Bakery and Cubby Bakehouse.

Coffee spot: Good Day Coffee in Tugun is normally our weekend stop off for coffee.

Restaurant for dinner: Itoshin (and Little Itoshin) are the winners here and have been for us for a long time

Where do you usually spend time on the weekend? If it’s a Saturday, chances are Todd will be in the surf or on the golf course. I’m usually wandering around the shops somewhere and then we’ll meet up for a cocktail somewhere for sundown! Sundays are our day for trips down south in search of sunshine and salt water.

NB: UGG Since 1974 offer a locals only discount out of their Miami store, so make sure you mention you live close by for a special deal on your UGGs this year.

***This article was originally published on Inside Gold Coast words written by Kirra Smith

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