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Locality: 1st Product is a safe haven for local streetwear

“The key is to be an innovator, not an imitator”

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Locality is a series about places and spaces. In this instalment we speak with Nicholas Angelopoulos, the owner of clothing store 1st Product in Hawthorn, Melbourne.

1st product is a go to store for most in demand local and international brands. Nick has created a vibrant and comfortable space with the prime focus aimed at building genuine relationships with his customers. Since its early days, 1st product has openly heralded local talent, all of which have allowed them to build an impressive resume of collaborations including Jansport, Driza-Bone, and Alley Tunes.

What motivated you to open 1st product?

We officially opened in March 2010. There weren’t a lot of stores around, the last decent store at the time was Provider. It was almost like Melbourne streetwear was at a standstill, I just thought there was nowhere to go. I’m also from this side of town (Hawthorn) and there was just nowhere to cater for local brands, brands that I love.  I wanted a store for local brands to come to without [feeling] intimated.

As a small business, how important is it for you to support your local brands?

It’s super important. It’s hard work for brands to crack stores, but you have to be ready. Everyone wants to start their own brand, but it’s about what makes you different to everyone else. As a store I like to remain quite humble—you can’t snob people off. The fact that we have survived is a testament to what we do.

Every collaboration you do has a varying degree of creativity. How important is it for you to make sure each collaboration reaches its maximum potential?

When we started our first collaboration with Jansport in 2012 we thought it would be great to bring another brand on board rather than just being accoladed as a store. In terms of local collaborations, it’s a win-win for both of us. It’s fun to create with other people as you hope it appeals to your customers.

What do you enjoy the most about the whole collaborative process?

Collaborators inspire you man! As generations pass by and you see all these young kids coming through, you get excited. The people that we collaborate with are doing new things, whether it’s fashion forward or an OG throwback. It’s inspiring to see what they bring to the table in terms of wanting to do something different, it’s kind of cool.

Who do you draw most inspiration from?

It’s so diverse, I just bought LCD soundsystem tickets the other day. There are days where I’m listening to DOOM but some days I’m listening to new wave. That’s the key to the store: I’m so influenced by so much so I don’t stereotype the store to be part of one subculture. As a kid, I used to envision myself being part of the New York ’80s culture and from there I got into the skate and punk scene in the ’90s. It was an exciting time.Y

1st Product is an advocate for stocking Melbourne based brands. How do you feel about the current scene in Melbourne?

Fuck, it’s on another level. A lot of things come through but no doubt, we are a hypebeast generation. That’s just how it is, Hypebeast and Instagram is such an influence on streetwear now. It’s good but also sad. Things just need to go back to basics, people just need to chill the fuck down. It’s progressing too quick, it’s a shit stack of releases and collabs and it’s like, “have we really got that much disposable cash that we’re buying sneakers every week?” Don’t get me wrong I still love it, it’s the healthiest it’s ever been. It’s in a good place but I feel like sometimes the bubble is going to burst.

What does it take for a brand to get on your radar?

It’s become so saturated—as a store, you’re always looking for something different. You see a lot of brands that aren’t really brands but sometimes you see projects that stay true to who they are. We look for brands that share the same vision, who flourish and progress and become legitimate players in the streetwear industry.

What’s the grail brand that you would love to do a collaboration with and why?

That’s a a big question. I’d honestly have to say Nike. I’ve always loved to take the ‘97 and do a twist to it. There are big brands you want to collaborate with but to do a sneaker is so iconic and so unbelievable.

Any future collaborations coming up?

Alley Tunes x 1st Product
Sergio Tacchini x 1st Product

What’s your advice for any brand out there trying to make a name for themselves?

Just to be true to yourself as a brand, don’t try to be like everyone else. What sets brands apart is how individual and unique they are. The key is to be an innovator and not an imitator. We look for the diamonds in the rough who are doing what they love, it must happen organically. That’s what sets people apart.

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