Interview : Graham Newmarch of re.porter

This past week I saw a notification pop-up from Graham Newmarch inviting me to become a fan of re.porter. Clicking through to the facebook page and subsequently the website, I was greeted with pieces from CCP, Ann Demeulemeester, and Julius. What initially struck me was the quality and consistency of the styling and the rarity of some pieces. I could tell this was not the average webstore. I reached out to Graham [founder of re.porter] to learn more about his venture and gain insight to his unique approach to online retail.

Explain the concept behind re. porter and how the site came to be

Good things happen when friends move to china. that is to say, because my best friends moved to Guangzhou, leaving me [and all their professional studio equipment] behind. I had already been doing consignment via eBay for some of my retail clients, and didn’t hesitate to seize this opportunity to take it to an entirely new level.

re. porter, literally translated, means to wear again. It’s a simple play on words with the prêt-a-porter collections we’re all so accustomed to drooling over a palm-full of times each year. As simple as it might be though, it says a lot about what I want re. porter to become.

High fashion is supposed to exist outside the strictures of time-driven stresses. it’s supposed to remain unaffected & uninfluenced by trends, focusing instead on the exploration of its own particular expression, voice, or style. it’s supposed to be timeless…

Unfortunately, when it comes to the retail side of things , time is a very real factor – and of prime concern. boutiques are under severe pressure to get stock in as soon as possible, and move it out just as fast. Having spent a lot of time working in luxury retail [Komakino in Vancouver, and Layers in London] I’d always wanted to run my own store, but never liked the aggressive nature of brick and mortar sales – and the luxury retail-world as a whole.

With re. porter – I have a unique opportunity to pay homage to the timelessness I’ve always so idealistically attributed to my favourite designers’ work. old[er] pieces from Ann Demeulemeester, Rick Owens, or Damir Doma combine effortlessly with any of their latest seasons’ offerings. re. porter provides its clients with the opportunity to find sold-out gems from their favourite designers’ past seasons – hopefully aiding & abetting avant-garde collectors at-large in their individual quests for fashion’s holy-grails.

Many of our clients don’t even realize we’re a primarily consignment-based operation. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the biggest indicator that we’re doing our job correctly.  We place prime importance on presentation, and believe by showcasing consigned goods with equal [or more] integrity as others do new stock – we pay proper respect to the artistry of the work, and the timelessness of its respective aesthetic.

How do you source and select what makes it up for sale on re. porter?

Sourcing takes up the grand majority of my time. as re. porter is by-and-large a consignment based operation, I spend my days corresponding with clients and collectors alike, offering them the opportunity to consign with our store.

That being said, not everything in the store is previously owned. I spend a fair amount of time sourcing items from the world’s various online vintage and second-hand markets – where it’s not rare to find completely new gems-of-old; who never found their destined customer before the boutique was forced to move them along.

In the months leading up to launch, it wasn’t unusual for me to spend twelve [or more] hours a day corresponding with clients, collectors, and boutiques – convincing them to consign with us and calmly reassuring them i wasn’t actually a criminal. Now that we’ve launched it would seem the website does most of that work for me, and i can focus on what products i choose to take on consignment, rather than searching for any to consign at all.

The process of selection itself is fairly straightforward. I’m pretty much my own client, that is to say – my target client-base knows these designers just as well as i do.As in all buying, there’s a bit of logistics involved, but what I do is more akin to curating a gallery; choosing my stock based on its [already proven] success in both the first-sale & after-sales markets, “Hrmmm, should i really take these highly-coveted works of artisanal beauty on for consignment? I mean, I remember them selling out world-wide in about the blink of a bomb, and they RARELY pop-up on the internet and even MORE rarely stay-up…” it seems pretty obvious when explained.

What are your long term plans for re. porter? Is a physical location in the future? 

I definitely have some exciting plans for how to integrate re. porter into the world of flesh & bone – but such plans will never involve bricks, mortar, or fixed locations.The adaptability afforded us by being a strictly online operation will allow re. porter [Vancouver] to easily transition into re. porter [Tokyo], you know… as an example. But in the more immediate meantime, look for re. porter to temporarily pop-up in different locations across North America in true guerrilla-style fashion.

