Within the space of two years Melbourne boutique Up There have carved a niche for themselves as purveyors of the finer things in life. With an impressive list of brands under their wing including Yuketen, Converse First String, Norse Projects, Bedwin and Deluxe, the Up There Crew have an eye for impeccable craftsmanship and timeless quality. With the Ronnie Fieg Steel Blue 999s dropping instore today, we caught up with Brendan and James to find out more about a store that's definitely doing retail the right way.
How would you describe Up There?
Brendan: The store's pretty much a reflection of what we're liking at the time. It's menswear… only mens, we don't mess with any women's stuff. It's footwear, clothing, accessories and lifestyle products such as chairs, books, cups and saucers. Whatever we sort of take a fancy to.
James: There's no strict genre or anything that we try and stick to. Just random stuff we like that no one else in Melbourne has.
You survived the first year or two. I guess you've learned a lot about business! Would you say its turned out how you expected?
B: We kinda knew to an extent what to expect, but until you really do it, you don't have a clear indication of whats going to happen. Things have changed, brands have changed, customers have changed but we're still going strong.
J: When you have a business all you want is more and you're always striving for more and to do something better. It is our first business, so we still learn stuff everyday which is always fun.
And how hard is it to find products and brands that are exclusive?
B: It obviously depends on what products and brands you're chasing. For us it's our job and it kinda comes naturally.
J: Every morning we have the Google reader out with 20 odd blogs and we just scan through them. We've done that forever… Searching for stuff we don't know about, that we'd be interested in.
B: We've all travelled around the globe, so that's a big source of inspiration. And customers… we got walking advertisements of brands and style coming through the door everyday, so we take a lot of inspiration from them as well.
Are you finding that kids are still happy to be investing in premium products? Does cheap and cheerful still have a place at Up There?
J: The way we started, we couldn't afford expensive clothes and we didn't know a lot about, so we got the cheaper option and got educated from there. You get young kids coming in and buying Norse Project shirts – stuff which is still awesome quality but at a slightly cheaper price point. They keep coming back to the store and they slowly get onto other brands that we have and start getting educated on why they're that price. They get sucked into the culture of menswear and our kinda fashion and stuff. It's not fast fashion or anything like that... none of that Zara or H&M or Topman stuff.
B: It depends how you use the word 'cheap'. Cheap in price point doesn't necessarily equate to cheap and quality. So that's something we strive for – the best value for money. It has to have a certain quality to make it in the door.
J: It works the same with expensive big name brands. You could spend $2000 on a pair of shoes, but if we know that they're really only worth $800 we'll get a brand that represents the same quality for a better price.
B: Just because of a name or a price point doesn't mean your get a free ride. You have to have quality.
Your the only store in Melbourne to drop the Ronnie Fieg New Balance 999, are you digging his take on that model?
B: Oh definitely, Ronnie's been in the industry for a while and he's done a lot of good shoes. It's a great shoe, and we're big New Balance fans. It's an interpretation of his favourite New Balance, the 1300 CL, and it's come out real nice.
From a retailer's point of view, what has Ronnie done to gain such a highly respected following?
B: He's stuck with what he's liked and loved and he's improved on that vision.
J: But i think it's just that mentality of knowing what you love and sticking with it and improving your skills.
B: His store motto is 'Just Us' and look, its kinda similar to what we do. We're not necessarily preaching to the masses, we're doing our thing, just like he's doing his thing and I think people respect that.
Do you think retro runners are back? Its been all about Vans for a long time now!
B: New Balance has been making quality runners for decades and they're just as good in every way as they were 20-30 years ago. Sneaker Freaker have done their Saucony, Ronnie's doing New Balance stuff, all running silhouettes, so in a way it's definitely back, but we don't necessarily believe that it went anywhere. Even Converse have got a couple of running silhouettes coming out later in the year that they have collaborated with Missoni on, so we'll have those in store sometime between now and Christmas. Yeah, you could say its back, definitely.
J: There was like a massive phase of just dope shoes dropping all the time probably between 05 and 08, then after there was a bit of a dry spell of quality shoes and its definitely picked up in the recent couple of years, which is pretty cool. Hopefully it will always be around.
What's next for you guys? A new store? New location? Colab sneakers?
J: Oh colab would be awesome!
B: Yeah lots of things are happening, obviously we're still young, not even two years old yet. Converse First String stuff, some great UK and US New Balance has us really excited for the rest of this year and into next year, and yeah, we're always looking for the possibility of expansion. There's a few possibilities for collaboration that are in the works, so you gonna just have to keep following us, the website, the blog and Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and all that sort of shit.
Last Question. Can you tell us a joke?
J: (Laughs) That's a good question.
B: Can we look one up on the computer? We're not really funny guys. In all the interviews i've done over the years that's the one question I can't answer. I just wanna be a smartass and say 'why did the chicken cross the road?', but that's just not any good is it? Hang on I got one!
Thank you to Bede McCartney for the interview. No thanks to Brendan for the joke.