Leaders in Motorsport: David Mendelsohn on the evolution of One All Sports

David Mendelsohn, chief executive and founder of One All Sports, discusses the company's innovative partnerships within motorsport and some of his most memorable achievements working in the industry.

Leaders in Motorsport: David Mendelsohn on the evolution of One All Sports

How did you get into the industry?

I’m third generation manufacturing textiles and finished garments, primarily in sportswear.

When sitting around the dinner table with my parents they mostly talked about their day and activities, especially the business side of things from my father. So, it became second nature to me growing up.

I have a passion for most sports, so it’s clearly in my DNA - I was aiming to do something in the sporting arena professionally. I really wanted to become a sports manager, an agent like Jerry Maguire with Tom Cruise in the movie, but it didn’t end up that way.

Through a lot of trials and tribulations with my father’s previous business, I learnt over 50 years of how to do business going on trips with him and experiencing how trade and negotiations are done internationally. I’m fascinated to learn and embrace different cultures, the values and different perspectives.

In business, some people were just money oriented, for others it was a journey and experience, and various other people fell into it by default like a family business, which is very common here in Asia. I think it was only natural that I was going to follow in my father’s footsteps. I enjoyed travel and the risks that came with manufacturing, importing and exporting various commodities.

I worked during school holidays with my father at his factory in Sydney, Australia to learn how the business was done from the ground up. We had a print, embroidery, cutting, sewing production factory and warehouse with over 100 great people.

I proved myself to my father after successfully securing a license deal with SOCOG for the Sydney Olympics, as we had the only compact t-shirt machine in Australia, so we produced compacted t-shirts with a five colour print on them, and sold over one million pieces.

Can you tell us a little about One All Sports and some of the clients you work with? 

We are a B2B-B2C clothing brand, specialising in automobile apparel and teamwear. Oneallsports was conceived off the back of our manufacturer (OEM) garment factory Jingzhu Internatioal Co, hear in Danyang, China.

I joined forces with a Taiwanese partner back around the GFC crash 2008, which in hindsight worked favourably for us due to the buying budget pressures placed on all SME’s and MNC’s.

I secured the license for Automobili Lamborghini Spa, signing the contract with the previous CEO Stephan Winkelmann to supply its Super Trofeo 1.0 and 2.0 collections back in 2012.

In the past, factories here in China made to order, but times were changing and I saw an opportunity to diversify into a private label or licensing business. The vision was to foster better strategic partnerships with the brands directly and build the One All Sports brand at the same time as having two hats in our portfolio offerings. So I dipped my toe in the water and negotiated a Lamborghini contract and license for three years, and it did remarkable well.

This cemented our brand in the global market creating an instant reputation for the first client of One All Sports and kick-started our licencing business.

Our USP was having a turnkey solution from China offering design, sampling, ecommerce, CRM, fulfilment, pick and pack and drop shipping at very competitive prices. We controlled most of the supply chain as it was in-house, very few third parties, we extrapolated a lot of added costs - third party margins - which helped with offering better value chain to the wholesalers and RRP.

We couldn’t afford the high minimum guarantees for the front runners in Formula One, so I decided to get in the door, with low bearing fruit, securing a strategic deal with Manor - Marussia F1.

We worked with Bentley for a number of years on their lifestyle ranges, and when they announced they were coming back into motorsport, we were first in line to submit a proposal, team and replica wear for GT3. Our model was more than a proof of concept with Lamborghini, so Bentley was the second global brand to add into our portfolio, manging the APEC region for distribution and local dealers in China and global drop shipping.

When Formula E was conceived by Jean Todt and Alejandro Agag, back in 2011 I decided to take a risk at the very beginning of the rainbow with various teams including Dragon FE, Renault Edams FE, Virgin FE, Jaguar FE, Mahindra FE, offering mix between OEM and licensing.

Our exciting news this year in July was the announcement of One All Sports as the official teamwear kit sponsor and supplier for the Panasonic Jaguar Formula E team and Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy team.

One All Sport moved into Formula One through a deal with Marussia F1

How did you position yourself to pioneer Jaguar Land Rover in China?

