It’s not that often you get the opportunity to visit a truly innovative retailer, one that has stayed ahead of the game and is still a go-to for that knock-out, neck-breaking sneaker or clothing collab. So when we got the opportunity to visit Boston we just had to pop over the Charles River to Cambridge and go see Concepts for ourselves.
What we found was a beautiful retail space that mixed a variety of everyday and hard to get brands. A space where locals just came in to hang and chat, try on some fresh kicks and share knowledge.
Breaks grabbed a few minutes with one of the guys that have made it such a success, Dave Kocses. As one of the managers and buyers at the store he’s at the forefront of looking at which new brands to stock, work on collabs and ensure their retail game stays ahead of the pack.
Dave, thanks for taking the time out to chat – what is Concepts all about then?
We have our roots in skateboarding with the team and sponsoring OG riders like Danny Supa. We stay connected to that world and we were the first store in the East Coast US to get a Nike SB account, but always had one eye on moving forward, keeping things fresh.
It’s all about understanding our customers, seeing how they’ve changed, how their tastes have evolved but also perhaps providing some ‘direction’. And I mean that by bringing in the brands we think are doing the job, whether that is sneakers, shorts, 5 panels, snapbacks, jackets etc. just mixing it all up. So we have the NikeSB stuff and we at any one time have a huge selection of that – Dunks, Blazers, Janosk’s, the Kostons. Then we have Vans, staying true to the skate roots of the store.
But then we’ve also introduced the likes of APC, Visvim and mixed it in with the skate decks. Today we still sell a lot of decks out of the store and we still sponsor riders and have a team, so we’re heavily in that world. But unlike when we started we also sell $900 Vivsim boots alongside Half Cabs.
So what do you look for and why?
I’ve been here over three years and I’ve definitely seen a change in what people are in to. You have people who grew up on certain brands and they’re still into their well-made, independent goods but they’re looking beyond a graphic tee to more cut and sew items.
We’ve definitely tried towards educating customers. Like any store we have people who come in and want a specific Norse Projects or APC piece and we then take that and try and introduce them to brands that maybe they don’t know – brands that work well together.
Good things are always coming out and I feel Concepts is always trying to stay ahead of that, take inspiration from all over the world and bring it all together under one roof.
Having a physical space means bigger overheads, so how do you compete with the internet-based stores and how do you keep retail fresh?
We simply don’t allow certain brands to be sold through the online store. Obviously there’s the Quickstrike SB stuff that is all sold in-store only. We get calls all day ‘can I do a phone order? I’m in Kentucky…’ and we have to say ‘instore only, sorry’.
There are also items from brands that will never appear on the online store either. I think you have to keep the retail experience special and unique even though it’s definitely hard with so many online retailers now.
Cambridge and Harvard Square is definitely a ‘destination’ spot so in the region and we’ve got a great location even through we’re not in downtown Boston. And Cambridge has helped shape Concepts into what it is.
I feel if we were in Boston we wouldn’t be the same type of store. Here we’re a little more relaxed, we can take our time to decide what we wanna do and what we want to stock compared to if we were on some crazy bust street in the city. I’ve got massive respect for Bodega and what those guys do but I feel we’re different to them in many respects but also complementary.
With so many brands now sold online, do you still see any differences in the US compared to the UK?
I’m from just outside NYC, and Supreme was always part of me growing up. I feel like repping Supreme is the same as repping the Yankess hat, it’s that New York thing. So I was kinda surprised seeing all the pictures of the queues outside of the Surpeme London store – it caught me off guard just cos I guess we’d seen the hype of that brand here but I always had UK people down as doing their own thing and not all going for the same brand. But we do see trends from Europe coming over here for sure and influencing what people are in to.
Well with that in mind, what’s big right now for Concepts?
In the US in general Carhartt is huge, which I know sounds odd but going back to the previous question, we’re talking European Carharrt that you guys have had for years. Now we’re finally getting it and people are going mad for it. The WIP stuff, man New York has blown up with that.
I think in general what’s important is that people take time and look around. There are a lot of great brands out there so find your own identity and go with that, mix and match stuff and have fun with it.
It’s important to keep in mind that this whole ‘scene’, for want of a better word, is about expressing yourself and being an individual. I’m not sure you can do that in tight rolled chinos and an Obey sweat – there’s so much more out there, go for find it. It’s about creativeness, progressiveness the two elements that for me keep this whole thing alive.
Going back to the brands we’re seeing as big, Patta has gone down really well and we’re one of the only US stockists. It’s got a strong identity and I think people appreciate the aesthetic they bring. We’re trying to get Fuct in from Japan – it’s coming back so strong with the attitude, the style so that’s one to look out for.