Introducing fashion designer and business visionary Tom Wilson

Tom Wilson is a creative and ambitious young fashion entrepreneur pioneering his own independent clothing label from inside the walls of his Waroona home.

Driven to live a life more exciting than his former daily grind as a tradie, Tom turned his side hustle into a successful career and is now the founder and chief executive of Mossy Back.

At just 21 years old, Tom has overcome countless hurdles to chase his dream and now has a legion of fans from around the world keen to get their hands on his garments.

He is also working closely with a team of fellow Mandurah locals to create a film documenting his journey, as he continues to build his empire with his own two hands.

Tom is the next profile in the Mandurah Millennials on a Mission series, as we meet the young people from around the region helping to shape a new narrative.

The series aims to provide an insight into some of the fresh talent who have grown up in our great city, and are just getting started making a name for themselves.

Introducing Tommy Wilson

Tom jam packs so much into his schedule, it took us months to finally meet in person and have a chat.

Between working away, running his popular clothing business and growing his social media presence, as well as juggling a social life, I'm not sure where he even finds time to sleep.

But it was well worth the wait to sit down and meet the face behind a label so many of my friends were sporting about town.

Tom spreads such positive vibes and it's obvious from the moment we started chatting that he was a determined guy with a bright business mind.

I didn't know much about Tom's journey before we met and it was inspiring to learn of everything he had to overcome to make it to where he is today.

When I reflected on our interview, it felt like Tom embodied everything so many of us want to be.

Go getters. Dream chasers.

Often we can get so caught up in talking about what we'd love to do one day.

If we had the money, if we had the time.

Tom went out there and did it. Just like so many millennials I have profiled as part of this series have done and are doing.

Isn't that incredible? Almost as incredible as Tom's journey itself.

Read more:

Waroona is 'where I'll always stay'

Tom champions the town in which he grew up in, and the place he believes he'll live forever.

Born and bred in Waroona, Tom went to high school at Mandurah Catholic College and played footy for the Peel Thunder Development Squad.

But his heart belongs to his "small country town".

"Growing up was so good, just roaming the streets at your own will and that was safe to do," he said.

"We're on property out there so don't have any neighbours.

Me and my brother would just always go around to the local water holes, catching marron.

"We're surrounded by a lot of dams in Waroona and we had one ourselves, and the thing to do after school was to catch marron.

"Me and my brother would just always go around to the local water holes, catching marron."

This is an important part of the beginning of Tom's fashion label so we'll come back to the importance of this story later.

Disrupting the status quo

After school, Tom worked hard to finish his plumbing apprenticeship.

Like the rest of us, he was in the routine of his daily grind - up at 5 every morning to get ready for work and not pulling back into the driveway until 6 that night.

"I thought there must be something better," Tom said.

"There had to be something better than waking up and doing what I was doing every day."

So, armed with a desire to achieve big things, he set out to discover his dream.

His passion project.

Something that would set his soul on fire.

I asked Tom where the idea for a clothing brand began, whether it was a lifelong goal.

But he laughed and confessed he had no idea.

"I never had this vision," he said.

"I googled 'how to make money' one day and a clothing business came up on an ad.

"I've never been good at studying but I found myself reading and talking about retail all day and that was the turning point. I actually liked it."

It didn't take long to get up and running, and ,before Tom knew it, he had put in place the foundations to build a reputable local fashion label - all from within the walls of his Waroona home and all while working full time.

"I would start working on this late at night around 8pm and wouldn't finish til about midnight and then get up at 5am to do it all again the next day," he said.

"It was a nightmare at the start and pretty stressful for the first year or so because you don't know what you're up against.

"You feel like you're putting money on a tab and not getting anything back.

"There were definitely a few breaking points and times I questioned if it was worth it."

But in March 2019, Tom officially launched Mossy Back - a brand of good quality, affordable clothes that captures Tom's love for the great outdoors and his home town.

Creating Mossy Back

What about that name though hey?

Ever heard of a mossy back?

Tom said he gets asked that question. All. The. Time.

"So many people don't know that it's about the freshwater marron," he said.

Ah yes, the marrons! A defining memory of Tom's childhood growing up in Waroona.

"The bigger marrons get and as they grow older, they grow moss on their back," Tom added.

"Us boys and my brother especially used to say 'let's go catch the biggest mossy back' and it was always bragging rights whoever caught the biggest.

"That's really where the whole brand started from. It's such a unique name. I mean no one has ever named their clothing brand after a fresh water marron before.

"People even buy it and have no idea what it means and then they find out and I think they're comforted by the fact that it does mean something."

Influenced by brands like Quiksilver, The Mad Hueys and Sea Shepherd, Tom started on his designs but focused on maintaining his own personal flavour.

"I wanted to be different to them because everyone is already doing what they do," he said.

