Robert Ewan is founder and managing director of t-shirt and lifestyle brand Mr Vintage.

How did Mr Vintage come about?

I started selling imported t-shirts on TradeMe in late 2004 while I was at university. After doing that for a year I decided to quit uni and concentrate on the business full time, and it was around that time we launched our ecommerce website. As the business grew we moved away from importing printed tees and started creating our own designs, which led to a lot more kiwiana-inspired products. As well as our website we have two retail stores and pop-up retail shops at Christmas.

What factors led you to start an online store before going into bricks-and-mortar retail?

Starting online was an easy choice to make as, given I was a cash-strapped uni student, there was very little investment needed. After a year of TradeMe sales the first website launched. I didn't have the funds to invest in a retail store, so building the brand slowly and organically online was the logical choice.


Over the last few years we've increased our retail stores, especially around Christmas time with pop-up shops. Our latest store, at Auckland Airport, is performing really well, so there is a huge amount of potential growth with our retail stores.

How has your ecommerce site developed over time?

Like any good ecommerce site the development is ongoing. Since late last year we've been working with who specialise in online fashion and have been great to deal with. The biggest change we've seen has been the increase in conversion rate on mobile devices, so stripping back our mobile site and making it easy to navigate on a mobile has really helped.

What's worked well for you in terms of driving online sales?

Being quick to market with products has really worked well for us in the past, especially with topical and sports-themed t-shirts. We do all our design and printing in-house so we can have new products live on the online store in a matter of hours. Back in the early days of the business this was great for building the brand, as we could release a t-shirt about a topical event then, because the product was released so quickly, the t-shirt itself became part of the story in the media.

What's next for your business?

Definitely more retail stores; the future of the Mr Vintage brand will be in a mix of online and physical retail stores. We're also working with other brands and creating merchandise and ecommerce solutions for them. For example, early this year we launched</a>, an online merchandise store for the 9 million-plus Facebook fans of [teenage Kiwi video blogger] Jamie Curry.

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