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December 9, 2020

Local Heroes: Up There, a Melburnian Menswear and Sneaker Boutique

This year, the COVID-19 pandemic hit every industry in an unprecedented way, and retail was certainly no exception.

Now that our state is slowly but surely recovering, we want to celebrate our local retail heroes who were able to weather the storm and come out on top. This is our Local Heroes series.

Up There might be an Australian menswear and sneaker boutique on paper, but in reality their purpose delves much deeper. It’s a community of people who appreciate quality in everything they do. Residing in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD on McKillop Street, Up There was established in 2010. It’s owned and run by Brendan Mitchell and James Barrett, alongside their photographer and creative director, Jason Paparoulas.

Specialising in premium-only clothing brands and sneakers, they’ve steadily become one of Melbourne’s best destinations when it comes to accessing hard-to-find pieces. Right now their international, curated selection extends to Engineered Garments, Kapital, Norse Projects, and more. When it comes to sneakers, they stock timeless yet forward-thinking brands like Nike, Adidas, and ASICS.

When asked what he loves the most about running Up There, Mitchell says, ‘For me, the best thing is the variety in my work. I do numerous different things every day. On top of that, we have a great community and it’s lovely to be a part of something with people that share the same values. I’m now lucky to call a number of these people close friends, and that makes it all worthwhile.’

Not only are their offerings curated, but so is their store interior. Barrett describes it as ‘focused, simple and subtle.’ Designed by James Cameron of design house McGuffin & Purpose, the store has a welcoming ambience: the curved walls and corners allow you to feel like you’re being guided through the store, almost as if you were exploring a gallery. Mitchell says, ‘It's about making the product stand out without taking away from it, but if you have an eye you'll be able to see the detail involved.’

Looking back on the past few months, Mitchell recalls the pandemic’s significant impact on their business.

It changed everything. The store closed for the better part of six months. We turned our focus online. The web store has always been good for us, however over the last few years we’ve given it a little more love and we’re lucky that we did, because this year it was more important than ever.

While a lot of facets of the world may have been put on pause this year, sneaker releases were definitely not one of them. 2020 has become one of the most concentrated years of sneaker releases in history, and to ensure their customers were still able to get their hands on coveted and limited edition pairs, Up There set up their online raffle system, Launches. Anyone can apply to purchase a pair of sneakers – you just need to be lucky enough to win.

In addition to their externally sourced products, Up There also has their own line of clothing, which includes t-shirts, heavyweight hoodies, baseball caps, tote bags, and more. Their eponymous range was produced in LA, and was based, among other things, on the intention to fill the gaps in their product selection. A small number of the pieces were also reworked by the team here in Melbourne, with by-hand distressing techniques creating one-off pieces.

Mitchell says that it’s also something that they’re looking to extend in the future. ‘In the past, we’ve probably made compromises on quality or design, trying to think more about fitting into a box. Whereas now we're just going to make stuff that we like. If it's expensive, it’s expensive. If it's not, it's not. It's just going to be a true expression of self, rather than trying to fit into a certain category as a brand.’

If you liked this article, check out our feature on Melbourne’s Off-White store.

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