Billabong (real name Billabong International Limited) started out as a surfing apparel company. Today the group includes brands such as Von Zipper, Nixon, West 49, and Element. Billabong was founded in 1973 in Queensland, Australia by Gordon and Rena Merchant. The name comes from the Wiradjuri word bilaban for creeks that only run during the rainy season.
In the beginning, Merchant wanted to design and sell boardshorts for surfing. So he decided to sell his house and buy a small local surfing boutique. It didn’t take long for surfers to notice that the shorts were different from others on the market and were exceptionally durable (thanks to the triple-stitching technique). Soon Billabong began sponsoring major sport events, which increased the brand’s success with surf fans. It was an example of word of mouth working exceptionally well!
Building on his success in Oceania, Merchant decided to push the business forward in the 1980s by exporting internationally. Today shorts with the Billabong label are available around the world, and licenses have been granted in New Zealand, South Africa, and even Japan.
Currently one of the biggest brands in the sector, Billabong is also a fashion favourite with the general public thanks to an extensive retail network.