superchat brisbane: nat denning

© fallow

fallow is a fortitude valley retailer now moving into its sixth year of operation. born from the creative minds of michael doherty and nat denning, in an effort to present brisbane with a unique and forward thinking retail experience, as well as a selection of progressive designers available nowhere else in australia at the time. michael is a shopfitter by trade and nat has a background in retail fashion – but both share an incessant attention to detail, an appreciation of great design and a hands on approach to business. the space was painstakingly created over a five-month period.

it has no windows, no shop front, but a simple and beautiful black door with the words 'fallow' embossed on it. the space is reminiscent of a gentleman’s haunt in the vein of the savile club, featuring beautifully polish wooden floors, a wall made entirely of 100 year old bricks from a cottage in sydney, black leather furniture and deer heads adorn the walls. the company’s philosophy is a simple and carefully distilled one, to provide a concise curation of artisanal clothing and handcrafted jewellery for their forward thinking customers.

they emphasise the importance of understanding the story behind the brands they stock, their current collections and go to great lengths to create meaningful dialogues with their customers, the antithesis of the glut of international 'fast fashion retailers'. labels stocked: barbara i gongini, boris bidjan saberi 11, cédric jacquemyn, hraun, leon louis, lentrian, mad et len, misomber nuan, obscur, silent damir doma, song for the mute, tobias wistisen, reinhard plank, rigards, rombaut. superfuture was lucky enough to sit down and chat with denning about fallow and their unique approach to retailing in the modern epoch. 

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what first got both of you into fashion and more specifically high end fashion? we both shared an appreciation of good design and realized the fashion attitude here did not emulate say that of furniture design – one did not invest in a piece that would last for years or have any sort of longevity. available fashion lacked a handcrafted feel and we yearned for more soulful garments with an attention to detail. 

why brisbane? regardless of what southern states believed about qld at the time we felt there was a like-minded fashion community of creatives emerging here in brisbane and we were determined to prove the ‘country town‘ label wrong.

what do you think of the traditional dichotomy between bricks and motor and e-commerce? a difficult question – in this day and age it is almost imperative to have an online presence in order to survive however allowing the world access to the entirety of one’s business is also problematic. we see the e-commerce side of our business as separate but also an all encompassing necessity.

what role do you think e-commerce plays in the modern epoch? e-commerce allows a greater audience for every business no matter what type – it is a wonderful ‘world’ business card and opens doorways to many pathways that were previously unexplored or unthought-of.

what role do bricks and mortar retailers play in the modern epoch? in our opinion ‘bricks and mortar‘ allows most importantly human contact and interaction. we have wonderfully close relationships with our clients which is difficult to emulate online…we are a physical space in which like minded people can come together and truly be a part of the growing fallow family. we attract tactile consumers who appreciate the process and desire to touch and feel – to absorb the whole experience.

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what do you think is important about the retail environment? and how have you designed your space to capture these important elements? our space is deliberately nostalgic – we created an environment both physically and mentally that encourages calm, quiet appreciation and a sense of belonging. we spend a great deal of time on merchandising and ‘curating’ each area within our space however we feel the most important element of a retail environment is education  – our clients enjoy the creative connection from the insight into the brands we share with them. we have a quote written on our office blackboard that we read often – ‘he educated them so that they would become patrons’ it doesn’t matter how beautiful your space is or how well designed your displays are if you can’t tell people everything there is to know about the product.

what sort of relationship [if any] do you have with the brands that you stock? we are truly blessed to work directly with many incredible designers – the intimate nature of what we are striving to bring our clients resonates with these wonderful people and becomes a joint quest with equal respect and appreciation.

what do you see as the impact of the 24 hour news cycles // social media // and faster fashion cycles on fashion as a business? we believe the fast fashion cycle will divide the industry creating two very different consumer markets moving forward. to be brief, a customer group who has little regard as to how or where their garment was made and under what conditions – and a customer group who is more informed and prefers to make a difference using their purchasing power. as a result of this mass production there is a strong desire within the second group to regain individuality in fashion and niche brands who embrace this will be successful.

what helps you negotiate the turbulent times and stay true to the fallow brand? from the beginning of our endeavor six years ago we’ve experienced rapidly changing retail times. we strive to retain our vision using the direct support and encouragement of a faithful audience. we both agree if it wasn’t for the friends of fallow we would have given up years ago. continually being inspired by our client base, staff and suppliers is paramount and the fact we feel so much passion for these people is what drives us to stay focused. we all believe in something bigger.

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what sort of impact, if any, do you see the rise of 'fast fashion' having on your business? many transient customers have fallen by the way side with fast fashion – but in all the business and marketing books we’ve read this is called getting rid of your ‘c and d’ customers – isn’t that a favourable thing from a small niche business perspective? less is more.

what relationship do you see between the physical space you occupy and the clothes you sell and vice versa? our space came into fruition in a very similar way to the evolution of many of the brands we carry – through a small group of dedicated people meticulously devoted to detail. it becomes apparent when appreciating the store interior that this high level of workmanship is emulated in the product presented within fallow - our selection and our surrounds are complimentary and essential to communicate the whole storey…

what do you see as the future of retail? to a degree we see the future of ‘retail’ as we know it in the hands of the consumer – they have the power to dictate whether they want to buy solely online and have simulated and soulless interaction or whether they want to experience far more…we believe the latter will be back in vogue soon.

what does the future hold for fallow? there are many avenues we wish to explore however the near future sees us working on further collaborations with local and international artisans and sharing our offerings with a growing audience as we build awareness for our businesses both online and in store.

what books // films are you reading // watching at the moment? anything to do with butoh dancing – cherry blossoms is a beautiful film recommended recently to us by a good client.

© fallow