Behind Oxford Street there’s a sneaker store that doesn’t play by the rules of nine to five. Darlinghurst’s Footage is a sneaker concept shop turned lifestyle boutique that has been trading on Burton Street for almost two decades. It provides those in the know with unique, cult labels after the traditional work day is done. From Tuesday to Friday, Footage is open until seven or eight at night.
“When we started in 2003, the idea of the guerrilla store really struck a chord with us,” says Phil Koh, co-owner of Footage with his partner, Karin Kuok. Their vision was to create “a hidden spot, with no signage, in the back streets of a major metropolis, filled with covetable items sourced from around the world – in our case, rare sneakers”.
One of Sydney’s first specialised sneaker outlets, Footage was a trailblazer in the city’s independent retail scene (Koh has always been an avid sneaker collector) and was immediately embraced by Darlinghurst locals. “We’ve always seen Darlinghurst as a diamond in the rough,” says Koh. It’s a suburb, he says, “with lots of little hidden treasures that just require a little bit of work to be discovered”.
Footage soon evolved beyond its sneaker-freak origins. Koh and Kuok added men’s and women’s streetwear and developed a line of tailored menswear and womenswear called Footage Made. Eventually, they decided to reinvent the Footage business model. “We wanted it to mean something, the way the local shops used to mean something to the neighbourhood,” Karin Kuok says. “A local shop that locals enjoyed coming to.”
Today, Footage defies categorisation; it stocks local and international clothing labels, footwear brands, accessories, beauty and grooming products and items for the home and pantry. An important part of Footage’s new vision is celebrating local makers. Two years ago, Koh and Kuok launched a series of Meet the Maker events.
“With the accessibility of online shopping, local makers are finding it harder and harder to get a foothold in the market,” says Kuok, who is fiercely committed to keeping retail dollars in Australia to support new talent.
“We feel that good brands need to be heard and understood [for them to be eventually] appreciated,” she says. “When you humanise the brand, allowing the customer to connect with the maker, you build that loyalty and that’s how we help the local makers grow.”
Darlinghurst has changed a lot in the past 15 years. In 2003, Kuok says, “You’d always hear the skaters rolling around the neighbourhood, the kids looking for streetwear would be trawling the streets and hanging out. These days, it’s families and young couples moving into the area.”
Countless new bars, restaurants and shops have moved into the ‘hood, joining an established community of businesses that have stood the test of time. “Chaco Bar, Nom, Joe’s Table, Lucio’s and Buffalo Dining Club are where you’ll find us after work,” says Kuok. “We entertain a bit and are both avid home cooks, so we count Ariel Booksellers as a great source for our growing cookbook collection. Naomi [Taplin] at Studio Enti has a deft hand at ceramics and we enjoy her work every time we entertain.”
One of their favourite local haunts is the nearby Botanic Gardens. “We’re there either in the mornings before work or after we knock off, if time permits. We’re lucky in Sydney, with all that greenery, the sea and the best views all around,” Kuok says. “It’s so, so relaxing and you’ll be surprised how the serenity just changes your mood after a long hard day at the office.”
13C Burton Street Darlinghurst 1300
Phone:(02) 9332 1337