It was June 1983 when the brains trust behind the 12th Man series Billy Birmingham penned the hit spoken-word record “Australiana” for comedian Austen Tayshus.
It posed the question – “how much can a koala bear?”
Almost 40 years on and shoppers are asking the same thing now that Australiana has been given a very contemporary, visual overhaul.
It’s all thanks to an art series put together by Sydney gift and homeware house La La Land, who have taken a slight detour from their warm and homely range to add a far more edgy collection to the catalogue.
After cruising under the speed limit through the urban streets, the La La Land gang have crunched through the gears and hightailed it on a country joyride in recent months.
It’s art’s version of Screech Powers moving on from Saved By the Bell to take up a porn career.
This is La La Land’s OnlyFans moment, and business is booming.
Over there you’ll see a friendly kangaroo grilling some prawns on the barbie. And there you’ll spot a portly wombat snacking on some pavlova.
And right here my friends – are a couple of dingoes doing it like they do on the Discovery Channel.
Two emus doing the ream you.
A pair of pink galahs flaming in a way Alf Stewart has more than likely overlooked.
A Tassie Devil being devilled and an echidna whipping out the big spike.
Never smile at a crocodile? Sorry fellas. I can’t help but smirk on this occasion.
We’ve been spared the cockatoo.
Ladies and gentleman … La La Land presents to you – the Wild Fur You range, a concept drawn up by the company’s co-founder Elie Azzi.
“It’s not unusual for us to do things out of whack. We’re always pushing the boundaries of our gift range and humour is a category we’re always looking to expand,” Elie told me after I approached the company to find out a little more about this considerable diversion from its traditionally wholesome cottage identity.
I first saw the design when a few female participants in a social media group for freelance media professionals posted photos on the timeline. The thread quickly accumulated some serious banter. And almost exclusively – it was very positive feedback.
Perhaps it’s COVID. Or isolation itself. Maybe it’s the laugh 2020 needed. Or maybe, we’ve just reached a point in societal standards where it’s okay to walk the streets with a handbag adorned in two koalas playing the beast with two backs.
Would I expect to see this design on drink coasters sitting on my late Grandmother’s coffee table? No way. Would I gift a tea towel in this pattern to my Mum? Definitely not. But I know they’d both giggle at the concept.
Whatever the case, I was fascinated to delve into the depravity for a moment to pull back the covers on this marketing success story.
Because here’s the thing. Right now, you’ll struggle to find a handbag in the Wild Fur You design. It’s sold out. Nation-wide. Expectations exceeded. Elie and the team can’t keep up with demand.
“The original idea was to illustrate one animal mating in the bush or jungle,” Elis said.
“Then I thought why not do many of them on an alphabet poster. There would be different animals starting with the matching letter. I even thought we should include humans for H as we belong in the animal kingdom.”
That idea was quickly abandoned. It was flagged that it might look like one of those children’s educational posters to learn the alphabet. Clearly, not a good idea!
“So then we decided to do a repetitive pattern. Most ideas I come up with evolve to something different to the original thought because we discuss them as a team in the office.”
So, with the concept squared away, Elie sold the idea to his in-house artist Lilly Perrott who got to work on drawing up the design.
“I don’t think Lilly is ever shocked by any of the design ideas we come up with. It’s part of the job we do. It goes with the territory,” Elie said.
“There were some very funny moments as it was being pieced together. Lilly would use real photos to draw inspiration so there were times when you’d walk past her desk and there on her computer screen would be pictures of animals going for it. Definitely not your regular design concept and process that’s for sure!”
La La Land already had established links with department store giant Myer for some of their other products. The way it works is suppliers will periodically meet with them to show off their new range and ideas with a view to having them stocked on Myer’s shelves.
When they caught up earlier this year, among the designs on offer, was the risqué Wild Fur You range. Elie couldn’t believe it when Myer wanted in.
Tote bags and clutch purses. Then came the coffee mugs and tin trays. It expanded to adult fact and memory cards.
“I must admit I was really surprised that Myer chose this artwork at first but I think it was all part of a commitment to try and be a bit more edgy and do things differently,” Elie said.
“But they loved it and they kept ordering more.”
As the product started appearing, the social commentary started to ramp up. And that led to their biggest break yet – a national media story about a “shocked” unnamed Sydney Grandmother who, supposedly, inadvertently stumbled across the product while doing some online shopping. (The jury is still out on whether this actually happened). Nonetheless, sales went through the roof.
“It was the best publicity our small business has ever received,” Elie said.
Shoppers couldn’t get enough. Neither could Myer. A month ago they called Elie. Send everything you have. And order more. Pronto.
“The range has been hugely successful at Myer. They ordered all the stock we had left and that wasn’t planned on their forecast to us. And because of that, we don’t have any left on our own website right now!”
“Ideas happen all the time in our line of work. With this one, I didn’t think it would be huge. But I also didn’t think it would be too bad either. I guess I thought it would be one of those middle of the road products for us.”
“But it has certainly exceeded our expectations and been one of our biggest success stories.”
“The feedback has been so mixed and on two extremes. People either love it or hate it! We have had a lot of people complain and write negative comments on our social media. They go on about how disgusting and wrong it is.”
“But most people find it hilarious and are not offended at all.”
“After the year we’ve had, I hope the native animals in Australia are going for it since we lost so many due to the bushfires. Especially Koalas!”
“And it’s been quite educational to get an understanding of how these animals go about their business in the wild. There are so many wonderful, weird and wacky facts which you can read on our memory cards.”
And, no matter what side of the fence you sit with regards to your take on the Wild Fur You designs – one thing cannot be disputed.
This is a genuine success story in a year of so much doom and gloom for the retail sector.
Even if it does lead you a little Australiana!