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Longsands Clothing Company
December 2014
Reading time 10

John Armstrong and business partner Andy Dark launched Longsands Clothing Company in Tynemouth last year

We spoke to John about the ups and downs of launching a new clothing line and why a surfing brand works even in the often chilly North East.
‘It was born out of the idea that surf clothing and outdoor adventure clothing are all very Californicated’

Longsands is a surf and outdoor clothing company based in Tynemouth – a gritty surf brand designed for the cold North East weather. The idea came from John Armstrong and business partner Andy Dark, both from the North East themselves, and the shop opened last year, selling a range of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing and accessories.

John, 28, met Andy whilst at university. ‘It was really random. I was doing Sports Science and Andy was doing IT Systems and Business. It just so happened that we were working the same bar job and had this idea to set up Custom Planet.’ Custom Planet, another company they run together, produces embroidered and screen-printed clothing. ‘It was on the back of Custom Planet that we thought we could create our own clothing brand,’ explains John. ‘And we pretty much just went for it.’

Longsands Clothing Company was officially launched back in 2013. ‘It was born out of the idea that surf clothing and outdoor adventure clothing are all very Californicated,’ says John. ‘There wasn’t anything more gritty. Originally, that was exactly what it was: for the gritty people out surfing when it’s hail-stoning rather than on a beach in Hawaii.’

Although Longsands’ roots lie predominantly in surfing, the company has evolved, producing a wider range to cater for a variety of outdoor activities. ‘We’ve just launched a winter range for your hardcore still-out-there groups,’ laughs John. ‘The designs are all based on the outdoors and adventure, not solely surf.’

The team want to keep Longsands completely separate from Custom Planet, but already having the equipment has meant that they can produce the garments in the North East at a low cost. ‘We don’t need to make any money from Custom Planet producing garments for Longsands, which gives us an advantage,’ says John. Andy’s sister Holly has also joined the team to add some female input. With a background in fashion and retail, Holly had a good eye for the women’s clothing side of the business – something John admitted he and Andy ‘didn’t have a clue’ about. Buyers at Debenhams and John Lewis have also helped the team by providing feedback on designs and ideas and giving suggestions on where the brand might find a place in the market. 

Although they had a wealth of knowledge in terms of clothing, printing, embroidering and running a business, they felt they didn’t have experience regarding how to sell the brand. ‘It’s difficult because with Custom Planet, you can clearly market yourself as a T-shirt printer or embroiderers. With Longsands, people really need to know about the brand,’ explains John. 

As a small, new business the team have found that social media sites have been an invaluable tool for promoting Longsands and they are rapidly developing an online following. ‘I can’t imagine how we would have got the reach we have without social media,’ says John. ‘Facebook is a big thing for us. We can put products on there at no cost and it seems to instantly get people engaging with the brand. Once somebody does it, it snowballs.’ 

John and the team have busy lives and are thankful that so far, they haven’t faced any huge setbacks with Longsands. ‘Everyone is working full-time, so coming up with new ideas is done out of hours so to speak,’ says John. ‘It’s a massive team effort to pull stuff together on evenings and weekends and make sure we’re up to speed with everything.’ Going forward, they plan to expand their range of clothing and hopefully continue to grow without any bumps in the road.

Find Longsands Clothing in Cove Surf Shop, Whitley Bay, at their store in Green Ginger Shopping Arcade, Tynemouth or visit their website
For Custom Planet, head to

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