Nov 23, 2017 | By Jane Boddy
Oct 26, 2017
On the day that I interview Goodhood founders Jo Sindle and Kyle Stewart, I’m invited into their home, not the shop that we’re here to talk about but their home. And on arrival, it’s not just me, the living room has been turned into the base for a photoshoot for their brand. Their newborn has just fallen asleep and Jo finishes styling a look, hands over the mood board to a photographer, before apologizing and coming back to the kitchen table for the interview.
I think you can tell a lot about people in fashion who invite you into their home, because fashion is notoriously known for not being the most welcoming of industries. And, by contrast, a home is as personal and exposed as you can get. So, of course, I immediately like the couple, and we get down to business. Today is all about how their little independent store in Shoreditch has managed against the backdrop of a failing retail industry to grow and thrive. It’s about how the couple worked and still do the hard graft needed (case in point the photoshoot being organised in their living room, concurrently with this interview) to bring the best to their consumer.
If you don’t know the Goodhood store, here is a little back story: the couple met working in Levi’s design studios in the early 2000s and would regularly go on research trips abroad, searching around second hand stores, new retail spaces, and little cult shops around the globe. The experience taught them two things: the importance of great customer service and how to be expert shoppers. These are two skills that have served them well, and in 2007 they opened their Shoreditch store.
“For me that love of product is the most fundamental thing,” says Kyle. “Over the years we’ve gotten better at building commercial ranges and not just having that one amazing pair of trousers in a size 30 that we got because we’d never seen anything like it before, because that’s how it was at the start. But over the years we’ve had to learn our trade. There’s still that magic in the pieces, but mixed with the fundamental basics of what people need to dress and live in,” he adds.
It’s a smart observation from Kyle because just as big traditional retailers are struggling to make the store experience feel special, cult brands can feel too cult and exclusive, too closed door; that balance between being both inviting and cool has never been so important to the landscape of retail.
You get the sense from Kyle and Jo that everything has been learned on the job, which is part of the brand’s success. Yes, the couple are expert shoppers, but in everything else retail-related they have not been afraid to learn, to keep developing, asking themselves questions, striving for better. And while the British retail backdrop has jumped all over the place during their 10 years in the game, they have stayed consistent. “We’re good at staying in our bubble, and not being led by trends. What has been nice to see though is the development of mid range womenswear. When we started it was hard to find women brands to sell, the offerings back then were either high end luxury or high street, the middle ground didn’t exist,” says Jo.
There’s also the focus on great customer service at Goodhood, both Jo and Kyle offer masterclasses to their staff to convey their love of product because as Kyle puts it, the store is selling stories not just stuff. You come to Goodhood for more than just the product, you come to hang, talk about the stock, and feel part of the community.
And that is evident in the price point too, there are items in the Goodhood store that retail at £200 for sneakers, but t-shirts at £30, according to the couple they want everyone to be able to buy something. So yes, the core consumer is probably a creative industry type, but you can get Stussy alongside ceramics teapots, so that everyone from the shop staff that they hire, to your dad, and your arty grandma will find something they like in store.
And social media, how has that helped the brand? Kyle admits to me that Goodhood has never bought followers, he couldn’t bare to be one of those brands that has thousands of followers (thanks to computer bots), and only 2 likes per image. The growth on social (an impressive 101k following on Instagram), much like in real life, has been gradual, and real. The commenters on the brand’s Instagram are real consumers, friends of the brand, part of the Goodhood community.
“Overall in our 10 years, our rise has been a slow build, we’re going for the long haul,” says Kyle.
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