I once read that the reason Rupert Noffs wanted to get involved in the Ted Noffs Foundation (formerly known as the Wayside Foundation, started by Rupert's grandfather Ted Noffs in 1970) was because "no one knew about it". I originally came to know of Rupert through the Social Pages, always seeing his peppy face on a Sunday afternoon whilst flicking through the paper. I then got to know more about him further through mutual friends and social media (Instagram, Twitter and the like) and further via his shoe label (and partnership with brother Matt Noffs) Gideon Shoes. It's somewhat troubling that the last thing I attributed to Rupert Noffs is his involvement with the Ted Noffs Foundation, which is arguably his most notable work. Now I know we've come a way from that point because certainly a lot of people DO know about the Ted Noffs Foundation, but whats a little more education and appreciation? I had the privilege of chatting further to one of my favourite familiar faces about his charitable work, Gideon Shoes and dealing with social issues and other pressures.
B&B: Tell us about your involvement with the Ted Noffs Foundation.
RN: I started out when I was about 10, helping volunteer at the op shops - I loved it! I became friends with all the old lady volunteers. I really started to learn about business from a young age and, I guess, social enterprises. I loved hanging out with the young people at the Noffs Foundation. At first, I didn't want to work there full-time, but after talking to my dad endlessly about all the amazing work the foundation does for marginalized Aussie kids, how could I not get involved more? My whole family is involved. I now look after Development and Media for the Foundation and I'm the Creative Director of Gideon Shoes, our social enterprise. I'm based in New York City and currently working with Two Ten Footwear Foundation on some exciting new projects!
B&B: Apart from donating, how else can people help out or assist the Foundation?
RN: You can do anything your heart desires! If you're a musician, you can help out at our Street University in South West Sydney doing music workshops. If you're a blogger, teach the kids about social media! That's the great thing about the Street University - it's mainly vocational education courses, so anyone can get involved. You can also put on fundraising events for us. Online events are simple but so effective. We always love anyone's support!
B&B: What's one issue that you feel is often overlooked, or might not receive as much attention as others?
RN: We have so many dedicated staff working at Noffs. I may be out there in the media, but the real amazing heroes are the workers at Noffs who are with the young people 24/7; those who guide them through this difficult period in their lives. The therapists, the psychologists. I have so much respect for them. You watch this transformation in a young person's life who comes to Noffs. It's so amazing to witness.
B&B: What do you and Matt each contribute to Gideon Shoes? What are your strengths as a partnership?
RN: Matt was the one who came to me with the idea. He knew that I loved and had worked in fashion before. Matt is passionate about ethics and when I mean passionate, he can't sleep at night. He wants to make big changes in our world, what with sweatshops and what he calls "modern day slavery". I'm also very conscious of those things and I love design and fashion and communications so I want to get the word out there. [Matt] calls me with these ideas and then we get together and brainstorm. He says he hates fashion but I know he loves it! He just hates the way the industry works but I'm always telling him we can change that. We're an amazing team.
B&B: Are you planning on designing more than shoes? I noticed there were t-shirts for sale on the website.
RN: No, we're keeping it really simple. We do have a tee range - all organic Aussie made, fair-trade cotton tees designed by Daimon Downey. With the shoes, what you see is what you get! They're classic. We don't wanna mess with that.
B&B: I read that you were subject to bullying growing up. How do you deal with that sort of negativity now, considering your spot in the limelight?
RN: I say bring it! I was bullied for many years and always used to just walk away. That's what we're always told to do, right? One day, I stood up for myself at school and it changed my life. This dude, who was wearing a kilt (I went to The Scots College) yelled out to me "Hey, Noffs! You drama fag!" I yelled back "I'm not the one wearing a skirt!" He came running up to me, was an inch away from my face and said "What did you just say?" I repeated what I said and it was him who walked away. The next time I saw him, he gave me a high five. It was weird but it was then I realised that it's better to face bullies and be strong rather than walking away. We can all say nasty things, right? We can all throw punches. I don't think it's right to get physical but being bullied at school has taught me to never put up with crap like that. Bullies have hidden anger or scars. Usually something has happened to them and then they, without knowing, project that onto other people. I feel sorry for them. You don't know how many of my school bullies now try and add me on Facebook. One guy messaged me and apologised. I forgave him and asked how he was doing and he told me he was on the dole, married with kids and living in some dump. There I was at school thinking he was the King. It's funny how it all turns out.
B&B: What are some of the positives of being in the public eye?
RN: You can influence things and people for the better! Change people's minds. That's what I love doing.
B&B: You seem extremely comfortable in your own skin, and I take my hat off to you, considering the pressure on young people this day and age surrounding image/weight, sexuality and having a successful career. What advice would you offer to those struggling with any or all of the above?
RN: Just keep moving. I have bad days, bad months - we all do. We all get down and depressed. That's life! Try and turn the TV off. Close those cheap gossip mags. Get out, look up at the stars, go for a brisk walk...and breathe. Remember to breathe! Sometimes, we actually forget to breathe properly. Can you believe it? My grandma used to say "You gotta roll with the ponchos!"
B&B: If you could change one thing about the world, what would you do?
RN: Poverty. I wish everyone had a home. A warm blanket and something to eat. I'm repulsed by people like Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump. Imagine if they donated just $50 (!) a week to a community in Africa or Cambodia. Can you imagine?! That would do so much for those people in need. I can't stand greed. Political corruption. Stupid, pointless wars over who has the most oil. Haha! I'd like to change a lot of things but that's a whole other Q&A! :-)
Images via Social Diary and NSS Magazine
Images via Social Diary and NSS Magazine