Fullscreen
Q&A February, 24 2014

Selectism Q&A | Ian Johnstone of The Shopkeeper Store

You may remember The Shopkeeper Store from a beautiful pair of Indian brass scissors we posted a while back. Having stumbled across the shop via Instagram we were pretty much hooked from the off. An independent online retailer with plenty of stuff you won’t have seen alongside plenty of the familiar, everything is clearly chosen with care. Duluth accessories, Midori stationery and Le Laboureur jackets alongside Muchelney pottery, Minnetonka hand-made moccasins and Stormy Kromer caps, beautiful clothing and objects you may not need but will most definitely want. To find out a little more about the new project we speak to the man with a sharp eye for beautiful things, founder Ian Johnstone. Read more after the click.

Can you tell us a little about your background?

My love of well-made products has been a passion for as long as I can remember. As a kid I would spend hours dressing toy figures in intricate and immaculate military uniforms, and watch a lot of old movies. I also grew up in an era surrounded by Mods, Skinheads, Rude boys & Soul boys, which all had a major influence on me, and the way I dress now.
I’m a Buyer by profession, but started my career on the shop floor working at Paul Smith in Floral Street. I considered that my apprenticeship. I learnt a lot about quality and craftsmanship, working with some of the best companies in the industry: Trickers, Crockett & Jones, John Smedley, Luciano Barbera & Oliver Peoples, to name a few. I was selling beautiful things made from tweed, cashmere and cordovan, and would have customers favourite items lovingly repaired and restored. It was confirmation that quality will always stand the test of time. I moved from the shop floor to the buying office and started my career in buying from there.

How and when did The Shopkeeper Store first come about?

Owning my own store has always been a dream of mine, but I was just too busy working and travelling to ever do anything about it. A couple of years ago, I took a long overdue trip to Tokyo & Kyoto. I really studied the stores, not just clothing stores, but all of them. The beautiful and simple way the products were presented and the high level of customer service amazed me. All of the staff I met acted like true shopkeepers. The decision to open a store was made.

The shop definitely has something unique, what would you say sets it apart from other web stores?

The store is still in its infant stages, so it’s currently smaller than other online stores but I think this adds to its charm. The store’s ethos is to offer a carefully curated mix of menswear & lifestyle goods that focus on quality craftsmanship. Customer service is key. It’s really important to me that the customer feels they have a great experience shopping at the store. It’s not always easy for this to translate online, so great packaging, personalized messages and in some cases, hand delivered orders, all add to the experience. Exclusivity on a couple of brands and selecting items with a point of difference to other stores is key to its uniqueness.

The brand list is pretty impressive, how do you go about choosing who to carry?

When I complied the initial list of the items I wanted to stock, I looked at all of my favorite products that I wear and use on a daily basis and started from there. The makers and brands I work with all have a story to tell and share a common ethos. This enables the products to compliment each other perfectly. I have simple values when choosing companies to work with; the products have to be of a high standard, be great quality, and be able to stand the test of time.

Do you have any particular favorites among the range?

I love all of the products, but my particular favourites are:

– The brass pen and pencil by Midori. I carry them everyday, the brass develops a beautiful patina over time.
– The ‘Burel’ wool Le Laboureur jacket. 100% un-dyed organic virgin wool, so is exactly the same colour as the Quessant variety of sheep the wool comes from.
– The small coffee mugs from Muchelney Pottery. The colour & texture is created by the positioning in the kiln, so every single one is different.

You carry a couple of smaller brands that might not be so well-known, Parveen, Mulchelney, how did you come across these makers?

I buy and collect things from everywhere I travel to and visit. I discovered Parveen scissors while travelling in India – they are used by most Barbershops there. The company I buy them from work directly with the Parveen family and have a fairtrade set up with them. I have always had a fondness for stoneware pottery and Muchelney is the best there is. The owner Jonathan Leach is a third generation potter and the grandson of Bernard Leach. Working directly with these makers is a really personal and interesting experience.

What are you plans for the store over the next year?

To create a destination store that has highly desirable, good quality, affordable products, offering great customer service. Short term, my aim is to continue to grow organically, taking time to work closely with my current suppliers to expand their current product range. Also to offer a selection of non-seasonal products that will be available all year round and add new products as I source them. Long term, my aim is also to use the store as a platform to showcase brands and launch new products, including a range of ‘Shopkeeper’ goods.

The really exciting part though is now. Selling great products to like-minded people, meeting new suppliers and sourcing new products. I have an ever-growing list of really nice things. There are so many new companies to find with beautiful things to sell around the world, and the world is a big place, so watch this space…

Highsnobiety