Dark Mofo and Blundstone Partnership
For the second year running Blundstone have partnered with Tasmania's premier winter festival Dark Mofo, creating a special editon Dark Boot and hosting a gifting suite for the artists that have descended on Hobart for the immersice month-long event. Darren Levin - Content Director at agency Bolster and Blundstone enthusiast - braved the Hobart cold to report on what went down.
Marlon Williams strides into room 202 of the Hadley’s Orient Hotel wearing what can only be described as a pair of jodhpurs. They’re sky blue with thick silver stripes on both legs.
The New Zealand singer, dubbed the Maori Elvis, is the embodiment of Blundstone’s #EverywhereLifeTakesMe credo. As a teenager he travelled through Europe with his church choir, seeding a passion for music and travel that has seen multiple world tours and even TV roles.
He now finds himself in Hobart, playing two after-hours shows at Dark Mofo’s Bang Bang Bar, a pop-up venue based on the mysterious roadhouse in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. “There’s something very luxurious about all of this,” he says, pulling on a pair of Blundstone Dark Boots in the kind of otherworldly, paisley-carpeted room Lynch himself would approve of.
Built in 1834 by convicts, Hadley’s is one of Australia’s oldest boutique hotels. For more than 180 years it’s played host to “stories, scandals and secrets”, but the atmosphere today is nothing short of celebratory.
We’re at Blundstone’s Dark Mofo gifting suite, and artist and influencers - from Melbourne rock outfits Bitch Diesel and Tyrannamen to performance artists Discordia - are streaming in. They’re here to claim a pair of special-edition Dark Boots (a collaboration between Blundstone and Dark Mofo’s creative team), the best-selling 585, the 1352 a sultry shiraz high top or a classic rustic brown product from the 500 series. Tom Waits records spin on a vintage turntable, while leather craftsman Mark Benz and his team from Tasmania’s own Cherry Brand are working through the first batch of the 100-plus boots they will brand today.
Attendees are given the option to have their boots branded with their initials or Dark Mofo’s distinctive cross in red, silver or gold. The process is called foiling and Mark - a collector of vintage Blundstones himself - was up until 3am the night before perfecting it on the contoured surface of the boots. “I’m feeling a bit sleep deprived, but pretty comfortable,” he says. “We’ve spent three weeks accustoming ourselves with what needs to be done.”
For Blundstone, this personalised experience was an important component. It was also an opportunity to showcase the work of another passionate Tasmanian maker. “We wanted people to consider, touch, feel and understand the boots before they choose what they want and how they wish to have them branded,” Adam Blake, Global Head of Brand, Design and Consumer Engagement at Blundstone explains. “We believe this is a really genuine and intimate way to introduce the brand to people.”
Over in an adjoining room there’s a barman serving gin with perfect ribbons of cucumber and a charcuterie and cheese board that looks like a renaissance-era still life. There’s five boxes stacked in a corner, with peep holes showcasing Blundstone’s brand evolution through product - from the lace-up heritage boots that would’ve tread Hadley’s boards in the late 1800s to the elastic sided boot produced in the 1960s.
The Dark Boot - with its dramatic pop of red and stitched Dark Mofo cross - is on display here, too. All the other boots are accompanied with brief historical narratives. For the Dark Boot there’s just a single, teasing epithet: “What would you sacrifice?”
The answer for most of the people gathered in this room is time, which is a pretty precious commodity at a festival with so much to explore at every turn. Launched in 2013 as a winter take on the Museum Of New And Old Art’s summer spectacular MONA FOMA, Dark Mofo has emerged as one of the most challenging, interesting, and FOMO-inducing winter festivals in Australia, if not the world.
It’s a mix of big ticket items such as a performance by singer and virtuosic guitar shredder St Vincent; experiential installations such as Matthew Schreiber’s immersive room of lasers; a banquet hall showcasing Tasmania’s finest produce; and an eclectic late night program of events called Night Mass, which weaves its way through an old theatre in the city until the wee hours.
It’s Blundstone’s second year partnering with Dark Mofo. And though it may not seem like it at first, there’s a lot of parallels between Australia’s premier winter festival and its premier winter boot. This is a partnership built on mutual respect, creative daring, and a genuine meeting of values.
“We are both incredibly proud Tasmanian owned and operated brands, and have both grown to be global names,” says Adam Blake. “Dark Mofo has drawn the international eye to the Island and celebrates the very same unique, individual and out-of-the-box thinking that Blundstone supports. Imagination and ingenuity that remoteness fosters.”
The Dark Boot range was born in 2017 as a physical manifestation of that kinship and in 2018 morphed to include a completely bespoke and dual branded product. Based off the classic 063 dress boot, it’s understandably the most popular item on display today and the most elusive with only 30 pairs created. Mexican-American chanteuse Rebekah Del Rio - best known for her singing cameo in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive and one of the big drawcards at the Bang Bang Bar - is eager to get her hands on a pair.
Speaking to Blundstone and Dark Mofo’s growing reputations as global brands, this fashion conscious artist has had her eye on some Dark Boots since the collaboration was announced. “They’re just beautiful,” she says.
Closer to home and one of the local musicians in the room - Harmony’s Tom Lyngcoln, who rocks up in his own pair of well-worn rustic brown boots - opts for a classic in the 500 series, a black 510. While based in Melbourne for the past few years, Tom made his name here in Hobart and later on the Mainland with seminal rock outfit The Nation Blue. “Well, I grew up in Tassie so I’ve probably gone through a pair each year,” he says, laughing.
That sense of local pride in the product is something Blundstone has worked hard to instill.
“At Blundstone we have been crafting products with a keen sense of place in Tasmania for almost 150 years,” Adam says. “We are incredibly proud of this Island and work hard to celebrate the very unique, individual and innovative thinking that Tasmania is becoming known for.”
And it’s a reputation that’s growing around the world - from Rebekah Del Rio’s Los Angeles to Lyttelton, New Zealand, where Marlon Williams grew up. “They’re kinda taking off all over the place,” Marlon says. “I remember going over to Canada and so many people were asking about Blundstones. It’s gotten to the point where the Australia-New Zealand fuzzy divide comes into play. They’re like the Russell Crowe of boots now.”
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