Photos: Jason Paparoulas / Up There
Up There's shop name is purely coincidental: the partners came up with the store name before settling on their first location in downtown Melbourne which happens to be on the second floor. But when you walk down a small street and go up a flight of stairs to arrive at the store, you can't help but feel that you've found something secret and special - and that's exactly what Up There offers: access to brands and products that were previously unavailable down under. We had a chance to visit them in 2013 through a sponsored trip to Australia via Mini Cooper and had a great time reconnecting. Since then, Up There has opened up two new locations to help serve their growing local and international clientele; their hard work over the years has clearly paid off. We linked up with founding partner Brendan Mitchell to learn more about their journey.
Tell us about your prior job experience that helped pave the way for you and your partners to open Up There five years ago.
Before we even thought about opening Up There, James and I were working in the industry. I was working in a local sneaker store and James was working for the Australian agent that handles Reebok & Lacoste. Jason was studying photography and also working as a freelancer on the side.
Since 2010, Up There has opened three stores: two are steps apart in Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD) and the third is your newest shop in South Melbourne - the one that is photographed here. What spurred the decision to open in these locations? How has the response been?
The city was a logical choice for us before opening our first store, as it has a large mass of people coming and going daily. All walks of life visit the city, from workers to shoppers to tourists. Melbourne CBD has good public transport systems which all pass through the city. Taking all those into the equation it seemed like a logical place to start. Our first store is tucked away up on a Level 1 of a laneway in the CBD. This is great for us keeping costs down and gives people a destination to search our for the specific products we sell. Four years later (2014) we opened a second store in the CDB. This one, however, is down on street level on a busy shopping strip. We decided to expand to a second CBD to push our products to a larger shopping clientele, people who wouldn’t necessarily know and search our of products, but head to certain streets in the city to shop. This shop helps us reach a much larger ‘walk though’ population and gives us an outlet to showcase a small portion of what Up There is about.
As far as our South Melbourne location goes, it's just a dope part of town. It has a great market, some of the best food and drink around. It’s just out of the city and just has a great fun and exciting atmosphere. Our space is pretty sweet too. If you ask us, it’s the best location on the street. We just had a bit of fun with the fitout and tried to keep it fairly minimal. We prefer to let our product do the talking, so there is no need for fancy fixtures and fittings. The highlight of the fitout for me is the clothing rail. It starts in the front room and runs continually through each of the three rooms and finishes at the backdoor. No breaks. It’s pretty cool.
What are some challenges unique to the Australian market that Up There has had to battle?
There are a number of unique challenges that we face in Australia. A few of the more obvious ones are the fluctuation of currency, smaller population and opposite season to the northern hemisphere. Once we come to terms and adapt different plans to accommodate those issues the best way possible (and it is a constant adaptation on planning) we look at the costs of business. High wage costs and high rental costs are the two biggest issues in that arena. Lastly is being competitive with the bigger international online shops. Australians are some of the most prolific online shoppers in the world, so giving people a reason to shop locally and in store is always at the top of our ‘To Do’ list.
This past season you debuted an in-house label that’s fully manufactured in Japan. After years of working to bring your favorite brands into Australia, what were some things you were looking to achieve with the inaugural “Up There” collection?
This is a great question and something we get asked a lot and their is a number of reasons that we did what we did. A funny story for you guys is that we actually started working on this label before we thought about doing the stores. This is going back six or seven years. Like a number of great ideas, it never got off the ground properly, but also never left the back of our minds, so it’s great to finally be able to offer it to our customers.
Some of the thoughts that have gone into the collection are also part of the answer to some of the challenges I mentioned before. Being able to design and manufacture garments specific to our Australian season and climate is a big things for us and helps us keep a balance in store. It also gives us a way to control pricing and product flow, which can both be difficult when you work solely with other peoples timelines. We also wanted to have a range of product that really represented us. Not saying that the brands we sell don’t do that already, because they do, it's just an extension of those thoughts and ideas.
What are some of your favorite small businesses in both neighborhoods that you like to support?
I also love this question! Locally we have a number of spots that we frequent. For food and coffee we love Corner & Bench and Sun Moth (which is where we shot the look book for our first range), and also Giddiup which is next door to our South Melbourne spot. The Standing Room do some great coffee too. The best burgers in town come from our friends at The Grand Trailer Park Taverna. To watch sports we got to this pretty dingy pub in Burnley called The Rising Sun, man I love that place! I think the best men's shoe store in Australia is Double Monk, they sell some of the best mens dress shoes in the world and their shop wouldn’t be out of place in New York or London.
Level 1, 15 McKillop St
Melbourne VIC 3000
208 Little Collins St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
275 Coventry St
South Melbourne, VIC 3205
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