502 Exhibition Zine, 2021

Exhibition Zine

How has lockdown been for you and in Manchester in general?  

Straight in there with the tough ones eh! Lockdown and the last two years have been mad for everyone haven't they? We we're only 6 months old at the time of the first lockdown so it was a massive stress on such a new, small business. That said we're not ones to stand still and so it gave us opportunities to re-think how we might operate and I think that most businesses in Manchester had to do the same. We're a creative bunch up here.  

Manchester very often ends up with coolest shit - music, vibes, cool clothing stores - in a way less pretentious way than London. What do you think contributes to this? 

I think like a lot of industrial cities Manchester is a city that welcomes and values the new and for that reason it generally looks to the future rather than its past as its past was pretty crappy.  

You stock all coolest little known brands from the far-east, not just Japan. How much time have you spent out that way? 

Over the last 10 years quite a lot but obviously not since the whole Covid thing. The last trip was actually personal as I spent my honeymoon out in Japan. I'm lucky that both myself and my wife love the place. We'd both live there in a heartbeat.  

I'm always super impressed that you're also very often the only stockist in Europe or the US for a lot of the brands you carry. How do you find out about them in the first place? 

Man, there's no easy answer as its a multitude of different things, old fashioned networking, friends in certain countries, family in certain countries, brands willing to support us and believing in what we want to do. Finding new opportunities is one of the parts of the business we enjoy the most and I think thats evident in our approach to the store. We're not just full of the same brands you can get in a store in every city or sometimes multiple stores in the same city. That doesn't really appeal. 

How would you describe what TTOO is about? 

We're contrarians at heart, we don't want to be part of the masses or the pack and we think our customers share that in common with us. So we seek out and sell stuff that we really like and that we think our customers will like too. There isn't really much more to it.  

How hard was it to start without stocking any huge brands?  

Hard but not impossible. We made some compromises and learnt some lessons in the first 6 months but they helped shape our plans for the future and we're all the better for it.  

What's your favourite stuff in store at the moment?  

All of it. Seriously we dont buy stuff we dont like just because it will sell. We're not owned by a PLC or listed on the stock market so we can make decisions that others cant. We might buy a jacket we know we will only sell a few pieces of, but we know that the people who buy it will fucking love it and so for that reason its worth it for us. We wont get a bollocking off a line manager because we didnt shift 1000's of units or something. It means we can stock stuff that others wouldn't.  

As we've been stuck at home we can't do stuff like rub our hands all over your exclusive and rare fibres, so please can you describe what the in-store experience is like at TTOO? 

We operate a different kind of store really, partly out of being a small business and partly because we really like the opportunity it gives us to spend time with like minded customers. We've got a pretty unique warehouse style space on the fringes of the city. Its a big open space that we would never afford if we were in the middle of town. Because of the location its clearly a destination store. People come to us for something specific they've seen or because they're totally into the aesthetic of what we do. That way we don't get 100s of customers through the door for a browse and we're able to spend time with them personally, sometimes one on one and help them find something that really works for them. 

What non fashion stuff are you in to? 

Business is pretty all consuming right now but I'm generally found drinking coffee and listening to mid 90s golden era hip hop. When I've got some time I might get out on the bike or for a run but honestly thats pretty few and far between these days. Its one thing I need to do more over the next 12 months is find some time to do some things for me.    

Been on any nice walks recently?  

I walk a lot but usually its urban based right now, running a business like ours is pretty all consuming at this stage, we're not quite big enough to start employing too many people and so we're all hands to the pump. 

Do you ever take stuff to field test?  

For sure, but we're under no pretence that most of our customers use the products they buy from us in urban conditions and thats where we generally put them through their paces too.  

What piece of advice can you give to any young and aspiring people who want to start a brand or a store?  

You'll be amazed at the new things you can do once you try to do them. The list of things we've done for the first time since starting This Thing Of Ours is huge and for us just made us think "what else can we do that we haven't tried yet?" When you get that kind of thinking, run with it.  

 Are you dialled in to the outdoor gear instagram scene and has that helped grow the store?  

Kinda, there is an overlap there for sure and some of our most supportive friends of the store are fully into the scene. We definitely keep an eye on certain people but we've never pinned ourselves as an outdoor store. Like we said earlier we sell and stock things we like and sometimes that might be technical outdoor gear but equally it could also be the least technical pair of sweatpants too.  

Are the English/Western attitudes to the outdoors the same as the Japanese? I feel like Snow Peak lends itself more to a relaxed time camping vs the emphasis on summitting mountains from TNF or Salomon.  

I think you're right in the brands that you've mentioned for sure Snowpeak is more about a relaxed time in nature but there are certainly other performance related brands in the Japanese market just like there are more relaxed outdoor brands in the western. I think that especially since lockdown there is a generation in the UK that suddenly had no clubs to go to and a lot of people found spending time outside for the first time. As a result you've got a lot of people who are getting out to the lakes or mountains just for the enjoyment of spending time with friends and that will surely lead to more brands and products to support that. I think we will see more relaxed outdoor brands in the west too. But there will always be a space for high performance.