Oallery opened its doors in 2018 and has since become globally recognised amongst a new breed of fashion boutiques, as well as one of our favorite stores in the world. Oallery stocks brands including Adish, Andersson Bell, Story MFG and Needles and is even home to the world’s only Human Made store-in-store.

We’ve been fans of the Amsterdam based boutique for a few years and always wondered about the creatives behind the scenes. So last week it was our pleasure to sit down with Oallery’s Co-Owner, Sacha Pardovitch, and Buyer Gijs Veening in Amsterdam. What began as a casual conversation about the store turned into a two hour chat about their entry into the fashion world, their trials and tribulations of starting a retail business and of course we nerded out about denim for a while too.

Oallery, Amsterdam.

“We were just a bunch of early 20 year olds who thought they could figure it out.

— Sacha Pardovitch, Co-Owner, Oallery

So the store has been here for a little over five years now, right?

Sacha: Yeah, and It was quite emotional, honestly, because I was only 21 when we started the company. I was like praying every night, ‘please let it be five years, just give me 5 years’, and now we’ve passed that mark. I will say it was a rocky road, like I’m gonna die years earlier, because of the stress that came with it, but that also does create some kind of romance around it. Like a good relationship; if you’re married for 60 years, you’ve probably been through some shit. I think being able to have this opportunity, regardless of what will happen with all of us, the history that we’ve had together, all the experience that we’ve gained from each other and together is something we’ll never forget, and at the end of the day the most valuable thing. You know, clothing is materialistic, but experience and knowledge and memories are all we’re gonna have at the end of the day. I think that’s why everybody who works here is also here, we’re just having a good time, like every Tuesday, we have dinner together and go out together. It’s a really like minded community we’ve built. I think we’re all blessed with the fact that we’re doing jobs but at the same time, it’s also a hobby and it’s just really rare.

I didn’t realize you were so young when the company started, were there any growing pains or lessons you’ve learned in the process?

Sacha: At first, I really felt out of place. Like the first time at Fashion Week or the first time you walk into a showroom. In my case, I was just a 20 or 21 year old kid walking in there, and they just start telling me all these things like ‘SKU’s’ and ‘MOQ’s, I didn’t even know what they’re saying and had to learn all of the verbiage. They’d bring up ‘deposit deadlines’, and I was like ‘Okay, yeah, sure, yeah’ but I had no clue what it was and I felt like they knew that I don’t know… and that’s kind of awkward. It just takes time to learn and progress but you get there, and then all of a sudden you really walk in there and you feel like it’s your industry. But the hardest, hardest part of everything, for me at least, is that starting a company at 21 years old, you don’t necessarily have somebody who’s telling you how to do things better. So you really have to have optimal self reflection, even if you realize that you made a mistake, you still don’t necessarily understand how to better that mistake or how to make the best version of your current problem. So I think guidance is something that we’re constantly looking for. A great example of that for us has been one of the cofounders of Daily Paper. He’s a really good friend of mine, and he’s somebody whose advice I really appreciate. I don’t always follow it, it’s like a younger, older sibling scenario. But I do really value people like that, who will give us the opportunity to really realize and work through ideas we haven’t thought about ourselves. Without that, I don’t think we could exist.

“It's a really like minded community we’ve built. I think we're all blessed with the fact that we're doing jobs but at the same time, it's also a hobby and it's just really rare.

— Sacha Pardovitch, Co-Owner, Oallery

Oallery 5 year anniversary party, featuring Co-Owner Sacha on the far left, photo via Highsnobiety.

How did you both get into the fashion industry?

Gijs:  I studied fashion branding, I got a bachelor’s degree, worked in the club and event scene for a little bit and then worked for a high end women’s wear brand for a little while, and then ended up here. So that’s kind of how it went.

Sacha: I started just reselling shoes when I was like, 15, something like that. Then when I was 19-20 years old, I was making pretty good money with that. And that’s like, seven, eight years ago so really at the height of resale, but I felt like ‘you know what, it’s kind of stupid that I’m only doing this for the money,’ because I really like history and things like that, but my representation of style wasn’t really aligned with my knowledge of certain sneakers so I thought ‘I should get into clothing’ and that’s how I started to develop my tastes. When I started here, in all honesty, I still barely knew anything about the fashion industry. Basically, through the knowledge of my colleagues, and also my own motivation, I started getting more into it. Diving into everything like magazines, documentaries, things like that. I mean, obviously Gijs is like the wiz kid, and I try to learn as much from him as possible and at the same time still create my own opinion, instead of just becoming like a mini Gijs. I think at the end, you have to surround yourself with people that have more experience and knowledge about certain subjects. I’m incredibly spoiled, because my partner really opened up this new world to me. We went to Asia, the States, and I saw all these stores and then it really, really clicked, I was like, ‘Oh, damn, this is like, really what I fuck with, this is sick.’ And then there was no doubt in my head that I had to continue developing my knowledge on this subject and to never get stuck in that development because it’s always changing.

How did the concept of a Oallery come about?

