Daniel Carroll of Open As Usual, London UK
Daniel Carroll from specialist clothing store Open As Usual, knows a thing or two about authentic jersey. We talk though his setup and how the brand came to life!
Interview by Hugo Ross
Illustration by Kathy Allnutt
Feb 05, 2019
VM: Many thanks for talking to us Daniel, it is a real pleasure! How long have you been running the store?
DC: OAU has been running for almost four years. We re-launched last May with our specialised concept of T-shirts & Sweatshirts, so it feels almost like two separate businesses.
I started OAU in New Cross, South London, in a shop space owned by a friend that was in front of where my wife and I lived. I was stocking a much wider range of items then, focusing on well-crafted wardrobe staples from mostly relatively unknown Japanese brands.
In April '17, my friends who run one of my favourite brands STORY mfg. and I decided to create an experimental space on Hackney Road, East London. The space housed the OAU store, STORY's collections, and a natural dye house where STORY ran workshops. The idea was to create a relaxed educational space where people could hang out, have a chat and also shop.
Unfortunately, property in London can be problematic (to put it nicely), and it had to end sooner than we wanted. On the plus side, that gave me a bit of time to plan the new focused route and develop OAU's model to be more adaptable. I've learned a lot from instability over the years, and even though unexpected changes can be stressful, they've kept me focused on how I want to grow OAU.
I moved to the current studio at Netil House a few months later and in May '18 launched Open As Usual – T-shirts & Sweatshirts. It's what I love and know best.
Over the years, the core of OAU has always been the same. Especially in ethos and ideas of how I want a retail environment to be experienced. In my time running the store, I've been very fortunate to have worked with great people, and have always had really insightful and discerning customers.
VM: Your specialisation into jersey is fantastic. If you were to open another specialist store what subject would you choose?
DC: Records. I'm just a hobbyist and don't have the knowledge needed, but I'd love to open a record store with a good mate of mine. Somewhere idyllic outside of London, so we could run it at our own pace, and I could travel the world listening to music and searching for gems to bring back.
VM: The labels you stock are, to the layman, relatively unknown. Do you consider yourself a hunter-gatherer of fashion?
DC: Ha, I would say I'm perhaps a gatherer of reliable clothing. I've always enjoyed the digging and earthing process and in one way or another, it's something I've done for a long time. More times than not my searching has a purpose. I like to find the gaps and fill in the blanks.
VM: How do you research and buy such brands?
There isn't a set formula. It's always been a combination of traveling, chatting to people/makers/specialists/hobbyists and occasionally lurking in the depths of forums. There are some great conversations going on if you can find them.
Lately, I've been more focused on materials and manufacturing, which has taken me down some interesting and unconventional routes. This week, I've been looking at companies that make US safety apparel and specific materials used for fire retardant hoodies and other specialist items.
The buying really varies and there have been all kinds of barriers like; language, tracking down contact information, and the logistical side. The seasonal brands I work with are a dream, and it's as simple as seeing their collections in a showroom or at their exhibitions in Paris or Japan.
But for some of the non-fashion and non-seasonal companies, it's been trickier. It has taken a lot of phone calls and time to find a system that suits us both. It’s a personal approach I really like and one that’s good for the longevity of those working relationships.
There's always a balance but I'm a believer in having to work for something if it’s worth the effort. Everything feels very immediate now and I don't think that's always positive.
VM: How do you market these lesser known brands to customers who are previously unaware?
DC: A lot of the time it's through me or my colleagues having conversations with people in the shop or online to see what preferences they have. We then recommend brands or items based on that, which often introduces a brand they haven't heard of before.
The communication side of OAU is a real focus for this year, so the way we approach marketing will definitely develop.
VM: Open As Usual is about functional brands and pieces - is that how you dress and engage with fashion?
Yeah, very much so. I rotate quite a small selection of items and my style is in lots of ways a result of how I live. I don't have a huge amount of spare time for example, so I own things that pretty much all combine nicely with each other. There are a few exceptions that keep it interesting and add a bit of jazz but its mostly items I don’t have to worry about. I tend to stick to heavyweight cottons for durability and technical materials for their properties.
VM: Do you collect clothing?
DC: I've got quite a few white t-shirts that have built up over the years but I'm not sure its a collection. I wouldn't class myself as a collector.
VM: What is new for 2019?
DC: There’s an air of uncertainty in the UK at the moment so who knows exactly what the future holds, but we have some big plans for OAU this year. I can’t reveal much yet, but improving our women’s offering is high on the agenda. Developing an educational aspect and looking at new ways of engaging customers both in-store and digitally will also be a focus.
On a personal level, keeping things simple and spending more time in nature
VM: What are your favourite shops around the UK and abroad?
DC: There are all kinds of shops in the UK I really respect. My approach to retail is heavily influenced by stores I grew up going to in Brighton, but I usually save my shopping for when I’m traveling elsewhere.
For different reasons, a few of my favourite physical stores are:
In Tokyo: High Standard, Roots and Branches, Markaware, North Face Standard, Village, Vanguard Shimokitazawa, Tokyo Hands and all of the shops that sell display fake food on Kappabashi street. Tezomeya in Kyoto and 1LDK in Paris.
VM: Big up! Thanks Daniel :-)