Format: Please introduce yourself, United Front, and the companiesâ€™ subsidiaries.
Matt George: Matt George – Owner, CEO, Partner, Support Staff, President, General Contractor, and Motivator of a few different businesses that fall under United Front. United Front is Goodfoot, Ransom, Nomad, Stussy Vancouver, Stussy Toronto, Nvsbletailors, St. Alfred and a contracting, consulting, and business development company. Ha. Thatâ€™s a run on sentence if Iâ€™ve ever heard one. Yeah, we stay busy!
“The best part of the first location was that there was no other retail businesses in the area. You really had to be a fan and collector to make the trek. If you wanted to come to the shop, you had to know where it was, have a friend who knew where it was, or spend time looking for it.”
Format: What was the initial inspiration for Goodfoot? How did you manage to fund such an ambitious project?
Matt George: Initial inspiration stemmed from the love of sneakers and sneaker culture. Goodfootâ€™s first store in 2002 was in Toronto and was funded by three years of hustling sneakers to Japan.–straight up. I began buying vintage and sought-after shoes from the States and was flipping them in Japan during a time when Japan was really deep into the sneaker game. The original reseller [laughs]. No line-ups though; lots of driving. I had a partner in the States and we used to clean out full warehouses and mom-and-pop spots in Chicago, Philly, New York, and their surrounding cities.
I remember around 2001 finding a warehouse after a number of wild goose chases that ended up have around 1800 pairs of Nike and Adidas from the early 1980s. I still have some gems from that find. We filled two motel rooms and called the shipping broker for a way to get this product from an hour outside of Chicago to Japan. We filled a shipping container of vintage and shipped it to Japan. Four weeks later I flew to Japan on a Friday night after school to meet the buyers and the shipping container at a port four hours outside of Tokyo. On my way back to Canada on Sunday morning, while writing a business paper for school, cash in hand, I decided I wanted to open a store.
Format: In five years Goodfoot has grown from one store to over five, including subsidiaries. How have you grown so quickly?
Matt George: The United Front team and extended family has made this possible. If you add all the Goodfoots and subsidiaries, right now we run, own, and operate eleven stores. Iâ€™ve been known to be a bit of a cowboy when it comes to a few things but growth and starting new projects is definitely part of that. The only way anything would have ever worked is the team behind it. My office, managers, and staff in each city really hold the fort down everyday.
Format: Goodfoot will be opening its sixth location at Oakwood and St. Clair in Toronto. What was the motivation behind opening at this obscure location?
Matt George: I have wanted to open a store that would look and feel like the original Goodfoot. The best part of the first location was that there was no other retail businesses in the area. You really had to be a fan and collector to make the trek. If you wanted to come to the shop, you had to know where it was, have a friend who knew where it was, or spend time looking for it. I love the idea of this type of business. The first two years we had people come in the door everyday either asking why we didnâ€™t have a sign, or telling us they had heard about the store but could never find it. That is interesting retail to me. I want that back in my pocket. At this point, anywhere we put a store somebody follows us and does the same, either a year later or when they know it is a safe plan. I have a feeling that this location will be different at least for a few more years.
Format: When did Ransom, Nomad, and your other stores begin to materialize conceptually?
Matt George: I always think I have a plan in my mind to where all this is goingâ€“problem is that this is constantly changing as to what the plan and perfect business look like for us. The stores and all the projects I am involved in get me one step closer to a fully integrated, unique business that has not been done by anyone in the world. All the businesses are still materializing every year; itâ€™s a constant process–keeps everything fresh.
Format: What similarities do you see between consumers in Nomad and Ransom? To what degree is there a crossover in the two markets?
Matt George: I see this as one market: all the stores have crossoverâ€“the Stussy consumer will buy from all the other stores as will the Nomad consumer. We have perfectly segmented the dimensions in the building. Where else can you buy a Ransom jacket, Jack Purcellâ€™s, Nom De Guerre denim, and a Stussy deluxe tee–oh and throw on an APC sweater and Supreme hat in to make the point. I know the outfit is a bit much, but you get the idea. It is one-stop shopping for the most interesting and well-made brands in the world. Have you ever been to a building/store that has this entire thing going on?
Format: United Front recently partnered with Stussy to develop the Stussy Toronto Chapter and is now working with Stussy to bring the store to Vancouver. How did this relationship develop and what has it meant for United Front?
Matt George: Like-minded people and businesses tend to create and produce interesting projects and collaborative efforts in the market to make it better. This happened to be one of those situations where it was the right place and time for Stussy and United Front to join forces and once again bring a concept to Canada that has never been seen. It definitely goes hand-in-hand to what we have been doing from day one, as well as what Stussy has been involved in for over twenty-five years. What has this meant to me? It has really made me step back and look at my own businesses in a more directed and strategic way.
Format: What are the most significant differences between American and Canadian markets in relation to street-wear, urban lifestyle, etc.?
Matt George: I donâ€™t see many differences at a street/retail level at all. The only real significant difference I see is how the hands are tied of most of the Canadian distributors and companies we deal with on a regular basis. Iâ€™ll leave it at that.
Format: How much of United Frontâ€™s business takes place in America, and to what degree are you interested in breaking into the States?
Matt George: Outside of our involvement in St. Alfred, we sell Ransom, NvsbleTailors, and Goodfoot brands into the States at select shops. I think there is still room Stateside for what we have a handle on in Canada. We will have to wait and see if there are any opportunities that make sense.
Format: United Front maintains ties with many Canadian companies, artists, etc. Who are some of the people in Canada most instrumental to your success outside of the United Front camp?
Matt George: Pretty much anyone we work with is on regular, is crew, and is considered part of the UF camp to me. Alister, â€œKwest,â€ â€œRcade,â€ Willo Perron are a few of these individuals who really help keep it moving. Over the past few years I have made an effort to reduce the amount of people we rely on outside the camp.
Format: In the last several years street-wear has exploded in Toronto. Why now?
Matt George: Itâ€™s pretty simple: the concepts and ideas that built this â€œstreet-wearâ€ portion of fashion have become more mainstream. Iâ€™d like to think it is because people are starting to leave the homogony of the mall-based box retailers for something more interesting, but seeing the success of companies like Urban Outfitters and their subsidiaries I think Iâ€™m wrong. I think the explosion is because of the mass appeal of this side of fashion.
Format: Anything else you would like to discuss generally?
Matt George: Everyone around me has been grinding so hard, without breaks or complaining on weekends and holidays for the past eight months, on all the different projects that they have been signed up for. So, thanks to the United Front team for pushing these through and making it possible to launch new lines, opening Stussy Chapter stores coast to coast, and building two new Goodfoot stores all with amazing success. Thank You.