“We met in a bar on Victoria Street, Potts Point,” Orlando says. “I had just arrived from London and Nicola and her friend took me under their wing. We spent the night clubbing and somehow ended up in someone’s swimming pool at 4am – it was the perfect introduction to Sydney. I was sold on the city and Nicola hook, line and sinker.”
But because of their penchant for travelling Nicola and Orlando spent the next few years apart. Five years later they reconnected, via a note Nicola had written on a club flyer and given to Orlando’s roommate. Six months after the note Nicola flew to see Orlando in London, “And we have been inseparable since,” Nicola says.
With a mutual interest in fashion they started their own wholesale business together in 2000 using contacts from their time in London to sell international labels to Australia and New Zealand.
Inspired by the kinds of independent retail experiences they were seeing on their buying trips around Europe, they began planning their own shop. The Standard Store opened on Crown Street in Surry Hills in 2011. A second store opened in Fitzroy, Melbourne in 2013.
The Standard Store stocks a well-curated edit of exclusive brands from around Europe and the US such as YMC, Sessun and Adieu Paris. “We feel really passionate about offering good bricks-and-mortar retail. It’s the fabric of a city,” Nicola says.
Nicola and Orlando live in a four-storey terrace house close to their Surry Hills store with their two sons, Cosmo (20) and Zephyr (16). They’ve lived there for almost 10 years. All of the Fitzroy store’s staff members live in the area and the couple rents the apartment above the store – which has been renovated to reflect The Standard Store aesthetic – through Airbnb. “The connection to community where our stores are located is really important to us,” says Orlando, “each of our stores is also designed in a way that is specific to the style of its area.”
Their newest shop in Barangaroo opened in May. “It’s very different from what we know –operating in such an urban space – but it’s great to be part of a group of small independent stores so close to the CBD,” says Nicola.
The couple spends a lot of time away on buying trips and at Nicola’s parents’ home in Provence. They visit Paris and New York at least twice a year.
Nicola is the womenswear buyer and Orlando does menswear. “If you’re a guy and you want to get suited, Orlando is the man to talk to, he is a fantastic salesman.” Nicola says. “I am better at the admin stuff and all the paperwork lands on my desk. I am about attention to detail and Orlando looks at the bigger picture. But we really are a team, we work together and we consult each other about just about all aspects of our business.”
They say daily communication is the key to their 21 successful years together in both love and business. “Just about everyday we go for a long walk with our dog Honey and talk,” Nicola says. “It's amazing how many problems can be solved and the kinds of ideas that are born when you are out together, simply walking the dog.”