The Aussie fashion designers shaking up the liquor game, one gin at a time

Ask Maurice Terzini and Justin O'Shea how they met, and Terzini is characteristically straightforward: "We met after my first show."

O'Shea, on the other hand, can barely contain his manic glee – he launches into a detailed story about the Sydney fashion week in May of 2015 when Terzini launched his unisex Ten Pieces label with a show at his iconic venue Icebergs.

O'Shea describes arriving, and realising with delight that the show was taking place in the drained swimming pool. "Holy shit, he's doing the show in the motherf---ing pool!" he exclaims. "This is awesome!"

He loved the collection, which transcended gender and the boundary between simplicity and high fashion. "This is what fashion is supposed to be," he recalls thinking. And so he tracked Terzini down after the show and pumped all his high-wattage enthusiasm into a brief conversation.

"It was really a bit much," Terzini admits, smiling wryly. But they've been friends ever since.

The blurring between fashion and restaurants and bars. Really, it comes down to selling a lifestyle.

Maurice Terzini

Contrasting characters

There is a distinct yin and yang quality to Terzini and O'Shea. Terzini – the hospitality veteran who's responsible for Icebergs and also, more recently, the reimagining of the Dolphin Hotel in Sydney's Surry Hills – is reserved and intense, dressed in all black. He has the baring of a man who does not suffer fools. O'Shea, the kid from Western Australia who parlayed a standard retail job in Perth into an international career in fashion, radiates manic, playful energy. Dressed all in denim and covered in tattoos, he plays the talkative, exuberant foil to Terzini's understated cool.

The two friends recently joined forces to launch Goldy Gin, a spirit that – like much of what Terzini and O'Shea get themselves into – seems to sit in opposition of the trends of today, while somehow tapping directly into the zeitgeist. While most new gins are moving away from the traditional London style, looking to distinguish themselves with distinct botanicals and local production, Goldy is a straightforward gin. Distilled and bottled in London, it has a price point on par with classics like Bombay Sapphire. "It's just good gin," O'Shea says.

Touch of gold

As classic as the taste may be, the packaging is anything but. There is no monarch on this bottle. Drawing from both men's modern rock and roll aesthetic, the label is stark, vivid and blingy: black with large gold lettering spelling out GIN. "Goldy" doesn't even make an appearance on the front of the bottle, and in building the brand's main visual statement around the word "gin" it's as if they've taken ownership of the concept of gin itself.

This kind of bold branding is no surprise coming from these two. O'Shea famously turned couture Italian men's fashion house Brioni on its head when he was creative director there, in part by relaunching the classic brand with Metallica as models. O'Shea grew up in a tiny town in WA, the son of a miner, and managed to infiltrate the highest echelons of fashion through pure charm and a boatload of talent. His story is like a fairytale if fairytales were written for grown men.

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Self-made men

Terzini started his career in Melbourne, working at the legendary Black Cat cafe at the height of its scene-making influence. He's taken that spark – for newness and provocativeness and style – and carried it with him through the decades and some serious ups and downs. He worked at Mario's on Brunswick Street when it was revolutionising the idea of Italian food, of cafes, and of serious hospitality. From there he went on to open Caffe e Cucina in South Yarra, and then the Melbourne Wine Room, which was hugely influential on the city's dining scene.

In the 2000s, Terzini moved to Sydney and launched Icebergs. With its stunning views and Terzini's knack for creating irresistible vibe, Icebergs soon became the hottest table in town – to this day, it's your best bet for in Sydney for celebrity sightings. Stunts like Terzini's emptying of the pool for that fateful fashion show only served to bolster Icebergs' reputation as the type of place where anything could happen. Other restaurants followed, and soon Terzini was running a small empire.

But a costly split with business partner Robert Marchetti cost Terzini almost everything. Everything, that is, except Icebergs. For years he was back working the floor every night, rebuilding from what felt like scratch.

The selling

Today, that work has paid off. In 2016 he took over The Dolphin, transforming it from a classic pub to a much more modern operation. He runs four venues in Sydney, one in Bali, and there are rumours of projects in Melbourne and Los Angeles. Ten Pieces launched its fifth collection at this week's MBFWA in Sydney.

And now with Goldy, Terzini seems intent on diversifying even further. "We talk about it quite a lot, when it comes to everything I do," he says. "The blurring of lines – the blurring between pubs, restaurants and bars is going to be greater and greater. The blurring between fashion and restaurants and bars. Really, it comes down to selling a lifestyle."

If you're selling lifestyle, these two make appealing salesmen. While in Sydney (he's based in Europe) O'Shea is tooling around town in a Ferrari. Their lives seem to be part business and part party with very little distinction between the two. The blurring of the lines has never been so appealing.

Celebrity spirits

Casamigos Tequila

Casamigos was started by George Clooney and Rande Gerber (Cindy Crawford's husband) as the house-brand for their compound on Mexico's Baja peninsula. Soon they were producing so much tequila, they partnered with real estate mogul Mike Meldman and launched as a commercial brand. Last year, the men sold the company to Diagio for a staggering $1 billion. Clooney et al are still involved in the marketing (and drinking) of Casamigos.

Mansinthe

The story goes that on New Year's Eve 1999, Johnny Depp introduced Marylyn Manson to absinthe, and Manson never looked back. In 2007, he launched his own brand of absinthe, after years of testing and tasting. Mansinthe is produced in Switzerland, and is made traditionally, meaning no sugar is added, and it's naturally colored from its botanical ingredients.

Crystal Head Vodka

Founded by Dan Aykroyd and artist John Alexander in 2007, Crystal Head vodka is known for its striking clear glass skull-shaped bottle. The pair say they were inspired to become producers due to the lack of additive-free vodka on the market. It is manufactured at a distillery in Newfoundland, Canada.