Named after the thieving Grateful Dead song, Jack Straw carries a focused collection of labels in a small, beautifully furnished shop in downtown Seattle. Due to the exceptional customer service and the unique point of view, the store stands apart as one of the most exciting clothing boutiques on the west coast. We recently sat down with the shop's owner and salesman John Richards to see his spring collection and discuss the inspiration behind his business.
"Owning my own shop, I can come in at five to eleven and it's okay, but I'm a routine person... ridiculously so. Since I have a family now I wake up really early. I go get my espresso and coffee for my wife. Then I spend some time alone, read for an hour or I might go for a run at the park and then I spend time with my son before going to work. I like to get to the shop a half an hour early and play my favorite music and clean and focus and I think about the day as a being positive day. It's almost a meditation during this half hour of cleaning where I get into the mindset that the right people are going to come in and love the shop and actually buy something."
"As a kid I grew up in the suburbia of Washington State, and I was a very out-there kid, I was a terrible student, but I had a very creative mind. I was totally obsessed with cinema and music and buildings and beauty, but I was a horrendous student and I was lost. I eventually got to Europe and it changed me. Seeing the way people lived in the southern countries especially. Simple living in apartments, not owning much, but what you did own was really cool. It all really turned me on. After I got back from Italy I had to get a job and a friend offered me a job working at a clothing store in Seattle and I just fell in love with selling clothing."
"Starting out at the bottom, I really worked hard and absorbed as much knowledge as I could and found that I really had a knack for meeting people and that I had a unique point of view in clothing. Later on Butch Blum called me up and offered me a job, and Butch is a really great guy, extremely knowledgeable on retail and at that time he was introducing Giorgio Armani and other European designers to the country. He was very much ahead of his time. Butch took me on buying trips and taught me a lot, and I eventually became the lead buyer of the store. I was able to introduce new collections to Seattle and I brought in Helmut Lang to Seattle and introduced Martin Margiela and Carpe Diem and Butch allowed me to do all of this. You know ... I used to buy Brioni, the most classic clothing collection, and I loved it, and then I'd go on a trip and I would buy Yohji Amamoto and I loved that and I found that I could appreciate and sell both worlds."
"Eventually, I wore out my welcome at Butch Blum and realized it was time to leave home. I was in my fourties and I had just gone through a divorce and I needed a change. That was a turbulent and transformative time period for me and I realized that I had to get off my ass and that I had to get my own shop going. I met my current business partner at Butch Blum, who knows the financial side of things and at that time Mario offered me a job to work on the floor of his store and to do the buying for his more adventuresome collections. At that time I introduced Rick Owens to Seattle and Issey Miyaki Comme des Garcons and a funny thing happened while I was at Mario's, the financing came together for Jack Straw and the rest is history. We've been open for four years now."
"Every piece that I buy for the store means something to me. I look at clothing in a very spiritual way. It's not just wanting to look good to impress people or get laid. It's accenting something that is inside of you. One thing I would like to do, in a couple of years, is to introduce a clothing collection to the store. It would be a very small collection, but a very unique collection. It would be very simple but it would be like nothing that is out there right now and it's completely fabric driven with simple silhouettes. I know exactly how I want it to be."
"I really think there is a missing connection in menswear. A guy who is 45 and wants to wear something that is unique and special but has a certain aesthetic and taste level doesn't have many great places to shop. I mean small stores with a distinct point of view. I know that there are neighborhoods and cities all over the place where a store like this store would do well. Always with a small staff that is well taken care of and the main person on the floor in an ownership position. So my big-big dream would be to have ten little Jack Straw's strewn on the map offering unique men's clothing."