The mini introductions I include in my 5 Minutes With features are usually completely superfluous but on this occasion, it might not be. Still I’ll keep things brief so you can crack on with the interesting part of the post, Matthew’s answers. OTHER Shop is an extremely interesting concept and possibly one of the few niche, independent, under-the-radar operations to have remained relatively so. Launched in 2012, the shop – or rather the fashion, art and design space – opened its doors in 2012 as the brainchild of Matthew Murphy and Kirk Beattie, the fellows behind cult hit label, b Store. Now even if you’re not super familiar with OTHER Shop, you’ll definitely have heard of bStore. Launched in 2001 as a footwear label and stockist/support of emerging labels. In the bat of an eyelid the brand was collaborating with the likes Liberty of London, ASOS and Mr Porter, growing at a rate of knots and gaining fashionable fans all over the globe by the bucketload. But, in 2012, Matthew and Kirke decided to close down bStore’s retail operation and set up a new venture that stayed truer to their original vision. A seriously, bloody, ballsy move I’m sure you’ll agree but judging by OTHER Shop’s ever expanding fan base and status as the coolest thing on Kingly Street, it was one that appears to be paying off big time. I caught up with Matthew to talk emerging designers, collaborations and plans for the future…
LPA: Talk me through a typical day in OTHER Shop HQ…
MM: We start the day, as everyone should with a good coffee! Then discuss content and calendar for the website, OTHER/man and woman production, store events and new exciting deliveries that have arrived from brands that week. We are a small team, which has adopted a family relationship, so there is plenty of banter between ‘work discussions’. There are always many meetings with new and established creative partners, regarding collaborations, projects and working with new designers. Creating features for our social networks is also an essential part of our day, I feel that communication of the life behind the scene’s of OTHER, is important to build our community, increase awareness and show that there are ‘real’ people making the decisions, with passion not spreadsheets
LPA: Your previous venture, bStore, swiftly became a cult hit and during the following decade grew to the extent that by your own account, it ended up far from the original vision. How have you taken the core aspects of bStore and translated them into OTHER Shop without risking history repeating itself?
Without question there are similarities between the businesses but fundamentally b store was always based around a flagship store to launch a wholesale brand. With OTHER/shop the focus is exploring new ways to present creative talent, whether through our own brand projects or supporting young emerging talents. OTHER brand is a key foundation for the business and a tool to enable us to venture into wholesale projects, through collaborations, pop ups and corners. We have just secured a small corner in Dover Street Market in London to launch our OTHER/man, through this type of initiative we can control the creative presentation and distribution of the brand and gives us the opportunity to increase awareness for both the brand and store. The fundamental aspect at the core of both businesses is that we strive to take risks and continue to move forward, we ensure that this continues to be part of the OTHER/shop vision
LPA: One of the things that’s so inspiring about OTHER Shop is the fact that you seek out, stock and support new design talent. Why is this so important to you? And how do you select creative’s to champion?
MM: We are always overwhelmed by the amount of talent there is and unfortunately due to the size of our business cannot support as many as we would love to. To continue to be a platform to launch new design talent, is key to both the success of our store and the element that continues to keep us inspired. Our physical store is based in central London amongst some of the best multi brand stores in the world, which results in their being many outlets for established brands, so as a small independent, we have to create an individual identity and reason’s to shop with us, working with small emerging brands not readily available through established stores, stands us apart. It is also key that we have a friendly, approachable and knowledgeable team that can convey the story behind these brands, which I am proud to say we are lucky enough to have. The selection is always difficult but we try to find a brand that adds something new to the offer, we try not to duplicate brands and select each one for their individuality, whether the designer has the seasonal trends within their collections is definitely not a factor in the selection.
LPA: Besides stocking a range of independent brands, OTHER also produces its own clothing and footwear line with a focus on locally sourced fabrics, quality and wardrobe staples as opposed to seasonal trend led collections. In terms of design and production, how does this work in comparison to other brands?
MM: Currently we produce the brand as and when we need it through the season, it helps to keep newness coming into the store and often works as a tool to add categories that we could not find from the brands we work with. It is important for us to manufacture in the UK for two reason’s, one being the desire to support UK manufacturing but also being a small team it enables us to be more reactionary to our customers needs producing key seasonal product, when the consumer actually needs it. This said because of the success of our own brand and the interest in collaborative projects, we need to bring the collection inline with seasons and expand the category offer, particularly the shoes. This will put us in a position to create relevant season awareness tools such us, collaborative film and look book projects with artists and to have a sample collection.
LPA: Who do you see as being the OTHER Shop customer?
MM: A true individual spirit in search of a new experience.
LPA: Collaborations seem to be central to the OTHER Shop ethos and during 2013 you worked with brands such as Lee and Grenson. How did these come about and why did you feel these labels were the right fit?
MM: For us collaborations only make sense when each party can bring something new to each other’s offer. We don’t have a denim offer in our collection and LEE have been producing denim for 125 years, so what better brand to work with? With Grenson the handmade British craftsmanship also meant a lot to us. With both brands we took signature elements and created what we felt was a new way of presenting the brand. A Collaboration has to talk to new audiences for both brands involved and that’s why we approached established brands, which meant we were able reach consumers that did not know of OTHER and the same for the brands.
LPA: What up-and-coming brands are you particularly excited about right now?
MM: New one’s that have or will become part of the OTHER/family are London based women’s designer REJINA PYO, her modern clean aesthetic has been a big success for SS14 and Priority of 10 FROM New York, who have created a sports influenced cool collection for women, Munich based men’s brand A KIND OF GUISE, has been welcomed by the OTHER/shop customers, accessory brands FAUX/real (jewellery) and LEVIT02 (unisex sandals) are both exciting additions. For next season we continue to support London based talent and have added AGI&SAM to our menswear offer, whose AW14 collection felt very sophisticated.
LPA: As well as being a retailer, OTHER Shop also showcases contemporary art and design. Tell me a little about the role of those aspects within the overall OTHER Shop brand…
MM: It has always been key that we are an outlet for creative talent not just fashion but design and art. Generally this stems from our community, the people we meet through the store that become friends and then we host an exhibition or friends who we admire their work, such as DARKROOM the interior and lifestyle brand/store who we partnered with on a pop Christmas store. All these projects and elements keep our business interesting and current.
LPA: Do you have any upcoming collaborations or expansion plans for OTHER Shop that you can share (even very vaguely) at this point?
MM: We have secured and planned to launch the dover street market OTHER/man corner this month in London and Tokyo, are in talks with LEE to be part of their 125 year anniversary celebrations and we are planning a very exciting project with one of our long standing brands, STEPHAN SCHNEIDER.
LPA: What advice would you give to an independent designer hoping to work with or be stocked by OTHER Shop?
MM: They don’t need advice from us, just to be true to their vision.
You can find OTHER Shop at 21 Kingly Street, Soho, London W1B 5QA or visit them online here.
Love Ella. X