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Interview: Talking Shop With 108Warehouse Ahead Of Our Collins St Collab

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Interview: Talking Shop With 108Warehouse Ahead Of Our Collins St Collab

Friday 27 – Sunday 29 October, find a curation of second-hand and exclusive 108Warehouse items at a collaborative pop-up in our flagship Collins Street store.

What is 108Warehouse? At a glance: a brand, a retailer, a purveyor of select second-hand Japanese brands, a coffee-roaster, a collaborator, and a community led by a couple of self-proclaimed nerds.

If it’s your first time visiting the store, you’d be forgiven for missing your mark. A few steps either side of its unassuming single door entrance leading up an unremarkable staircase, lie a florist and a Filipino grocery store/eatery. About 20 minutes from Sydney CBD, and where most of the similar first-level commercial leases are weirdly specific legal and financial services, it’s not exactly where you’d expect to find a select store with Needles, Comme Des Garçons and Porter-Yoshida & Co on its racks. But at 1/213 Marrickville Road, that’s exactly where you’ll find 108Warehouse.

The 108 team is fresh home from a Japan trip where they held a brand-first international pop-up, a continuance of their ongoing collaboration with homegrown hardcore brand Speed. They’re not open until the end of the week, but they graciously invite us up to the store on their first day back to share stories and insights on the 108Warehouse journey so far and what’s to come– starting with a certain Harrolds collab.

Everyone has to wear clothes but a lot of what makes fashion and clothing interesting is the context behind it. The context is the culture.

The bustling sounds of Marrickville’s heartbeat below are softened in a haven of Japanese denim, designer pieces, playful homewares and publications. Incense is burning. It always is. A cup of 108 Coffee is promptly offered and very warmly received. The racks are flush, and an ever-growing assortment of select brands complement the constantly evolving second-hand offering. After a little chit chat, we get into it. Read on for our conversation with 108Warehouse on starting a brand with your friends, second-hand curations, collaborations and more.

Thanks for doing this. I was hoping for starters that you could just introduce yourselves and 108Warehouse.

So we are Jacinto, Edwin and Edward and we are the founders of 108Warehouse. We started out in 2019 as an online retail platform curating used and vintage pieces from legacy Japanese brands with a focus on wearability and longevity. That evolved pretty quickly and today in store you’ll find homewares, publications, select local and international labels, locally roasted coffee through our 108 Coffee Stand project, and our growing in-house brand. In the early days, we were all just doing everything but as we grew we started to specialise in things we wanted to do and took a role that we’re more active in.

Currently, Jacinto takes care of most of the creative, graphics and photography; Edwin sources our vintage and second-hand items and helps with buying for our other brands; and Edward looks after admin, finances and the organisation of operations. We all still do a bit of everything that’s needed but we’ve grown into the roles as the business has grown. It’s changed a lot. Like, Jacinto didn’t know how to use Photoshop when we started! He’s self taught. And we all used to do the buying together. We had this spreadsheet where we’d add in items and then we’d all have to approve them before we bought it– now Edwin just takes care of that. It’s way better now.

That’s cool. There’s a lot of trust that’s involved in letting go of things and giving each other room to grow.

Heaps of trust [laughs].

Some of the biggest influences for us are from Urahara brands, the early 90s, Jun Takahashi, Nigo, Fujiwara

It helps when you’re so close though! You already have that relationship and understanding. How long have you guys known each other, and how did your friendship evolve into 108Warehouse in its earliest form?

We started hanging out around 2016. Edward and Jacinto met in passing like two years before that in their first year of uni but never really talked [laughs]. It was way later that we became good friends because they had an elective, a film class, together. Jacinto was also the only person who lived out of home so we just started hanging out at his. We hung out a lot that year. We saw each other like everyday or every other day. We would talk about clothes a lot because we were all buying and selling a lot of second-hand stuff online. Facebook groups like Shop and Swap and Underground Society were big then, and we were getting lots of stuff on Grailed as well.

We were all into crazy stuff at that time. too. Like, so much Rick Owens and Undercover [laughs]. When we first started hanging out with Jacinto he only wore all black, Rick everything. Compared to what we wear now, it was insane.

That’s funny and definitely a sign of the times. Your personal styles and the 108 brand identity are obviously intertwined and I think it’s really significant that you started out offering second hand pieces from labels like Comme Des Garcons and Nepenthes brands. How were you introduced to those brands and what informed your appreciation for them?