You’ll witness the website evolve as well, adding a lot more functionality & control to the [already awesome] home page. We’re hoping this will provide us with the ability to showcase specific pieces & brands – and even help us feature young designers, local or otherwise.

What is inspiring you of late in fashion? Any designers or collections really catching your eye?

This Fall / Winter 2012’s runway collections [both men’s & women’s] were some of the best, & most inspiring shows I’d seen in years. Yohji’s women’s show was gorgeous, everything I’ve always loved about him just emphasized, colored and complemented in a fashion I hadn’t seen for so long. Julius_7’s runway show truly wowed me for the first time ever this season – eschewing their overtly anime-inspired styling for a more wearable aesthetic [more akin to how real people wear the brand] just made this show sing for me. A.F. Vandervorst probably moved me more than anything else this season though, with the styling, clothes, casting & music all making me wonder how the brand’s nearly impossible to find stocked sometimes.

However, I’m more of a fashion collector, rather than consumer, and actually spend most of my time tracking down items from clothing’s past; items I either missed out on because I didn’t have money at the time of release, or simply because they were released before I’d ever even cared for clothes… my most cherished designer of all time is an artisanal Italian designer named Maurizio Altieri. he started the design collective Carpe Diem, and most of the clothes I’m constantly tracking down are  Carpe Diem, l’maltieri, m.a+, or label under construction [all ex-carpe diem designers] release.

Honestly though, there’s too many Carpe Diem scions showing up these days, with designers riding their carpe-affiliation coat-tails to undeserved levels of success. That being said, the designer Mariavittoria Sargentini’s label marvielab, is one particular brand I exempt from this derision. her work is some of my most cherished these days – encapsulating every Carpe Diem nuance I miss in a fresh manner all of her own.

On the more fun side of fashion though Takahiro Miyashita’s new shit [the soloist] is something to appreciate and if I’m ever bored i just browse through Junya Watanabe’s catalog of women’s collections for some eye-candy & inspiration.

Otherwise, I’ve always loved Ann, old[er] Raf, and everything Rick – with the latter being the reason for my first forays into this world of fashion. Rick took weird mainstream, and they love him for it – it’s almost too good to be true.

With so many online shopping experiences available now. What do you think the market is missing? What unique perspectives are you bringing to online retail with re. porter?

Honestly, the online shopping world is doing pretty okay. I wouldn’t say there’s much missing but I would want to call a lot of places out for lazy styling, lazy web-design, and lazy customer service. However, online is rarely a boutique’s primary concern as they’re too busy focusing on their walk-in clients.

Personally, I want the online shopping experience to mirror my own esteem for the clothing I’m buying. I’ll refrain from naming names, but i see too many online stores these days whose presentation shows absolutely no respect for the value of the product they’re selling. Stop with the annoying intro screens set to macabre music, stop with the floating images over pixelated backdrops, and stop showing me your stupid model’s blue-steeled or perv-stach’ed expressions – I don’t want to buy your clothes if you think I find that shit appealing.

That being said, I have to give credit where credit is due – and that is to places like LN-CC for their brilliant styling, casting, buying, & presentation; and to Atelier New York for its distinctively artful touch [not to mention their unparalleled customer service and encyclopaedically-brained sales associates].

With re. porter, we aim to offer a uniquely intimate online shopping experience – taking the obsequious levels of service experienced in the world’s finest men’s boutiques, and directly transposing it to the online world. this is why we’ve chosen to employ an enquiry-based purchasing system. We prefer directly communicating every purchase with our clients – as it allows us to develop the same client/clothier relationship that occurs in proper brick ‘n mortar boutiques.

I’m a Shakespearean actor by training, and my favourite Elizabethan theatre critic always said a play was most successful when its form matched its content. That is to say – how a piece is presented is every bit as important as the piece itself. With re. porter, I believe we’ve created an online photographic-playground; one part gallery, every part boutique that not only emphasizes, but relies on the beauty of the stock it houses to create a truly unified luxury shopping experience.

re. porter, in essence, is a project borne purely out of passion for the work it houses – and we hope it shows.

Questions and Introduction by Rocky Li

All Images via re.porter