Martin Kirby is a man on a mission. He played music chairs, as he calls it, trying to find the right place for his new retail store, but now he is firmly planted in the place.
What was once Godspeed on Brunswick Street is now the grumpy Urahara on Smith Street. And for a shop that had trouble finding a home, the new name makes sense; Ura-Harajuku is a colorful subdistrict of Tokyo, its network of hidden back streets covered with fashion stores.
But here, Godspeed lives like the house label. Formerly focused on men’s clothing, it has evolved into a men’s and women’s brand, still with a penchant for high-quality Japanese denim. And Kirby is celebrating its five-year anniversary with some big developments.
In addition to the label itself, there is a dedicated boot section (with its own distribution arm) and an extended selection of the eye-catching Japanese-created homewares he has been stocking for some time. And to mark the anniversary, Urahara will also present five collaborations, starting with locally poured candles in Japanese-made Curiet ceramic, and a boot produced in collaboration with 100-year-old American company Wesco. Other labels to watch out for include White’s Boots, Tanuki, Rats, Iron Heart and Fullcount, all of which adhere to the Urahara philosophy. It’s about longevity and cost for wear and tear – a wardrobe built on the Dieter Rams model of less is more.
The aesthetics of Urahara and Kirby are reminiscent of the heavy Japanese-American movement: hand-woven fabric and jackets, college bombers and teb-covered jackets, touching rock’n’roll and Teddy Boy aspects. Kirby is obsessed with the detail and precise handmade reproduction of these beautiful products that are as expensive to produce as they are satisfying to wear. To hear him talk about them is to know their enthusiasm and dedication to the time and the craft. It can be as much to his detriment as to his benefit, but it’s hard not to be swept away in romance.
As for Kirby, there is a right and wrong way of doing things. Exactly means jeans made scrupulously, 100 percent from scratch; A 90-year-old man keeps the secret to the indigo dye Kirby uses, he says. Loop-wheeled T-shirts that use a shockingly slow weaving process are also available.
78 Smith Street, Collingwood
Mon to Saturday 11 am–5pm
Sun 11 am–4pm