The big turning point for us was at the start of 2017 when we went to Japan together. That was when we fully discovered thrifting. Not just going through random vintage stuff but going to stores and seeing second-hand designer stuff and old Tokyo streetwear. You couldn’t really get that in Australia at that point. If you wanted to wear those high end brands the retail [price] was really expensive. But we went to Tokyo and it was so accessible. You’d go into second-hand stores and they’d have all these brands that we like. They’d have Comme and Needles on the racks at way more affordable prices, which I think looking back on really inspired us.

Pull up anywhere, they’ve got Commes in good sizes, good condition, good prices. A BAPE tee was like $20! It was crazy. That trip changed our perspective on everything. 108 didn’t start straight after that but that was a big shift in what we were interested in, how we approached fashion and how we dressed.

So you can’t see those brands in Aus, and if you can, you can’t really afford to buy them. How does that lead to you guys starting your own thing?

When we first started, we had no plan and no idea how big it was going to get. We just needed to offload clothes that we had [laughs]. Facebook groups were dying, there were platform issues with Facebook pulling posts down or needing approvals and stuff. We thought about doing an Instagram account, but Jacinto was like, “I can make a website”. We thought of a name and we went from there.

Around that time, [other stores] were starting to pop up. There were a bunch of shops and archival stores around Europe and America that were doing a similar kind of thing. There was kind of no middle ground though. A lot of the stores were archive pages with really expensive, old, rare pieces, but there wasn’t a middle ground where people and stores were selling those specific brands we liked at affordable prices.

Plus, we’re nerds, but we’re not collectors. Do you know what I mean? Like, we love details but we’re not wearing the craziest shit. We want stuff that’s wearable. A lot of the things we buy and curate are what we liked buying when we were in Japan on those first few trips. Like, oh, some black trousers that I actually need and it’s from a really sick brand AND it’s only $120. Plus, it’s so exciting because you don’t know what you’re going to see when you get to the shop.

That’s a huge part of it, right? Thrill of the chase is part of the experience. The 108 experience has evolved to include homewares and coffee and your own brand, but in your own words, how different is the business now from that very early vision of 108Warehouse?

In the early days, the idea wasn’t fully developed yet. We were just doing it. And heaps of what 108 is now came later. Even from the beginning though, integrating the lifestyle element was important to us because at the end of the day, it’s just clothes. Everyone has to wear clothes but a lot of what makes fashion and clothing interesting is the context behind it. The context is the culture.

Some of the biggest influences for us are from Urahara brands, the early 90s, Jun Takahashi, Nigo, Fujiwara. Fujiwara was a huge catalyst for culture in Japan. He went to the UK in the early 80s to work for Vivienne Westwood and he brought back all these influences. There’s so many aspects of culture that we love that were influenced by Japan that create this whole package. It’s not just clothes.

The coffee itself expanded because of Jacinto’s own knowledge growing as a coffee roaster. Homewares and things we appreciate in our own lives with Covid and being at home now, I think people have more interest in that now. And our audience has grown with us. Everyone’s being influenced by new and different things.

Definitely. What are some of the pieces or brands that you guys are excited about right now?

Outside of our second-hand stuff, we’re really excited about Army Twill which is a new brand we just brought on from Japan. We went and saw them when we were over there. That was a really cool experience because they’re a little bit older than us and that was the most traditional Japanese meeting we had. We walked in the door and they didn’t shake our hands or anything. We walked in and then we all lined up and exchanged business cards one by one. It was crazy. They showed us the new collection and that’s really exciting. It’s all signature cuts and very classic and super wearable.

If you were to pick out a few moments – and maybe they didn’t feel that pivotal at the time – but what are some of the moments that you look back on now as milestones on the 108 journey so far?

The first big one for us was when we had the chance to do a pop-up with Motorik on Oxford St because up until that point a physical retail space was just a pipedream, but we thought, ‘Why not? Let’s do it’. The first nine months in that space taught us so much. We learned that we sell way more in person than we do online. Which made us think maybe we could do this on our own and find our own space. It also taught us what we needed to be able to run a retail space, and how to make this [our own store] our home. The recent Japan trip was a major one, too. It gave us a lot of confidence that people internationally actually care about our brand.

That’s the perfect segue. I had actually scripted a bit about big moments and wanted to ask about the Japan trip you’ve just come home from. It looked like a lot of work and a lot of play, but how was the trip and how was the pop-up?

