I first came across OzDzynes whilst surfing the internet and saw these brightly coloured, patterned beanie hats and I thought "These are awesome!". After reading a little about the company, I found out the owner was an Australian born female, an extreme sport enthusiast, Charlotte Stevens, who lives right on my doorstep in Wales. It must be fate, a locally residing girl into extreme sports AND who was also trying to do her own thing in the industry, I just had to meet her. A few weeks later, Charlotte and I met at Rest Bay in Porthcawl after she'd finished a surfing session. Still in her wet suit with her damp effortlessly cool beach hair, we downed some tea and cookies and got straight down to it: Who's the lady behind OzDzynes?
Hi Charlotte, thanks so much for meeting with me today. I came across OzDzynes online and immediately fell in love with the beanie hats and accessories, it's amazing how each one is handmade and custom to the client making every hat totally special and unique to that person! But before we go into the business, I want to know more about you! Tell me about yourself, the sports you do and your journey to setting up OzDzynes.
Well I was born in Perth, Australia where I lived until I was 7 years old. I then moved to France, then to England and finally settled in Wales. Despite having lived in these countries, I didn't get into extreme sports until a lot later in life once I'd settled in Wales. However, I've always been sports mad from a young age always out playing with friends and my older brother. I remember being super chuffed getting a Santa Cruz skateboard deck for my 8th birthday and riding on that as much as possible, so there's always been an interest in sports for me.
So how did this develop into extreme sports?
In high school I loved P.E class and getting involved with sport events, so after I left and went to uni, I was asked by my old school to assist on a snowboarding trip. Of course I said yes, it was free and I got to try snowboarding out! Within my first hour of lesson, I asked the snowboard instructor " How do I become an instructor?". I fell in love with it, and I knew it was something I wanted to do. So I came home, worked, saved up, and spent 3 months in Val d'Isére getting my qualifications in Snowboard Instruction. Once I had that, I did 6 back-to-back seasons between Thredbo, Australia, Whistler, Canada and Bear Valley, California.
Wow! That is a hefty journey, but sounds amazing! How did you find it being a girl and what were the guys like to ride with?
I found the guys really fun to ride with and they're definitely encouraging as well, as I didn't realise but I would find myself pushing harder to keep up and try new things. It's the same when I go biking with my older brother. I try and keep up with their level and personally, I find that a good method of learning and progressing. Whilst out in Bear Valley, I picked up a little sponsorship from a French company called APO and I competed in small mountain competitions for them. Even in my category, there weren't many women in the competition but it was a great learning curve for me, and I managed to secure some wins under my belt that I'm really proud of. Unfortunately due to a nasty accident in Mammoth I had to come home back to UK to recuperate
After three years of back-to-back snowboard seasons around the world, Charlotte came back to Wales to settle down and do what we all do at some point in our lives, ask the question "What shall I do now?"
I actually learnt how to crochet when I was in Whistler for a season. I was looking around for a good hat, but all these companies like Dakine and Burton charge a lot of money for a hat which wasn't necessarily the best quality or fit. One of the girls I knew in Whistler taught me to make my own hat with crochet, and I remember it taking me two weeks to make it. It was all stretched out, but I loved it and it fit me perfectly. While I was out there, I managed to make three hats in total. It went from there really. Friends were asking me about my hat and where I had gotten it, then requesting that I make them one as well. I went back to work in Wales at my old high school as a teaching assistant, and I would come back from work and crochet in the evenings. Then demand just started to increase on Facebook and online, which was great! Then in January 2015, I took the plunge and went full-time with OzDzynes which has been the best decision I've ever made.
How has OzDzynes evolved from your first made hat in Whistler all those years ago, to now where you have the general public requesting your handmade hats?
It doesn't feel real! When I first started crocheting, I had no pattern to follow and the style was very loose and took me around about two days to make a hat, but over time I have perfected my crocheting technique and the whole start to end process so that each client gets the best of my ability. I believe it's important to maintain customer contact from the initial order, through to the finish product. I like to have their ideas and design input to make it totally personal to them, and I update them on what stage of the process I'm at until it's been sent for delivery. I take specific head measurements from each customer to ensure a snug and comfortable fit rather than the "one-size" method which I've never been a fan of myself.
What can we expect to see from OzDzynes in the future?
I'm in talks with some surf and snow stores and children's clothes shops in the local area to stock and sell my hats and accessories which is really exciting. I also have plans to make neck-warmers and sell t-shirts, dry bags, caps and accessories which will all be available on my website in the near future. I currently sponsor some young riders in Les Arcs, France, Poppy & Scarlet, they rip all over the mountain and another recent snowboard grom is 10 year old Nicola Haines who's really up and coming, she enters many competitions and gets podium on a lot of occasions. I'm excited to expand on this and help support the next generation of surfers, boarders and bikers. I'd like to see more female riders in extreme sports, I think the gender stereotypes need to be removed and an equal playing ground be introduced, and I think we're heading in that direction which is brilliant.
Charlotte was awesome enough to crochet me my very own slouch bobble beanie, in the Velo Me colours and it's fab! She's made it specific to my head measurements and it fits perfectly to how I like my hats. The hat feels thick and of very good quality, and I love it even more because it was handmade... an art that is sadly dying out to mass machine production nowadays. Personally, I always have a beanie on my when I go riding because like most of us, I get horrific helmet hair after a session on the bike, my first port of call is to swap the helmet for a hat. An OzDzyne hat is stylish and super warm, which is essential for not losing too much heat through your head on those colder days. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for OzDzynes, I think it will be an exciting company to watch out for and I wish Charlotte all the very best of luck! Keep up to date with products and and news about Charlotte and OzDzynes on Facebook and Twitter!