Jess Cooper had the dream career. She started at the Rip Curl retail store in Torquay and worked her way up through the company, eventually landing a lead role in the company’s European headquarters.
Now she runs Ranger Outdoor, also branded as ‘Ranger’, a workwear label that makes sustainable and affordable workwear with business partner Bryce Vincent.
At Rip Curl Jess managed the whole lifecycle of a product from the initial idea to point of sale.
“So, through that, I worked with designers, developers, suppliers, marketing, sales and retail teams,” she says.
“I learnt all the parts to a successful business that is Rip Curl.”
Jess would regularly travel around the world to meet with suppliers. Through this process she learnt a lot about products and fabrics and was eventually offered a role with Rip Curl Europe based in Hossegor in the south-west of France.
“I was lucky enough to be able to have this opportunity and live in Hossegor, which is pretty much the surf capital of Europe,” she says.
“It’s a similar to being in the Torquay of Europe.”
Jess was head of women’s clothing and accessories, responsible for managing the European business for Rip Curl.
“We were globalising as a company, so I worked closely with the Australian team and the US team.
Surfing during lunch breaks was a popular activity and Jess took advantage of the long lunches the French are famous for.
“Lunch breaks in Europe go for around an hour-and-a-half, because a lot of people go home and have lunch with their families,” she explains.
“So, it was quite a long lunchbreak – there was plenty of time to have a surf.”
After four years at Rip Curl Europe Jess had achieved everything she had set out to in the surf industry and she returned home to the family farm in Bellbrae.
This is where she reconnected with her friend Bryce who, during a fortuitous encounter, expressed his frustration about his search for good quality workwear that also looked good.
“I was kind of getting a bit frustrated with work shorts and clothes I was wearing just not being very durable,” Bryce says.
“They just felt disposable.
“For the rugged environment that is the South Coast you need rugged clothes.
“But all the clothes that I was wearing would last me four weeks and then I’d have a hole in them and I’d basically just have to throw them out.”
Bryce says everything these days is too disposable and he was searching for something more durable and with less impact on the environment.
He said to Jess, “well, why don’t we make some workwear ourselves?”.
Jess started researching and realised no one was doing well-made, sustainable workwear or farmwear for everyday tradies, farmers and outdoor lovers.
“There is a big movement in people looking for a more fulfilling, grounding lifestyle,” Jess says.
“They are leaving their office jobs to get jobs on the tools.
“They were wearing Blundstones and Akubras but there was a gap in the market for workwear.
“So, we came up with the name ‘Ranger’ and the tagline, ‘The Outdoor People’.”
Jess said they wanted it to be a product you could wear on site, on the farm or in your work shed.
“That’s really what we created,” she says. We created Ranger, which is the first of its type.”
Jess and Bryce enjoy going surfing, horseriding, bushwalking and just being in the outside environment – it was important to them that the clothes reflected that lifestyle too.
“Clothes that you can wear to work, in the outdoors, but also wear down the street, at the pub or out in a restaurant, without looking out of place,” Jess says.
Since its launch in 2020 the brand has gone from strength to strength and Bryce says he is so happy with the design he rarely wears anything else.
“I guess we kind of based it on being able to wear it to work, but also wear it on the weekend,” he says.
“If you go for surfing, you can just throw your shirt on or your shorts. To be honest, I basically live in them. I don’t really have any other clothes.
“Bryce sleeps in it too I think,” Jess adds with a smile.
The clothes are made in India from certified GOTS organic cotton and the team is currently working on an Australian made range as well.
Ranger truly is a brand for people who value quality, sustainability and durability.
The label was right here born on Victoria’s south coast but is suitable for outdoor people everywhere.
Check them out at rangeroutdoor.com.au.