Nicola and Orlando Reindorf, owners of Sydney’s The Standard Store, have built a reputation synonymous with wearable luxury in only one short year. In the post-first-birthday wind down, Gemma Watts had a chat with Nicola about European fashion, window installations and Airedale terriers…
GEMMA: Nicola, take us back to the very beginning- how did you get into fashion?
NICOLA: I went to East Sydney tech so I started off studying fashion here in Sydney, then I became a stylist, then I travelled and then I had a shop in Barcelona. After that, I started working as a stylist in London, so I suppose I’ve just always worked in fashion, it’s been my whole life really.
G: And how did Orlando get his start in the fashion world?
N: He sort of fell into it by building stands at trade shows in Europe and on one occasion he built something and ended up selling the clothes, then he started working for Diesel in the UK. We’ve both being doing it [working in fashion] all our lives, really. We came to Sydney 12 years ago and with all the experience and the contacts we had we were able to set up a wholesale agency.
G: So what inspired you to open your own boutique in Sydney?
N: We had been wholesaling for a bit over 10 years and we saw a lot of really great products that we thought, at a wholesale capacity, we couldn’t find enough stores to stock all of these amazing labels, so on a wholesale level we couldn’t really justify representing all of these labels that weren’t selling. They were all quite niche-y. I think it was about that time that we just thought “Why not practise what we preach?” and I think it probably came down to the fact that we were getting a bit bored! So we said “Let’s have a go at this!” We know what we like, and it just seemed like the right time to do it. It was really important to us to find the right space and I’ve always happened to love this location [Crown St, Surry Hills]. This particular space actually used to be an old laundromat! We’d been overseas doing some wholesale work, and we’d seen all this amazing stuff but it just wasn’t worth wholesaling it, and we got back and noticed that this beautiful old laundromat had a ‘For Lease’ sign out the front… it kind of seemed like fate.
G: It sounds like the stars aligned for you!
N: They really did! I think that ‘For Lease’ sign was just the push we needed. It was then that we said “Alright. Let’s do it.”
G: What’s it like working together as a husband and wife team?
N: It’s good! I mean, we’ve always done it, and it surprisingly works well. I think a lot of successful businesses are husband and wife owned, and it can be either the worst thing ever or the very best. If you’re married, you’ve got to just let everything go at the end of the day. At times it can be a little unromantic- like getting to work at 7 o’clock this morning! But in another respect it really is a lot of fun. We travel a lot together. If we weren’t married we probably would have tried to sack each other from the business by now! [laughs]
G: Is there a certain aesthetic that you look for when it comes to selecting the labels you stock?
N: We really just pick the things that we like. We like clothes that aren’t highly trend driven necessarily, labels that aren’t all about being the next crazy thing that you only get a season of wear out of. We look for really good quality things. A lot of the clothes we’re stocking at the moment are sort of heritage- type wear, really beautiful Breton striped tee shirts, beautiful cashmeres- just beautiful things that are timeless basics that we really like and aren’t mass produced. We like to stick to a few brands and add things that we come across on our travels. We go to all the trade shows in Europe like Capsule, and I guess there’s a little network of likeminded retailers around the world and we’re all very connected. There are certain stores overseas who stock similar labels to us, so we all talk. A lot of stores in London or Paris will say to us “This is selling really well in our store, you should take this label,” so that’s a really nice way of expanding our range.
G: It sounds like it’s a bit of a community.
N: Yeah you’re right, we all look out for each other and we’re really likeminded. We have a lot of people come into our store from New York or London and they’ll say “Oh this really reminds me of a boutique at home,” so that’s always refreshing for us.
G: So what do you think the archetypal Standard Store customer is looking for?
N: It surprises me, the variation of people we get in our store, so it makes it very hard to pinpoint them. We get the slightly older customers who really know about design and aren’t looking for just a throwaway trend, but they’re still quite trend driven. They’ll read Monocle, they know what’s going on in fashion and they’re willing to spend a bit of money on something they really like. We’re in Surry Hills so we’ve got a lot of the creative community around us, a lot of designers and architects. Our customers are very savvy, and they can be a bit trainspotter-ish about things. Orlando, for example, he’ll only want to wear the most beautiful stock. He wouldn’t be caught dead in faux-heritage things. Our customers want the real thing and they are really receptive—very clued up.
G: What will we be seeing in The Standard Store as we approach the warmer months?
N: We’ve got some amazing new stock from Sessun, the French label- we’ve got a lot of really gorgeous liberty print bikinis and dresses. It’s hard because everything is from European collections so we have to buy everything for spring and summer and the seasons are different. I always buy the lighter things, so there’s a lot of beautiful organic tee shirts and things in store. Humanoid are always amazing, the Dutch label- they do really beautiful basics. Folk do lovely and interesting tee shirts and chinos. We’ve also got more Trickers coming in- they still sell, even in summer! We’ve got lots of Amor Lux striped tee shirts, and a lot of beautiful summer brights from Henrik Vibskov. And of course we’ve always got a lot of staple stuff that’s consistent with our store- really easy and wearable pieces.
G: Is there a particular collection that you’re really excited to be introducing to your customers over spring?
N: We’re about to get a delivery of Assembly, which we picked up in New York, it’s all really interesting. I’m very excited to be bringing them to Australia because no one else is doing that here. They do a lot of oversized, loose, easy pieces. I’m really looking forward to seeing how that label will evolve. I always love Sessun as well, again we’re the only people in Australia stocking them and it really just walks out the door. It’s that nice French, stylish, chic look.
G: The store’s first birthday coincided with the first day of spring! Did you get up to anything exciting?
Yeah! Georgia Perry, she’s like queen of colour pop, I told her to just go crazy in the window. She made these amazing paper flowers and assembled the window installation the night before our birthday and she wrote all over the window- it was just an explosion of all things spring and summer. We went with the first birthday theme so we had Pin the Tail on the Airedale so there was a prize for whoever could stick the tail on our dog! We had a piñata, a birthday cake, music, balloons to give out to the little kids- a lot of fun!
G: On the window installation note, I saw that you recently worked with artist and florist Lisa Cooper on a truly breathtaking window installation, a stunning floral portrayal of Saint Therese encompassing cascading veils of moss, ivy and blush pink carnations. Why do you think it’s important for the Australian art and fashion worlds to collaborate on projects such as this?
N: I think our store is in an incredibly artistic area, and there are a lot of artists out there struggling. It’s really hard for artists to make ends meet. I thought that, as a retailer, it’s good for us to give something back. It adds to the community feel. They support us by coming and buying stuff from us, so it’s our way of supporting them back. We have a really amazing window- I’ve always loved beautiful windows and I’ve always been inspired by retailers with amazing windows and they can become really well known for that. Crown St is such a “night street” as well so there’s a lot of foot traffic. We benefit immensely from it because we get these beautiful window displays, and the artists benefit from it because they get their name out there.
G: It makes the art a lot more accessible, too.
N: Definitely. A lot of people don’t go into galleries, so this way it’s been seen by a much broader audience. It’s a really great platform for the artists. I always just tell them to do whatever they want in the window!
G: You and Orlando have achieved so much in one short year- what comes next for The Standard Store?
N: Thank you! In the near future, there’s Christmas! I want Lisa [Cooper] to do something amazing in our window for that. We’re always thinking of new ideas for the store- we’re going to keep looking for more beautiful things to sell. I’d really love a little more space so maybe somewhere down the track… you never know! Hopefully there’ll be all sorts of interesting opportunities for us. You never really know what’s around the corner.
Visit Nicola and Orlando at The Standard Store, 503 Crown St, Surry Hills NSW