Last year whilst on the prowl in Birmingham for people to take part in a dating show for Channel 4 (don’t ask) I happened upon an unexpected oasis of clothing greatness placed slap bang in the middle of a beautiful Victorian arcade. At first drawn by the 1950s Americana vibes emanating from the window display, I was equally impressed by the range of gear once inside and the clued up conversation I had with proprietor Phil. Having just bagged some serious bargains in their ace Sale, I decided to have a quick catch up with main man Phil to find out more about the origins of Liquor Store and what’s happening in SS13:
Proper: First things first, what are you wearing today Phil?
Phil: My outfit today is helped by the cold, cold British weather:
Jacket = Oliver Spencer Polzeath Jacket in Waxed Red
Denim = Lee 101Z 23oz Raw Selvage Denim
Footwear = Red Wing 6″ Moc Toe
Tee = A.P.C x Carhartt Grey Under Tee
Shirt = A.P.C. x Carhartt Clink Shirt White
Knit = Wood Wood Fitzroy Knit in Grey
Socks = Universal Works Hiking Socks
Underwear = Under Waffle Boxers
Proper: So, how long has Liquor Store been around and how did you get started?
Phil: We are approaching our first year anniversary next month. The doors opened 14th Feb 2012. I have always wanted to open my own fashion store with a real call out to denim, as this is a huge passion of mine. I have worked in the retail fashion industry for about 12 years with brands such as Lee / Wrangler / Diesel / Hilfiger, always working towards opening my own store. My last position which I held for about seven years was with Lee Jeans selling the brands to stores across the South of England. This really helped with understanding the industry and what kind of store I wanted to open. I felt there was a big shift years ago from old denim stores to boutique stores. My idea was to create a destination again for denim, offering a vast range of fits and finishes across in my opinion the best denim brands in the world. My belief is whatever age / shape / size, we should be able to kit our customer out with a great denim. Plus whatever their price budget – we currently do denim from £60 – £300. I was also keen to not just offer denim, but bring an eclectic mix of heritage and next generation brands for clothing / footwear and accessories. All the brands we stock have a great story to tell, and are about quality / fit and attention to detail.
Phil: Yeah of course I enjoy a few beers! but this wasn’t the only reason the store is called Liquor Store. We stock several heritage American brands and I liked the idea of basing the store on the 1920’s Prohibition period in America. It felt like it would fit with the brands we stock and our location and shop fit and feel. I also love the whole Speakeasy vibe from this era. I felt we could use Speakeasy as a strap line, where we become a destination store through word of mouth and have that hidden secret feel. Again our location, despite being in central Birmingham we are not on one of the major shopping streets. Finally I liked the fact that customers might remember us more as when they see the shop they expect a booze store. This way I thought it would become a talking point, and help awareness.
Proper: I was mightily impressed but both the location and the decor of the shop when I popped in last summer, how did you acquire the space and decide on a look for the shop?
Phil: The location of the store was a big decision. I didn’t think the store would work in a commercial environment plus couldn’t afford to pay for it. The Arcade we are in is the oldest Arcade in Birmingham; it has character / history and a premium feel. I felt this would be ideal for the store. Also the footfall is great as we are very close to the business quarter of Birmingham so people commute past the store a lot. The style of the store came from ideas I came across whilst visiting stores across the World. In particular I took a lot of inspiration from stores in New York. I wanted a mix of old and industrial, as this would work with the brand mix. You probably noticed that the denim wall made from railways sleepers is a major part of the shop – this was to really push our denim angle.
Proper: What’s your favourite piece of furniture or item in the shop?
Phil: Tough one, I have many. I would have to say either the Small Chesterfield sofa at the front of the store or the ladder we use to display caps etc. The ladder is the original ladder from our cellar. We decided to bring this up and make a feature of it.
Proper: Do you think the typical Birmingham bloke has a specific style or look?
Phil: Honestly no! Birmingham is a major city with lots of different looks due to the diverse population. My view is we are a point of difference to the over crowded high street, churning out the same looks. We look to appeal to the customer who buys quality and classic style over being led by fashion trends. A great deal of product we carry will be in the store in several years to come as they are essential looks. My hope that there would be like minded people in Birmingham that appreciate this view. Thankfully there are!
Phil: More than anything we sell, selvage raw denim is what I get excited about! Having worked for Lee for so many years and always loving heritage original denim, it was always going to be a major part to the store. I love it that so many guys here get selvage denim, but also I love explaining to new customers what it’s all about and converting guys into buying dry selvage. Going forward we are bringing in more and more selvage denim from a range of different denim brands.
Proper: You stock some of our favourite brands, what are you particular favourite labels?
Phil: Again difficult to narrow it down but the top few that spring to mind are:
Red Wing Boots
Palace Cut n Sew
Proper: SS13 season is nearly upon us, what gear has got you excited about the forthcoming spring?
Phil: Very excited about adding Cro Jack Denim to our denim offering. This will be Japanese Selvage denim made in UK. Also on the denim side we will soon have Unbranded denim, again selvage Japanese denim made in Canada.
Phil: A real mixture would make the soundtrack but the feel would be soul driven, with the likes of Marvin Gaye / Stevie Wonder / Otis Reading
Great Western Arcade
T. 0121 236 5830