As soon as we landed, we went straight to meet up with a friend and shoot the campaign for the collaboration we were doing over there with Speed and Killjoy. I feel like we just got into it and worked straight for a week, and then had a few days to chill, and then we had to come home. It was really good though and it was a really big moment for us to go and see those OG influences again. There’s a lot of retail stores there that we’re inspired by, so to go and see them and see what’s going on really opened our eyes again.

And then the pop-up was amazing. We got to meet people from overseas with shared interests. The language barrier was real just in not being able to greet people in the same way we can at home, but there are ways to work around it and the experience was really special.

It was also so cool seeing the hardcore audience and everyone showing up for them [Speed]. It was such a privilege to see our friends from Sydney doing cool things internationally and be able to lift each other up. Even the idea of doing something like that in another country with your friends from home feels crazy.

And no doubt there was a bit of shopping involved. What caught your eye over there? 

[laughs] Always. Shopping is awesome. We brought home too many things. A lot of what we did this time around though was make trips out to other select stores like ours in Tokyo.

So we’d make trips out to stores and see what they’re doing, what they’re about, which brands they’re into and it was a lot more of retail purchases rather than thrifting.

Aside from picking up pieces, what did you get from that?

It’s crazy to see how much care these individual brands and individual stores have there. It’s not necessarily always  about reaching a financial goal maybe, but it [the brand] is so strong in terms of what they want to do and how they want to present it. Brands and stores there make the best product and experience they possibly can and they won’t accept anything less. And then the price point is still so good even after they put the craziest amount of effort into a garment or item. And every store has a really nice fit out that’s completely thought out. It’s so different to what we’ve seen everywhere else.

Some of the people running shops, even though they are a little bit older or a different demographic, they really seem to have an understanding for and want to mentor younger guys. That’s building everything up. Because of that, there are so many stores and so many people doing things.

A sense of community and family feels really central to the 108 ethos and experience. Where does that come from? Why is that community aspect so important to you and what you’re building with 108Warehouse?

Shopping in Sydney sometimes hasn’t felt that welcoming for us. We wanted to create a space that’s super inclusive with a low barrier to entry. You can come in and get some cool clothes without having to be too intimidated or worried about anything and not feel pressure to look or dress or spend a certain way. You don’t have to come here and break your wallet [laughs].

Also, because our space is in Marrickville and it’s not in an area where other shops exist, we really appreciate it. People with a common interest are coming out of their way and making the effort, and we’ve made heaps of friends from relationships that started out as our customers because we have common interests. We really hoped when we started that we’d meet like minded people who shared interests and values and that’s a huge part of what this is about for us.

Over the last few years we’ve 108 seen collabs with very different cultural references, from cult favourite sandwich maker Sandoitchi, to internationally known but still kinda underground hardcore band Speed, and more. What makes a great collaboration?

Trust, first of all. But we’ve also always collaborated with people that we like and admire and think are doing cool things. We want to work with someone because we like what they do, so we’re not going to tell them to do things in a different way. We trust that what they do and what we can do together is going to be great. We want them to have fun with it, because we think a collaboration should be fun! And then it has to be authentic and genuine. That’s the focus.

Across those different areas of interest, how do collaborations come about?

Every situation is different but it’s always been through friendship. The Sandoitchi one happened because we used to eat there all the time! It was the only place to eat on Oxford St [laughs].

That actually worked out really well because customers would come and see us and then ask us where to eat or get a coffee or whatever and we’d send them across to Sandoitchi. That was our first collaboration and as good as it was, that was a struggle.

What were some of the growing pains and lessons from that experience?

Honestly, we did not know how to make graphics [laughs]. That was a bit beyond us at that point. In the end it came out alright, but there’s definitely a few things we could have done differently. The biggest thing was that they [Sandoitchi owners] really trusted us. Every time we’ve done something we’ve learned so much, because every part of the process that’s been 108’s first time has also literally been our first time doing it. They just wanted us to go for it. So we did.

And then the reason we’re doing this: You’ve got the Harrolds pop-up coming up. What’s your relationship with Harrolds been up to this point and what are you most excited for coming into the collab?

It’s pretty crazy. Over the years that we’ve been going to Harrolds, this isn’t an opportunity we ever thought could be possible. Like, Harrolds is so aspirational and unique in Australia because it offers brands and pieces you literally can’t see anywhere else. Brands like Commes Des Garcons Homme Plus, you can only see at Harrolds. For a long time that’s been our only way to see certain collections in person.

