Provider opened the doors of their first sneaker store back in 2004. With the addition of a stunning second location and the imminent release of their debut clothing range, not to mention their awesome first sneaker colab with New Balance, things are on the up and up and up for Melbourne’s finest. We tracked down proprietor Mr Chris Worsley to to find out why Melbourne reigns supreme.
Hey Chris, How’s Melbourne?
Melbourne is good, I love it here. The winter is over and summer is here, again. I can taste the beer already.
What’s your background in the shoe game?
I started working in retail at the age of 17 at one of Melbourne’s oldest, (in fact one of Australia’s oldest) skate stores, Melbourne Surf. Then I travelled to London where I worked at the Size? store on Kings Rd. It was an amazing store to work at when
I was there, as it was a bit before the internet/hype aspect of shoe collecting. I came home and got a job with Nike Australia and then decided to go into business with my partner Mel. One year of planning and begging later, we opened our first store in June 2004.
The new store in the city is as good as we’ve seen anywhere.
Was it hard to resist going with a tricky gimmick?
No, it was easy. Those kind of stores tend to date a little quickly. And most of the good gimmicks or concepts, I think, have already been executed well. We wanted something to complement the existing interior of the space, and showcase the products we would display. It was a dead space when we found it and it hadn’t been occupied for three to four years, there was crap everywhere. It had these brilliant tall ceilings and wooden floorboards. I gained the help of some friends and we took inspiration from modern 1950s designers (like Arne Jakobsen) to turn the space into something practical and clean. I’m really pleased with the result.
Do you get the love as an independent?
I think we get a lot of love from the local community. It’s cool that people prefer to buy from us, I think most people like the environment and the knowledgeable staff. Being independent has its advantages, everyone is involved in the buying and that way we have direct input from the customer coming through to the products we sell. I think people are aware of that. It’s cool though, we work with like-minded people who are our peers. And that’s the real winner. We work hard and then goof off. I mean it has to be fun or I wouldn’t do it.
Have you found the average consumer now knows a lot more about the brands and product?
The internet keeps everyone in the loop, people know a whole lot about what the companies that we deal with are producing, sometimes even before us. That’s why our staff need to be on top of their product knowledge. Product is king and knowledge is key. Most of the staff at our stores I met through collecting shoes and trading sneaks so they all have a pretty good grasp of what’s going on.
How do you see Melbourne in the overall global sneaker scene? Apart from Snkr Frkr being located here, what’s unique about our city in your opinion?
Melbourne is blessed with having access to product from Asia, the US and Europe. There are very few releases that don’t make it to these shores. It’s very rare you’ll see a queue or a line-up for product, which I think is awesome. You shouldn’t have to go through hell just to get a pair of kicks.
So tell us about your NB 1500 you have right there. The colours are fresh and the shoe is grouse! Why New Balance and why the 1500?
We have had a really long relationship with NB Australia and their product is amazing, and for that reason it was easy. It’s something I think every store buyer/owner wants to do at some point – take a shoe you love and put your twist on it. After a development trip to Hong Kong and some discussions with some of the staff there, we were able to get the project up and going, and a year later the shoe will come out. The 1500 is a classic, none better. The concept of the shoe is based around the phrase ‘breakin’ necks’, which is unique to sneaker heads. There are so many things you can do these days with this kind of product – tagging, printed boxes, numbering – but it’s not always needed. I just wanted to keep the idea simple.
Amen to that. The shoe also comes with some matching Wayfarers. How did you settle on the sunnies?
Originally the shoe was to come out in December, the middle of the Australian summer, so it made sense. Unfortunately the shoe has been pushed back and now is due out in March of 2008, but to be honest it’s still hot enough around then anyway.
What about matching thongs? You can have that tip for free!
Maybe a pair of budgie smugglers, or something. Maybe a limited edition Vegemite jar?
Provider is now more than just a store with the release of your new line of apparel. What freshness can we expect?
The label is a natural extension of the store. Not too serious, just based around the music and art that we are into. There’s also a great group of Australian labels that we’re showing in the store like AER, For The Homies, Schwipe, ComRaid and I feel we have something to contribute, so why not.
What’s been your favorite shoes this year?
The Huarache re-release by Nike. Possibly, one of my favourite shoes of all time. Or the Solebox – Toothpastes are real nice.