"I wanted to separate myself from that so all my ideas kind of come from trying to stick as true to Waroona as I can.

"I'm sticking to what we know, what we like, and trying to grab that audience rather than trying to prove anything else to people."

Tom got to work promoting his gear at local pop-up market stalls and annual shows like the Harvey and Waroona shows.

For the first six months, all of his orders were from Waroona before he started to crack the market.

Not only were orders coming in from all over the Peel region, but also across Australia, in Canada and Alaska.

From fishing shirts to sports bras, bathers, hoodies and everything in between - Mossy Back not only caters to peoples' every needs but also to every age.

The brand features pieces for babies, toddlers, children and adults.

"We're trying to dip our feet in everywhere and that is hard to do because we can't please everyone but we're trying," Tom said.

And he's also working hard to grow his social media following, which Tom said is the "new brick and mortar".

"It's a jungle out there and you don't really know what you're getting yourself into but social media is huge and, without it, I don't know how most businesses would survive these days," he said.

Overcoming personal tragedy

Tom was refreshingly open about his struggles with mental health over the years in our interview, which he said started even before he established Mossy Back.

"I've been through a lot growing up with different things and I have struggled with work and with my mental health," he said.

However, in 2019, just weeks after launching the brand, Tom's best mate Lachlan Hernaman passed away.

The 20-year-old Harvey Bulls player collapsed at football training in Harvey.

He was rushed by ambulance to Harvey Hospital, but was tragically pronounced dead less than two hours later.

Tom said the news shattered him.

I thought about folding it up for a bit and coming back to it later, but I had come so far and I didn't want to throw it aside.

"Lockie was my best mate and my first customer," he said.

"He really pushed me.

"Going through that, as well as a few personal issues at home while trying to balance everything was a huge task to undertake.

"I thought about folding it up for a bit and coming back to it later, but I had come so far and I didn't want to throw it aside

"I felt like handing it in would be a bit rude towards him, so I kept going."

Tom said he wouldn't have been able to keep going and build Mossy Back up to what it is today without the support of his friends, family and home town.

Photo: Supplied.

Photo: Supplied.

"It would be so hard to sit back and thank everyone because there's just too many," he said.

"I've been humbled by the support, especially from Waroona - people out there will buy the same shirt twice just to support me.

"I'm a one-man band but a lot of my mates will pick my clothes up for me when I can't or take photos in the gear for my Instagram.

"The blokes in Fremantle at Red Hot Design also help me out with the illustrations.

"I've got all the ideas in my head and I work as hard as I can to project them but if I can't, one of their designers will do it for me and they might even do it 12 times before I know it's right."

Read more:

Looking to the future

Late last year, Tom finally quit his plumbing job to focus on Mossy Back full-time.

It doesn't pay all the bills so he still does shut down work where he can, but Tom said it had given him the chance to "think it all through a lot more".

"We're not going anywhere anytime soon, we're just getting started," he said.

"We've got some big things planned this year but I'm not giving too much away."

One thing he did give away though is his plan to release a documentary on how the brand was built.

Tom and his close friend and Mandurah videographer Zac White are in the planning stages of the film, which they hope to submit to Australian Story.

"We want to put the Peel region, and where I come from in Waroona, on the map," Tom said.

"We want to document how we grew up, what the brand is about, what we want to do and how we want to help the community."

As for the brand, Tom has big dreams for Mossy Back and it's all about "going global".

"I'd love to hit Australia first and cement it here so people know what it's all about," he said.

"Then I'd like to travel with it and promote it.

"To be able to sit back and look back at the brand and it be so popular that people aren't even thinking about it anymore - everyone just wears it and no one talks about.

"That's where I want it to go."

'If your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough'

This is the motto Tom lives by.

He is always aiming higher, constantly striving for more.

I got so much out of chatting with Tom but if I had to take one thing away from our interview, it was his passion for encouraging everyone else to do the same.

Inspiring people not to settle for anything less in life than chasing your goals.

"If you put your mind to it, anything is possible and I can vouch for that," he said.

"I think I've been in a lot tougher positions than a lot of people who are probably thinking of doing it.

"I would definitely recommend getting out there and doing something with that hobby or passion because you never know and if it doesn't work, so what?"

I think if people aren't trying to knock it down, it isn't good enough.

Most importantly, he added that it was important not to let what other people think stop you.

"Don't let anyone judge what you're doing and turn any negativity into motivation," he said.

"Some people get knocked down by negativity but I use it as fuel, I love it.

"I think if people aren't trying to knock it down, it isn't good enough."

To check out more from Tom Wilson and Mossy Back clothing, visit the website or follow the Instagram page.

The next Mandurah Millennials on a Mission profile will delve deeper into the life of one of the Peel region's most dedicated volunteers, brightest minds and the latest winner of the Youth Volunteer of the Year award.