A gentleman from Bentley moved back into his previous employment with Jaguar Land Rover and was directed by the CEO of the company to turn the merchandise and licensing business around. He was the commercial director for all hard goods and soft goods. We had a very strong alliance and success between our companies, so it was a perfect fit and win-win.

We were supplying OEM across all branded goods, motorsport, V8, heritage and lifestyle exceeding KPI’s across the board. A couple of years passed and I pitched the idea to reduce the carbon footprint by looking into the domestic market solution in China, so we came up with a model with local product consumer product: sizing, volumes, styling and local currency which improved the operation with tailoring the merchandising, vendor refill, distribution across China and Hong Kong for events, activations and corporate wardrobe on a EDI system.

How have you noticed the appetite for motorsport in China grow since the country started hosting a Formula One race?

With the new owners Liberty, they’ve got a different type of mandate for China. For the first time in history they will have a Shanghai office to manage interests locally. Formula E announced that there is going to be a race in the south of Chin, so that’s two races now if you add that to the race in Hong Kong for season five.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Indy or Nascar eventually have races in China as the interest in motorsport are growing year on year.

They have more drivers coming out of China such as Ma Qinghua and Ho-Pin Tung, which is more of a reason for the local governments, promotors, private sector and fans to get behind the industry, which is the key to its future success.

What makes your partnership with Formula E a good fit? Is it important to be associated with a message of innovation and sustainability?

Very important. I personally think every business should have a common interest of doing good for the environment through innovation or adopting sustainability. Whether it be plastics, reduction of carbon emission or offset with sustainable renewable products that they can integrate into their businesses, even if it’s for the sake of higher costs.

The logistics between races are still not eco-friendly yet, but the idea of bringing the race to the heart of the city, to promote EV is important as a showcase to the various automotive manufacturers and educate the sport.

For our small part, we are working with fabric mills on sustainable fabrics using recycled old fish nets from the sea and are making them into garments such as t-shirts, polos and various uniforms for hotels. All our products are packed in certified bio-degradable poly-bag’s, which break down in landfill over three years.

We’re also working with a fabric mills in China with yarn that is 100 per cent recycled PET.

This is why our partnership with teams in Formula E exist: to challenge our vendors and our own manufacturing capabilities with our partners for a better healthier planet in the future.

Mendelsohn with Virgin founder Richard Branson 

What would be your dream client or brand to work with?

It’s a difficult one to pinpoint, but for this year the highlight is Panasonic Jaguar Formula E and the Jaguar I-pace eTrophy. The driving force of innovation, sustainability and tech, the holistic machine behind them and the people that are at the forefront of each of their verticals are all passionate, visionaries and adopters of the EV and clean future, so it’s very exciting times ahead.

Can it become challenging operating in the industry you work in, especially in terms of distribution and scale?

Yes, in the past it was all about bricks and mortars with deep pockets, however, times are changing with the evolution of online stores. As most of the purchases are done via the mobile phone, we’ve identified consumers willing to wait for the products to be delivered door to door, hassle free. The sizing is not really a problem as the motorsport world of retail product specs don’t vary as much as fashion fits.

As for the wholesale business, working with companies like Tmall, JD.com and others like Amazon, eBay and Shopify they have the greatest advantage of warehousing, distribution costs but most importantly online traffic and ecosystems.

This industry is very reactive, which is why it’s a niche industry. Not many factories can manage the tailor services, product specs and constant changes of sponsors or owners changing between races. For example, Sahara Force India changed owners and name to Racing Point Force India during this season.

The norm of basic CMT is now produced in lower cost countries like Bangladesh, that have duty free incentives to those countries in the west.

For us, our USP is the versatile production, value add, such as personalisation, driver’s sponsors, driver’s tailor fits, management bespoke styles, special yarn treatment functions for engineers in the garage, travel wear, so it’s quite demanding across the spectrum but rewarding.

What is it that drives you to keep going in life & business?

I love what I do. It’s not about the money. I’m now doing sponsorships which are seven figures and you never know the bottom line at the end of a contract term as it’s hard to predict sales or circumstances in business down the road, but that’s the thrill for me: the unknown and roll of the dice.

I still have more goals to achieve and dreams to conquer. I’m still learning and only at the starting line. If I’m anything like my father, he worked until his dying days, never gave in until he won!