Sacha: So initially I used to work in resale, I was doing resale for clothing and sneakers. Then my now partner came down one day, and said he wanted to do a pop up with his brand, which was still in the beginning stages. So I built that pop up store for him, and we became friends. A couple months later, he came to me with an idea to open a store in Amsterdam. So that’s basically how this came together, then I found the building and we both agreed that this building was phenomenal, and then we renovated it, but the concept of how it is right now wasn’t really there yet. We were just a bunch of early 20 year olds who thought they could figure it out!

So it was kind of based on being a concept store first, how has the concept progressed since the initial opening?

Sacha: So my partner wanted to renovate the place within three weeks. Which was quite a lot, it was not in good shape. Everything you see: the walls, the floors, the television screens, we’ve done everything. So that was quite a challenge, but  we did it in 3 weeks. I think the rush of it all didn’t really create the opportunity to really like, write down what we wanted to do. And it was up to me because, while my partner’s the majority owner of the company, it was really up to the Amsterdam team to take care of it and I think we did. So I’m very, very proud of our team because my partner is a visionary in the sense that he really understands what he wants for the store but the in depth detail of it is really up to us right now. And that freedom is a blessing or a curse sometimes, but at the end, it creates what we have now.

Oallery's FW23 collection featuring Human Made and Story MFG.
FW23 collection shot by Aster LG.

“When I'm looking for new brands, and you find one that only has like 10k followers, it's in Japan and its entire website is in Japanese, that’s the best.

— Gijs Veening, Buyer, Oallery

The brand and product curation is very specific, how do you go about picking the brands and items you stock?

Sacha: In the last two years, especially late to end COVID, is when we started to develop our trajectory. With the help of Gijs, who has been here now for a little over two years, we’ve been really curating in a bit of a different direction. We try to find the right selection of an eclectic mix of different brands. So almost every taste has something; that’s the idea, at least. We try to find new brands, some people maybe haven’t heard about. I think the main focus for us is to find brands that we really like and connect with ourselves, that the quality is really good, and sustainability is also something we are really striving towards with every brand, but there’s levels to it. Because Cawley, for instance, they make everything by hand in the UK, or Story MFG does everything by hand and focuses on traditional craft. So things like that are really important to us. But this is more of Gijs’ speciality.

Gijs: I think eclecticism is really important for us. So I always say we try to have the best in every genre. We don’t really want a lot of brands that do the same thing. So I’d say it’s actually, in a way, not very directional in the sense that we want to cover all bases but only dabble in each area a little bit. So you come in here and you can buy Acronym and mix it together with shirting from Cawley, really aesthetically very, very different. I think that makes it a lot of fun. I also think that, for instance, a brand that we just got in for the current season is Nanamica, which is very well made. But let’s say you put Nanamica together with other brands that are in that same genre, it doesn’t really get the attention that it deserves, right? It doesn’t stand out. 

Sacha: Right now, like Gijs just said, we like to get one or two things in one genre, and therefore it creates such an eclectic mix of things, it really draws the attention towards the brand. 

Oallery FW season featuring Story MFG and Cawley.
SK Manor Hill mushroom keychain necklace.

That’s a really unique way to approach a retail store, rather than stocking similar items that will sell and giving a brand the chance to stand out, is there an ideology or direction that links them all together?

Sacha: I think that’s also kind of how I look at the ideal multi brand store, that you get in what sells, but also, you get in what represents what you’re into.

Gijs: Like I said before, it’s really cool that this is a store where you can buy Acronym and Story MFG and 4Designs and then also Human Made which is very, very unique. I’d say that if there is a direction that we take, we really care about products, that’s really important. It’s always really, really well made, really well done graphics, like it’s really nice. It’s really for people who appreciate fashion.

How do you go about discovering new brands and making that decision to include them into the mix?

Gijs: When I’m looking for new brands, and you find one that only has like 10k followers, it’s in Japan and its entire website is in Japanese, that’s the best.

Sacha: And there’s also a bunch of brands that we’ve seen, like, half the brands that we see at Fashion Week, you look at it, and it’s like, ‘oh, this is cool,’ but it is not like the pinnacle of it, you know? So we’re very careful. Very careful, very strict with what we curate. Maybe too strict sometimes. But we want to walk into a show and say “Oh, wow, that’s something we’ve never thought about or seen.”

We’re obviously huge fans of Nigo and Human Made here at Denim Dudes, how did the Human Made store in store come to be?

Sacha: My partner asked me ‘who shall we work with in order to really start this company with a bang?’ And we had two main options on the table, and we’re very happy we went with the option that we did because the alternative was Kanye, but then you’re stuck with Yeezy. The other one was Nigo. He is such a pioneer in the fashion industry. The man knows what he likes, and he’s really a visionary in that way. So we contacted them and visited their offices in Tokyo. We had a tour through the warehouse where all the Bape and older stuff is, which is surreal still to this day. I was too scared to take pictures because I didn’t want to be like that fanboy kid, but that’s also one of my bigger regrets! So then we had the conversation about starting a long term partnership, and that’s how that floor came to life basically. They came here, we designed the space together and it was quite intense, also a short delivery deadline and it had very, very specific requirements. Measurements needed to be exact up to the millimeter, the lighting needed to be specifically pointed in certain directions and areas, so a  lot of proportions and directions, everything was hand painted. We really wanted only the best of the best and that really worked out well. Those little details make a big difference. And now we’ve had the opportunity to have done two collaborations with them, which is quite rare, I think, for a retailer to have that opportunity.