And then honestly, we’re really excited about meeting people at the pop-up, spending time in-store and just seeing our 108 in-line stuff in that space. Harrolds will be our first official stockist so it’s the first time you can get the 108Warehouse brand outside of our store, which we’re super excited about. It’s also our first time working in a high-end environment so that makes us want to push better products and elevate ourselves. We’re really hoping their customers like our brand and curation! We’re super excited, we’re really appreciative of the opportunity and it should be a lot of fun.

What are you bringing down?

About 150 second-hand items. Second-hand Yohji, Comme, and stuff like that. And  different stuff over the three days which is really exciting and means you can come in across the weekend and see different things. We’ve got a good mix of men’s and women’s pieces as well as unisex.

Harrolds is also launching our 108Warehouse summer collection at the event in Melbourne and on their website. So they’ll be available first at Harrolds that weekend alongside a special piece for the collaboration, a Harrolds-exclusive 108 cap. It’s mossy oak camo, not real tree camo.

An important distinction.

It actually is! We wanted to go with something fun and playful. Luxury can be so serious at times, the stereotype being all black everything, and a camo cap in Harrolds is such a fun vibe. As we’ve got older, we’ve become more willing to play around with colour and prints.

As a retailer getting select brands, we really want to continue bringing on brands that fit into our identity, but also just cool things that we like from Australia and overseas.

Is getting down there something you’ve been thinking about for a while?

We’ve been thinking about coming to Melbourne for the longest time! We’ve always thought that a lot of our items would make more sense in Melbourne and we get heaps of customers from Melbourne. We see that in our online sales but also through conversations we have in store. The craziest thing is that a few days before this opportunity came up, we were looking at spaces in Melbourne to do a pop up! The fact Harrolds will be carrying the 108 inline brand going forward is huge too. It’s the perfect way to introduce 108 to Melbourne.

It’s interesting that you think some of your products make more sense in Melbourne. What do you mean by that?

The way people dress can be a bit more expressive and not necessarily afraid to spend money on themselves and shop. Maybe because the rent is a bit cheaper [laughs]? But also, it’s colder there for longer so people have more opportunity to get fitted and layer.

How do you see luxury space changing at the moment?

The high-low vibe for sure. Harrolds is doing it too, mixing high-end brands with kinda lower entry brands. Referencing older things as well. A lot of the best ideas in the world have already been had and a lot of the best stuff that’s coming out now is referencing moments from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Then there’s vintage and older pieces have become some of the most highly sought after.

People are also smarter and understand how to shop better than they probably used to. Like, people aren’t as scared to buy stuff second-hand and online as they were. It’s so common these days. It’s cool that shopping second-hand gives people an opportunity to break into some of those higher-end brands they can’t get otherwise.

The 108 brand itself is growing now as well as the profile of the business as a select retailer. How do you guys feel about navigating the 108 brand-retailer balance? Where’s the sweet spot? 

The goal for us over the next couple of years is to get the inline brand to compliment the rest of our offering in store. As a retailer getting select brands, we really want to continue bringing on brands that fit into our identity, but also just cool things that we like from Australia and overseas. With the 108 brand we just want to keep evolving it. We’re trying to make staple everyday items that are well-made, fun and expressive. So people can just throw on a hoodie and it will feel good to them. We want the brand to have a good enough association that if you saw someone wearing a 108 hoodie you instantly know you’ve got common ground.

And the name… I should have definitely asked this at the beginning and maybe I’ll backfill it or maybe we’ll just leave it as a nice little outro, but where does the name 108Warehouse come from?

[laughs] It comes from where Jacinto lives! He lives at number 108 something street, a suburb in Sydney. That’s where Jacinto moved after the Glebe house we always used to hang out in. We were always there. It felt right as a reference for us and then the garage was also our first warehouse where we did shoots and kept our stock until we got an actual space.

And finally, tell us what we can look forward to from 108Warehouse in the not-too distant future.

New brands. We can’t say too much yet but we also have another activation that’s in the works for the first half of next year. We might be expanding our headwear. Maybe. You never know. We have heaps of ideas! Really what it is is finding the time to do them well.

Find the boys in-person at Harrolds, 101 Collins St, Melbourne from Friday 27-Sunday 29 October.

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