The September opening of ONE PLANET’s new shop at 377 Little Bourke Street was big news for fans of the Australian bushwalking brand, as well as shoppers on Melbourne’s premier outdoor retail strip. The new space is three times the size of the previous shop (only ten doors down!), with a wooden façade and interior dotted with hanging pot plants, cage lights and hidden details inspired by the One Planet factory: those cage lights are actually made from tent poles, cupboard handles are made from webbing loops and hooks are tent pegs in disguise. All the brand’s famous products are on display: tough Waterloc Canvas and Cordura rucksacks, sleeping bags that are both technical and ethical, and practical, lightweight tents wall-mounted over photos of the Victorian high country. What few people know is that by moving the shop here, the company is returning to its roots.
ONE PLANET Managing Director Andrew King made his first foray into the outdoor industry on the third floor of this address, opening AiKing Repairs in 1986, and making the first AiKing rucksack a few years later. AiKing eventually merged with J & H and Adventure Designs to become ONE PLANET, outgrowing the third floor of 377 Little Bourke Street and opening a factory in nearby Kensington. In November 2004, the Fink Street factory was burnt to the ground, destroying machinery, patterns, materials and lots and lots of gear.
This was a massive turning point for the business. Andrew King says:
‘The fire burnt everything. Continuing meant starting from scratch with no production possible for six months. Most competitors were manufacturing overseas, and decisions had to be made quickly. With overwhelming support from the outdoor community and our employees, many of whom stayed on, we committed to long-term manufacturing in Melbourne.’
The company didn’t waste any time: a few months later the ONE PLANET factory in Sunshine was opened. This is still the company’s design and manufacturing hub, doubling in size in 2018 when the adjoining factory was added for storage, dispatch and the brand’s popular outdoor education division. The factory is a lively space where staff sample, tinker and test, with designers believing in a hands-on, evolutionary process where gear is used, user experience is prioritised and feedback is incorporated to improve products.
ONE PLANET is committed to manufacturing gear the right way, with an emphasis on good design, local manufacturing and environmental sustainability. These priorities are demonstrated at the factory, from the hand-bent rucksack frames and double-stitched, canvas-bound seams, to the small batch production method. (The whole facility has been CO2 neutral since 2005 – a first for the outdoors industry.) ONE PLANET’s famous harnesses are made here, from the Exact Fit (popular with outdoor educators for durability and comfort under heavy loads) to the lighter Exact Fit Mid. Upstairs is the down room where sleeping bags are filled to order with high-quality down (ethically-sourced and IDFL-audited), before being sent to customers and shops. The ONE PLANET range encompasses hundreds of different products, dispatched from the factory to the world, each demonstrating the brand’s comfort, performance and durability. The testing is tough: the Australian Antarctic Division and Search & Rescue teams put gear from here through its paces, as do the roughest customers of all: teenagers!
The emphasis on good manufacturing continues from the factory into the new shop. The ONE PLANET range is complemented by a carefully curated selection of gear from other Australian and first-world manufacturers that match the company’s ethos of reliable, durable and responsibly-made gear suitable for use in the antipodes. There are Therm-a-Rest mats, freeze-dried food from Tasmania’s Campers Pantry, Wilderness Wear’s Australian merino wool apparel, and locally-made personal locator beacons from KTI. Staff are very happy to help and know their stuff: from fitting rucksacks to usage tips and the rundown on how gear is made.
ONE PLANET has been making outdoor gear for more than three decades, and a lot has changed. However, the core purpose remains the same: to design and make the finest outdoor gear for antipodean conditions. Repairs and servicing are an important part of the business, with staff getting a real buzz from seeing products that are still in service after decades of use. At the Melbourne factory they will happily repair, clean and maintain gear, from washing sleeping bags (everyone’s favourite job…) to fixing poles, zips, waterproofing, and just about anything else. This ‘love and patches’ work also completes the research and feedback loop for ONE PLANET, resulting in even better gear.
Both ONE PLANET and Wild were born decades ago in Melbourne, and remain iconic Australian bushwalking brands with strong ties to their supporting community. Next time you’re on Little Bourke Street, pop into the shop for a chat, to pick up a rucksack, some socks or a copy of the mag. (Yep, they’re also a stockist.) You might even catch a glimpse of Andrew King’s famous 20-year old hacky sack: it was lost one lunchtime in 1986, only to be rediscovered in 2019 during renovations for the ONE PLANET shop!