Justin Machus, owner of menswear store Machus in Portland/Oregon, is a retailer with heart and soul. His family has always worked in the retail business and Machus is the fifth generation retailer. His mother is still operating her women's clothing store, under the name Rupert Cornelius, which began in 1974 as his grandfather's store. In the interview with SI Machus tells us when and why he decided to open up his own store, which brands he believes in and why he gets his inspiration from Australia and the UK. Interview by Juliette Nguyen
Why did you open your store? Tell us the story behind!
I opened Machus in 2011 after 8 years of owning a different men’s and women’s store called Local35. Machus was designed from the beginning to be more directional and only mens. I slimmed down the colour palette to mostly blacks and whites. I bring in a wide range of clothing from the extremely avant-garde to the simple classics. There is a surplus of heritage in the Pacific Northwest. With Nike and Adidas and the NW being inherently active, there is a large gap in the world of modern fashion that can also be seen as an active lifestyle fashion movement. I come from a sprots background and I am drawn towards that concept of wearing clothing that looks good but can move fast with interesting fabrics and articulations.
What are your current bestselling labels? Which are your personal favorite brands?
We are currently developing a couple new brands from around the world that have yet to hit the NW. ADYN, out of the UK is a perfect example of “Sport Lux” and really fills the gap between dressy and sport.
Our Machus label is the same concept and is doing quite well. All made in LA and I design it to fill in the gaps for my store.
How important is the denim segment for your store?
Its fairly important, but not the bulk. I carry the basic raw APC and have been for 7 years. The other brands I carry are mostly blacks, grays and washes and I specialize in a more skinny fit. I see denim as a classic and we sell just brands that do them well. A good skinny black jean will never go out of style. Nudie and Naked and Famous do them VERY well and for a very fair price.
In terms of denims: Which cuts / shapes / washings / colors are most popular at the moment?
We do black. Lots of it. The skinnier the better. We are pushing the the carrot style hard too, relaxed upper with a slim lower. Waxed denim has been really strong this season too.
Do customers search for favorite brands and special styles or do they buy spontaneously?
A little bit of both. Our online store is very brand driven because of the rarity of our labels, but our in-store customers are more open to testing new styles and brands. One on one customer service makes
Where do you order your products?
ALL OVER THE WORLD! I believe in a world market, and we want to provide those brands to our customers. The UK is really stepping it up recently, but Australia is also a good market. That said, lots of stateside production is taking off and not just in the heritage market, but in the modern segment too. All of our Machus label in made in downtown Los Angeles.
What inspires you, where do you get your information about upcoming trends?
Just as I connect my customers to my store via social networking, I stay connected to them for trends, brands an interests. Sport has always interested me. I come from a skiing, climbing and biking brackground, so I tend to be drawn towards athletic cuts and fabrics. I see the “street goth” movement as an athletic form of fashion.
Are there any new brands which you have ordered for the first time now?
Yes, lots. We just started to carry KTZ, The End, WilFry, 424, Represent UK. Public School is very new too.
What do you think will be the key-pieces/trends in summer 2014?
Skinny denim, casual, loose t-shirts and monochromatic sneakers.
How do you stay in contact to your (regular) customers?
Through weekly email lists, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. We fully embrace social networking. We love to be transparent to our customers that we are a small, family owned company.
What do you like about your location and your customers?
I love being the Lower Eastside in Portland. It’s a quickly changing area, and very centrally located for locals and tourists alike. We have the most innovative and driven customers! Mostly, our customers are in the creative fields and are working hard on their own projects. I love catching up with them when they come into the store. They motivate me.
Are there any differences to similar stores in cities like Berlin, London or New York?
We really believe in what we do, we are a family owned company and love this business. I am in a smaller city than those stores and because of that I am able to work with a larger audience because the amount of modern and directional stores in Portland is very limited. I love to put brands like Naked & Famous next to brands like KTZ. When the colors are matched within a certain color palate, it works really well as a store. It also gives customers that usually wouldn’t try something new a place to explore other avenues of fashion both classic or the more avant-garde.
Do you have an online shop? Do you run any social media activities?
Yup! www.machusonline.com. We run all the social networking in house. Like I mentioned, we are a small store, so everyone that works here has a social network voice. That’s part of the job these days.
Is there a role model for your shop? Any store – worldwide – which inspires you?
We travel a lot for work and fun, and I look at my store as a mashup of lots of different interests. I thrive on the clean modern aesthetic, but I also like to move merchandise and not have the store too much like a museum. As a customer, I don’t like feeling like a burden when I walk into a store, no matter the brand, I don’t think that’s acceptable, so we try to be as welcoming as possible. I thrive on having close relations with the brands we sell in order to pass along their intention to the customer. We like developing smaller brands for this reason… The larger brands like Raf or Rick Owens don’t care about some small Portland store, but the smaller designers do. We love to explain our labels to our customers, it provides a link between the product and the designer and that adds a great deal of value to each item.
542 East Burnside St
Portland, OR 97214
Portland, OR 97214