William Zuill brand buckles up for success
The name “William Zuill” has special meaning for Australian James Arnold.
His full name is William James Zuill Arnold, and his Bermudian grandfather was the late William Sears Zuill.
So when it came to naming his new luxury belt business, “William Zuill” seemed perfect.
He and partner Sian Owen launched William Zuill out of their Sydney home in December.
“We started selling belts online right before Christmas,” Mr Arnold said. “I wanted to do it then, because I thought they would make excellent gifts. We probably sold about 100 belts. That was definitely better than we expected to do.”
William Zuill’s signature line is The Bermuda, a ribbon and leather belt inspired by Bermuda’s casual style. They also offer belts made entirely of Italian leather, woven belts and a more casual style.
Mr Arnold was born here, but moved to Australia with his Bermudian mother, Catherine Zuill, as a baby.
He and Ms Owen were inspired to start the business after a four-month visit to Bermuda a few years ago.
“That was where we really got to know Bermuda a bit more,” Mr Arnold said. “I got to share my love of the place with Sian and I got to know the people. It was over the summer and it was amazing although it was extremely hot. I noticed every man on the island sports the ribbon belt.”
He and his partner saw an opportunity for a “side hustle” in the ribbon belts which they hadn’t seen in Australia.
Ms Owen works in communications and has an interest in fashion, and Mr Zuill works full time in marketing.
“I always wanted to do something on my own,” he said.
They started brainstorming how they could introduce the ribbon belt to Australia.
Mr Arnold said there’d been a lot of focus on other accessories like bow ties, watches and socks, but belts seemed to be the forgotten accessory.
“We have always wanted to make the belt the hero accessory, not an afterthought, and be a brand committed to making great belts at an affordable price,” he said. “We also thought it would be a great opportunity to use Bermuda to inspire our branding.”
Growing up, when he told Australians he was born in Bermuda, most people said: ‘Oh, you mean the Bermuda Triangle’.
“What they know of Bermuda is that it’s a tropical island,” he said. “That’s about it. We saw it as an opportunity for us to tell a bit more about it.”
Mr Arnold said before starting William Zuill, he’d never given much thought to what he wore around his middle. They read every book they could find on belts, and extensively researched their competitors in Australia.
“Now I think we might know more about belts than anyone in Australia,” he laughed.
At the moment, their intention is to focus on the Sydney and Melbourne markets, but they wouldn’t rule out going international.
“I would love to be selling these in Bermuda,” he said. “They are online right now, but over the next period we will be looking at in store opportunities. If Bermuda sold them that would be amazing.”
Their plan is to add three more belts to The Bermuda line, in the coming months.
Mr Arnold said his family in Bermuda has been very supportive of his new business venture, offering ideas and advice.
His grandfather, William Zuill, an author, history and former editor of The Royal Gazette, died in October 2016.
Mr Arnold always admired Mr Zuill’s quirky sense of style and love for bow ties.
“I would love to be able to ask him what he thinks of the belts,” he said. “He always loved dressing up, and I think he would enjoy this side of it. I’m sure he would have some advice as well.”
Belts at William Zuill range from $89 to $119.
• For more information see williamzuill.com.au