Oliver Ward and Graeme Kent love jeans. Self-confessed denim heads, they have been mates for 20 years. After pursuing an array of different careers, the pair has plunged into the retail deep end, opening The Great Southern Denim Co., bringing rare labels and a trove of denim-related information to Marrickville.
The idea for the store came about years ago when Ward and Kent were working together at the T-Shirt Barn in Newtown. There they formulated an idea of the shop they wanted to run. “We wanted to create a space in our own image, says Ward. “What we didn't want, was to create a traditional retail environment with salespeople hounding you.”
What they've created is far more personal than anything that fronts Pitt Street Mall. Three Japanese labels – Burgus, Rogue Territory and TCB Jeans – take pride of place on the store's racks, conveying Ward and Kent's love of the craftsmanship of Japanese denim makers. Indie-American labels Railcar and WH Ranch Dungarees are also carried.
As well as pants the shop stocks plaid shirts by Rogue Territory, denim shirts from Burgus Plus and T-shirts from Tokyo's Barns Outfitters. Accessories include socks and beanies from Wellington label Last & Loom, and leather goods such as duffle bags, belts and wallets from Wolf Hill.
All of the labels carried are selected by Ward and Kent – and the pair often knows the suppliers. “We look for the kind of suppliers who have passion – the people who can't help themselves, the people who don't stop until they get it right,” says Ward.
Future plans include offering more labels – including stocking Australian-made jeans, fitting nights for those who want custom-made jeans and a new range of basics. The shop will also host its first artisan-in-residence event, which will see Chad Watt from Unholy Leather using the store as a workshop to finish and customise leather goods over the last weekend of November.