A Wonderful Selection of Men’s Fashion at The Outpost
25 April, 2014
We pop into The Outpost, a multibrand store in Barcelona just for men and which specialises in shoes and accessories. The store boasts customers from all over the world, drawn by the write-ups it has had in leading international magazines and newspapers. We were keen to find out more.
“Sorry to leave you waiting, I was just having a very pleasant chat with some customers from Sydney. We had been recommended to them. They’re staying at the Mandarín Hotel and were very interested in learning more about the store,” says the creator of The Outpost, Pep Esteve, with a touch of happiness and enthusiasm that grows as he discusses his business project. He is proud of his “little shop”, as he calls it. For six years now he has been investing all his knowledge about the fashion sector into making a unique selection of men’s shoes and accessories, although he has also long been considering “a Lady Outpost” – a plan for which he is keeping an eye out for “a good opportunity to put into practice,” he acknowledges.
As Esteve explains, the idea behind The Outpost is unique because “there are no other shops that only have men’s shoes and accessories in Barcelona, and few of them anywhere in Europe”. It is important to take his analysis with a great deal of consideration, as it is the fruit of the 28 years he spent working in the fashion sector in Milan, firstly at the firm Romeo Gigli and later at Prada. At the former he was the sales manager and at the latter, where he spent 11 years, he was in charge of coordinating the Prada Sport men’s and women’s lines for the Mediterranean and Middle East.
Rewarding himself in the form of fashion
“When I turned fifty, I rewarded myself with the courage to make a change,” Esteve recalls. “I decided to come back to Barcelona after many years in Milan”. That was when the arsenal of courage enabled him to go much further. In addition to coming home, “where my friends and family were”, he decided to establish The Outpost and “do something hard”, i.e., open a store dedicated solely to men’s fashion, and “harder still”, in that it would only sell shoes and accessories, and “to top it off” open it at carrer Rosselló, 281, right in front of Casa de les Punxes at the edge of the commercial route of Passeig de Gràcia. “I fell in love with these premises. At first I wanted somewhere close to the intersection with Passeig de Gràcia, but it was 2007 and I couldn’t come up with the money I needed for the transfers and to pay the rent,” he says, looking out of the store window to feast his eyes on the stunning façade of Casa de les Punxes, by the architect Puig i Cadafalch.
That was how The Outpost’s course began and, although Esteve acknowledges that “it’s tough at present because of the economic situation”, it is an undeniable draw within the city’s fashion offer, recommended to readers and visitors by international magazines and publications. “We recently appeared in the Financial Times and every month we get a call from a publication or guide requesting pictures. It’s never-ending and we don’t have anything to do with it”.
Nothing and everything
With each little detail and with big decisions, Esteve’s store assembles products and labels that are hard to find in a single space anywhere else in the city. “This morning I visited a company that makes safe deposit boxes for transportation in order to place an order for the store. A foreign customer came in with a cover for an occasional table and I asked him who had made it. It turned out to be someone in Barcelona! This has nothing to do with the fashion sector but I placed a small order for covers and I think they’re fantastic”. This is one of the many strategies that Esteve reveals when we ask him about the selection at The Outpost. “I check out everything,” he goes on to say. “From seven to nine every morning I go through all of the newsletters of the brands that I like, the updates on sector blogs, I look through magazines and visit places to scope new trends. When I see something I don’t have in the shop I want to get it”.
As soon as he says this, a picture of the ‘Barcelona man’ pops into his head, a figure never far from his mind: “Everything I do, I do thinking about the guy from here. I want Barcelona’s men to have everything they need to choose from and to feel good about themselves. My store is designed for them”. In this sense, he explains that the economic situation has led to a fall in sales among local customers over recent months, along with a parallel rise in the importance of sales to tourists.
All of the customers, both from home and abroad, pop in to check out labels such as Mr Hare, Balenciaga, Marsèll, Pedro Monge, Converse, Parabellum, Never on Sunday, Robinson Les Bains, Montsita Negre, D.R. Harris and the many others nestled together on the ground floor of the premises in which The Outpost is located, a 1942 building designed by Duran i Reynals.
“When I don’t have a brand in the store I feel bad about it and if I get a call from a friend in Milan telling me about a new designer, I do everything I can to get my hands on them. I also have a selection of brands just from Barcelona, including Bcn Brand, Suit & Fix and Brain & Beast – fantastic labels that we always have in stock,” he says.
One of the secrets to The Outpost’s success as a must-see for fashion lovers is of course the amazing corner that is the store window. “I have a window that is the perfect size for my goods,” Esteve enthuses, referring to one of the key claims of the premises.
Every fortnight the main window of the entrance to The Outpost becomes an invitation to dream. Today it boasts a lemon tree which “flowers in front of the eyes of customers and people on the street”. A few days ago it featured a barber’s chair which Esteve found on the street and that evoked small moments of self-indulgence, and before that there was a Vespa scooter “that a customer lent me”, which united adventure with fashion in the small glass interior.
“You can always find me walking around the neighbourhood on a Wednesday, because that’s the day people leave their junk on the street to be collected and I can pick up some amazing things for the store windows,” Esteve says. He has a maximum budget of thirty euro and uses the money to make installations and arrangements that could well feature in the entrance to an art gallery. However, in this case, it is a fashion gallery at the avant-garde of trends and with the courage of someone who is sure he knows what his customers want.