Before I had even met Daniel, I was proud of his accomplishments. To see Novocastrians succeeding is an incredible thing, and it’s something I think the community loves to support. Everyone has their own definition or idea of what success means. For me, success is found when someone is driven to pursue their passions, whatever they may be; and for 23-year-old Daniel Russ, that passion is music.
After realising he wasn’t gifted with any musical talent (something I’m sure we’ve all wished for), Daniel had to find another way to be involved. Since last year Daniel has been brainstorming ideas, and this March these ideas came together in the form of Red Boy Apparel. Based in Broadmeadow, Red Boy Apparel specialises in screen printing, hats, hospitality uniforms, band merchandise, embroidery and tees.
Working full-time at his parents’ business, Newcastle Workwear Specialists, and seeing his dad’s success inspired Daniel to start his own project. These thoughts paired perfectly with his passion for music, as the majority of what Daniel creates is band merchandise, supplying to local legends like Auxfire, Raave Tapes, Pals and plenty more.
Considering that Red Boy Apparel was only launched this year, Daniel has achieved a massive amount. A clear standout, and his biggest achievement so far, has been supplying merchandise to Mac DeMarco. Yes, you read that right. Daniel threw a ‘Viceroy’ hat he’d made onto the stage at one of Mac DeMarco’s shows and it went from there. Mac DeMarco (who happens to be one of Daniel’s favourite musicians) wore the hat all throughout Australia on his tour, which prompted Daniel to start Red Boy. He was communicating with Mac’s manager about buying merch, but for that, Daniel needed a company. Speaking of the experience, Daniel says he still pinches himself when he thinks about it: ‘It’s still so surreal.’
Daniel didn’t waste this amazing opportunity. He was going into work at 4am and finishing 13 hours later to get the orders finished in time, and he’s sent around 800 hats to Mac DeMarco in Los Angeles.
Daniel is appreciative of the help he receives – especially thankful for Liz, a design artist who handles the whole embroidery side, his printer Abbey, his dad, who he buys stock from, and his girlfriend Maggie for helping out wherever she can.
Explaining how they contribute to Red Boy, Daniel says, ‘I’ve been really lucky with it all falling into place. I’ve met the right people to help me out – they’re all big people to thank.’
Talking about music, Daniel mentioned he’d love to make merch for bands like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Tame Impala and Foals (one of his favourite bands, who he saw at Coachella this year).
‘Obviously there are massive bands like Violent Soho, anyone from the I Oh You label – but they’re tied up with merch already,’ Daniel explains.
Despite this, Daniel’s hopes are still very much alive as he knows the power word of mouth has for business. When you have someone like Mac DeMarco on your side, you’re destined for great things. Mac appeared on Triple J talking to Matt and Alex about Daniel and his ‘Viceroy’ hat, which was another surreal moment for Daniel.
Finding himself in a kebab shop with the lead singer of Violent Soho, Luke Boerdam, Daniel took the opportunity to chat and bought Luke a kebab. Daniel admitted he was a little starstruck, especially when he found out that Luke and the band Palms were talking about him and his ‘Viceroy’ hat that day.
It’s obvious that Daniel is always supporting the local music scene. ‘The positive thing about the whole music scene is that everyone is supporting each other; all the little projects are coming together,’ he explains. This is one of many reasons why Daniel loves Newcastle. ‘I love everything about it. The beaches, the mini city that it is, cafés and bars popping up, how everyone comes together. I never want to move away.’
A vision Daniel has for the distant future is for him and his dad to buy a digital printer, but for now he’s ‘really happy with how it’s all going’, saying he sees Red Boy as ‘a hobby that makes money’ rather than a job. ‘I’ve released a few hats, will eventually bring out a T-shirt… For now, I’m busy enough doing everyone else’s [merch],’ said Daniel.
I could have talked with Daniel all day. His passion for music and the overwhelming determination and drive he has to run Red Boy alongside his full-time job are admirable, to say the least. He’s also incredibly modest, which is refreshing. After saying he’s always been interested in designing logos but didn’t have the skill to draw them, he showed me an example of one he had created. The logo completely contradicted what he said about not having any drawing skills, so hopefully we’ll start seeing some more of Daniel’s designs.
Now you know more about ‘the random dude who throws hats at musicians’, as Daniel describes himself. As I found out, that’s not all there is to him; he’s an extremely busy person who surrounds himself with things that ignite his passion for music as he chases his dream.