There’s something to be said for brands banking on bricks and mortar retail. It shows they’re confident in the experience they offer; sometimes it’s the face-to-face encounter, the touch and feel, that makes a new purchase all the more exciting and meaningful. This an element of shopping that Sydney streetwear store Above the Clouds knows to be true.

You wouldn’t expect a bold plan to launch a multistorey retail outlet to emerge in the midst of 2021’s lockdowns and uncertainty. But with online sales booming, directors Dimitri Calligeros and John Paul Wager jumped at an opportunity to take on a larger retail space. The pair enlisted the help of Pattern Studio (The Standard Store, No 92) to bring the new store, on the corner of Crown and Campbell streets in Surry Hills, to life.

“Our very first store was actually at 256 Crown Street, we’ve just moved around the area a few times as we’ve steadily outgrown each space over the years,” Wager tells Broadsheet. “The move to our new space is a bit of a coming home moment and marks our 12th year in business.”

The slick new store takes the place of Danish homewares brand Hay (which has shifted to a spot further along Crown Street). It services a broad range of customers, across many age ranges, incomes and backgrounds.

“We have a pretty eclectic mix of local and international brands, all of which attract very different customers, so wherever our store has been we’ve always wanted to ensure we have a space that showcases that mix and we make it accessible to everyone,” says Wager.

The two-level, curve-fronted space feels polished while incorporating raw edges – natural timber finishes, and change rooms and shelving that look like scaffolding, meet elements of smooth steel and concrete and matte surfaces. It’s softened with a block-coloured rug, a collection of Japanese toy brand Medicom’s cult Bearbricks, the eyewear cabinet’s butter yellows and the front desk’s soft sky blues. A sweeping eight-metre-long sneaker wall on the top floor is a focal point – a nod to footwear’s status, for some customers, as a collectors’ item.

“We aimed to keep a more free-flowing space downstairs, which allows for installations and pop-up shops-in-shops, with upstairs focusing more on the presentation of footwear and a weekly rotation of brands that [usually] appear … online only,” Wager says.

Though it’s ostensibly a menswear store, Wager says they take a genderless approach to what they stock and how they approach customers.

“We have a huge following of very loyal female customers and a pretty genderless approach to the curation of brands we present. We don’t really like to pigeonhole ourselves into any one type of store. It’s a mini department store for all,” he says.

Across its physical and online stores, Above the Clouds carries more than 90 international brands spanning apparel, footwear and accessories. Some brands are bigger and better known than others, so the in-store experience can also double as an exploration to unearth interesting finds that are often tough to find down under.

“If you’re looking at footwear, we have a range – from classics like Nike, Birkenstock, New Balance and Asics. But with our apparel, we have some more niche brands such as A Kind of Guise, Casablanca, Andersson Bell and Sunflower mixed with the likes of Beams Plus, And Wander, and Porter-Yoshida & Co, amongst others,” says Wager.

Of opening a physical store in the digital era, Wager says there’s something in the touch and feel that online shopping can’t give you.

“[Ecommerce] has been a huge driving force for us and our ability to reach a wider audience and increase awareness over the years, but it can also create a false sense of reality [where] we lose sight of the physical product, the craft and story behind the garments or sneakers being presented. We couldn’t help but believe our customers and the brands we are presenting require a more intimate setting and shopping experience.”

Above the Clouds
Shop 8, 285A Crown Street, Surry Hills
(02) 8386 1458

Mon to Wed 10am–6pm
Thu 10am–7pm
Fri & Sat 10am–6pm
Sun 11am–4pm