‘We had what we called The Big Hug in Kempsey where we gave books out to the staff and it was brilliant. We didn’t appreciate the depth of impact this project would have until that point.’
Stacey McIntyre, owner and family member, Akubra
Perception and reality are not always the bedfellows they should be. In a time of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternate facts’, perhaps more than ever we long for authenticity that tests our perceptions. Hopefully what we find backs up what we once held as true. Maybe what we discover will elevate those previous opinions.
It’s our belief that authentic storytelling is the golden glue that can bind reality to perception – with positive results.
But when a company like Akubra asks you to document its history – five generations of family business history no less – leaving perceptions behind is no easy task. An iconic Australian business that has been a part of Australia’s identity for 100 years is already a story well known…or was it?
It didn’t take long to realise that the reality of this business and the family behind it was going to greatly elevate our initial perceptions. Four or five factories around the country? Nope – one in Kempsey. One hundred years old? Try over 140. Scores of machines churning out hat after hat every couple of hours? More like 125 employees using their hands to create a hat in six weeks following a process involving 162 steps.
Australian manufacturing might well be dying, but Akubra is a family business so committed to Australia that it’s still doing it by hand, swimming against the tsunami of cost-saving opportunities overseas.
Akubra make hats. Really good hats. Theirs is a product people identify with. Not just because of its function as a working person’s tool in the country, but because of what it represents in Australian culture. But I’m a city-boy, and the brand still makes me smile. Why is that? How has Akubra won such esteemed status? For me, it was speaking with family, long-serving staff and retailers that made it clear. They are genuinely good people that love making great hats. They’ve done it for generations and somehow their family values have remained. If our books are about passing on culture through story, then this one takes take some beating.
Where family, community, quality and longevity intersect, there is always a rich and interesting story. And where there is an interesting story, reality will strengthen perception.