The Human Made floor is complete with a larger than life-size wooden bear.
Oallery's Human Made store in store.

Getting into denim a little bit, how do you pick the denim that you do have in store?

Sacha: So I think we’ve got slightly different opinions on that, which is great. I mean you can’t always face the same direction. But I think what Gijs does incredibly well is he’s really into the more experimental denims, which is really cool, it really has grown on me. For example the Andersson Bell jeans with the patchwork or the silver coating are really unique. Originally, I’m more of a traditional Japanese denim kind of guy. But I think as of now, it is more interesting for us to be a little bit more creative with our choice of denim in store to represent a multitude of different customers. Whereas if you go the traditional Japanese route, you get traditional Japanese denim, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s hard to find a brand that has both the experimental and the traditional. Human Made does it pretty well, in terms of still being a little experimental, playful with their designs, but offering authenticity in their selection. Right now my favorite denim in the store is definitely the silver coated Andersson Bell’s.

Gijs: Yeah, I agree. I think that that’s like the right balance between really contemporary but also just made really well, I actually own a pair of Andersson Bell jeans from the previous season. Between the paneling, the attention to detail, it’s exceptional. 

Sacha: Also, those Anderson Bell’s Gijs is talking about, I think it’s insane that everywhere the paneling comes together is also riveted. So to still use the traditional nod to heritage, I think it really shows respecting the craft of jeanswear the right way. 

Gijs: Personally, I think that there’s quite a big gap right now between like traditional Japanese denim makers, and the silhouettes that the contemporary designers who are using denim in their collections have now. So I think that there’s a big gap and a big opportunity for it to come closer together. That used to be like Evisu like the 90s, right? Nowadays, we buy more contemporary stuff. We would love to do more in the more traditional Japanese realm, but there’s just not the amount of paneling or the visual experimentation that the contemporary brands have. And I think crazy denim is having a moment, but it’s usually within the smaller independent designers that take traditional Japanese elements and just go crazy with it. You see the crazy boro stitch jeans or the really distressed silhouettes and experimentation. 

Anderson Bell seam and panel detailed jeans.
Andersson Bell 'Scratch' denim.

Would you guys ever start your own brand or denim line? 

Gijs: I know he would!

Sacha: I mean, let me put it like this, nothing’s off the table. It’s just a matter of time. What I’ve learned from being in a rush constantly with construction is that you have to take your time. 

Gijs:  Especially for denim, like you said, there’s so much history, there’s so much that goes into it and we’d want to make something that’s really, really good. So that takes a lot of research, a lot of time and experimentation, and a lot of trial and error until you get that perfect pair. 

Sacha:  We’d rather start with producing one product, perfecting it, and then go to the next one. I also think  that’s where a part of the fashion industry is going now anyway, not constantly renewing products, season by season or even more often than that. But really focus on producing a product that is so good that you just keep wearing it, and through time, like good denim pants, it fades and changes with you and creates basically a new look to it, a new kind of garment.

“You really know when someone's walking in our clothing. That makes me very happy because, obviously, most of the stuff is not our own brand, but then to still be able to see someone walking down the street or in a magazine or whatever, and I'm like, ‘yeah, they for sure bought it here.”

— Sacha Pardovitch, Co-Owner, Oallery

What makes Oallery a unique retail experience in your opinion? Both for you and your customers?

Sacha: Well we’re all about anti-gatekeeping. I think that is one of the biggest issues with the older generation. They’ve gotten to a certain point, stopped developing, and then they start gatekeeping because they don’t want others to gain that knowledge that they possess, because their motivation towards developing is stagnated or limited. And that’s something we really try not to have. I feel that I think that’s very important. A fun fact is that everything we put out editorially or creatively is done with like 0-500 euros, with some exceptions. I think what we have learned throughout the years is that you can do a whole lot of things with very limited resources. But obviously, it’s a little bit of a double edged sword as people walk in the store, and they’re like,’ oh, but your store is quite large, and you have a lot of variety of brands.’  And then I’m like, ‘Yeah, but that’s the problem, because that’s where all the money goes!’

Another thing that I think is really nice is that people come in, they’re looking for something that they don’t know about yet. And that really gives us the opportunity to be a little bit more experimental with what we buy, and how we brand ourselves towards our target audience. We get musicians or artists in, and they walk in without their stylist, and they’re just like, ‘okay, dress me!’ And that’s really cool. Because you really know when someone’s walking in our clothing. That makes me very happy because, obviously, most of the stuff is not our own brand, but then to still be able to see someone walking down the street or in a magazine or whatever, and I’m like, ‘yeah, they for sure bought it here.’

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