Tucked away in a new shopfront on the main strip of Port Elliot, South Australian surf label Yeo Haus is keeping youth culture alive on the Fleurieu's south coast.
Meet the kid building Byron Bay in Port Elliot
Yeo Haus owner and self-taught designer Ben Hewett throws open the door early one morning to let CityMag into his new shop at 49 The Strand, Port Elliot.
Ferns hang from iron bars above the windows of the white stone frontage. It’s a far cry from his former premises – a shed at Factory 9 business precinct on the town’s industrial outskirts – where he traded ad-hoc for three years.
49 The Strand, Port Elliot
Monday to Saturday: 10am-5pm
“I felt it was time to refresh,” Ben says, “and moving to the main street means we now have regular business hours and not just open for weekends and holidays.
“The new space has inspired me to go harder to build the brand.
“Yeo Haus has had a lot of love from Adelaide kids and people out here, as a little brand that they relate to and feel involved in.”
The shop’s front room houses threads, hats, sunnies and thongs. Further back, racks of wetsuits and surfboards are punctuated by a fireplace with mantle shrine dedicated to latter-day sun and sand deity, The Hoff.
A for sale 250cc café racer is the pièce de résistance on the floor. Bar stools and a couch not just for show.
“I’ve always wanted my shop to feel like a place to hang out,” Ben says, “and there is no better way to make people feel welcome than to let them take a seat and stop for a yarn.”
Ben is excited about his new line: Yeo Haus Hemp Wear, made in partnership with Adelaide-based business Hemp Clothing Australia. The fabric lasts well and sports the tag “wear to death” in line with Ben’s slow fashion ethos, which he says customers are opening up to in a bid to reduce waste.
He and fellow earth-conscious designer Troy Graves, who runs sustainably-made Cheer Wetsuits, also collect customers’ old wetties to recycle and reuse.
The common thread in Ben’s business and side projects is support for SA-based talent, keeping the glamour-hype around social media influencers and talent from the East Coast at arms length.
“You find a more organic flow when you operate with a local-first mindset,” Ben says, giving a generous nod to his family. “My mum comes to all my parties and my dad is a carpenter, which has come in handy.
“I’m also totally inspired by my grandma Faye Willis who used to run her own label,” he says. “She would critique my designs when I was starting out … (and) is a big part of who I am.
“Without them, none of this,” he glances around the shop, “would happen.”
A businessman who you’ll never catch without a hat on, Ben cuts an image removed from both the quintessential suit and surfer.
The event features an all-South Australian lineup, including Timberwolf and Zen Panda, as well as local food and wine, designed to inspire a sense of culture and connection among young people in the town.
“I wanted to do something for younger people in the region who feel they don’t have a huge amount of entertainment here,” he says. “This is an inclusive event and people of all ages (18+) from all places are welcome – festivals should celebrate diversity.”
Field Good Festival is a sold out event, but you can watch it all unfold via the event’s Instagram account.
His projects are driven by the same implacable energy that saw him quit uni after one semester of a business marketing degree. Yeo Haus was thus born at a sharehouse on Yeo Ave, Highgate.
Ben travelled to Shenzhen, in China, to source a small-scale manufacturer, then took his brand home to the beach, where it is now as much a fixture as it is an anomaly among the haberdashery, antiques and ice cream characteristic of seaside holiday towns.
Around the corner is a bakery that was established in the 1860s. The ocean is a stone’s throw.
The interview pauses as Ben helps a woman in a wheelchair through the doorway. Mates drop in to see if he wants a coffee. Three teenage girls come to visit Winifred Willis, his British bulldog, who is napping under the window on her retro couch (it belonged to a neighbour until Winifred cleverly chewed the cushion).
An ex-breeding dog rescued from a shelter, Winnie lives with Ben in the home attached to the shop and has inadvertently become a Yeo Haus mascot. Yeo Haus will launch a Winnie Wear clothing line, with five per cent of each sale going to the shelter she came from.
Ben also plans to stock the shop with his homemade market-style hot sauce, which was invented in a way that frankly sums him up.
“I wanted hot sauce so I made some hot sauce and it was good so I’m going to sell it,” he says. “I just think if you want something, do it, teach yourself.”