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Grounded: Past To Present w/ Joshua Heares of Porter James Sports

This month we caught up with Joshua Heares, founder and director of Porter James Sports as he geared up to launch the brand's latest collection for summer which is out now. Following their success at launch and their sophomore collection for Winter 2021, the brand was unfortunately held back from holding their in-store experience aptly titled “The Porter James Clubhouse” due to a snap COVID-19 lockdown (that ended up being 12+ weeks) in Auckland, New Zealand. Nonetheless the brand released merchandise allocated for the in-store event through their online store selling out almost instantly. Joshua tells us about that whole experience of lockdown being announced, what he thinks are the most important factors for building a brand, and how his past has influenced heavily what the brand is today.

Tell us how Porter James Sports came into fruition and how you turned your idea into reality?

Hey Zayyar, thanks for having me. Firstly I’m so proud to see you found Wynn & Thayne, bringing to life one of your great passions.

Thanks man, that is much appreciated!

My pleasure! Porter James Sports was an idea that came to me during the first lockdown of 2020 (I think around May). Ultimately I wanted to create clothes for myself that I couldn't find in the market (or at least locally) which was the convergence of menswear and streetwear. 

Additionally I knew I had a unique perspective and pillars of inspiration that would make for an authentic brand story, which as you know is anchored around ‘a life well-designed’.

It's cool to see you bridging that gap of menswear and streetwear while putting your own spin to it. Let's get deeper into the motto “a life well designed” - I think it’s something we are all striving for and should keep ahead in our minds. How did you come up with it?

It was my personal story and has now become the brand’s. Long story short I was one day asked to answer ‘what does my dream day look like’ because ultimately dream days build a dream life. If money or security wasn’t an issue how would you choose to spend your time? For me this was Porter James Sports. Now obviously there’s a play on ‘well-designed’ which also talks to the timeless nature and aesthetic of the brand.

Mmm smart. That's amazing you have built your dream life and living within in. So what's the secret to staying creative all the time?

I think defining what you're looking for and then giving yourself time to think, work and refine. When you have a clear vision or define a creative territory for a project you become receptive to so much inspiration. It can be hard to give yourself time with today’s fast paced climate especially as you work on multiple projects but try to give yourself time to sit with thoughts and concepts. I should also take my own advice [laughs].

Agreed - clarity is key. I mean even for me Wynn & Thayne is in it's infancy but I still feel there's so much to do day to day. I'll definitely try and take your advice on that [laughs].

It may always feel like that but just by writing down your goals/to-do's and distilling that step by step allows you to focus so much more.

Most definitely. So if I were to describe the Porter James brand it’s a culmination of 90’s popular television, golfing, Range Rover and casual Ivy prep - some of the best things in the world to be honest. How would you describe the brand's affection for your references and how did they personally impact your life?

[laughs] what a compliment. I guess it’s authentic. I grew up playing golf basically everyday of my life. I was obsessed. The majority of us wore Polo on the course too so as I grew up with Ralph Lauren I took a liking to the brand’s affinity with ivy league style. 

Really quick - could you have gone pro with golf?

Maybe but I wouldn’t have made any money [laughs]. Happy to just play recreationally and when I can now. 
As for the others, well my Dad sold Range Rovers for quite a while and I remember he would let me drive his company cars from time to time.

[laughs] that's amazing.

Sure was! As for Seinfeld I genuinely watch it on a near daily basis. None of this is overly considered, it's all just an extension of myself really, but somehow it all ties into the brand’s ethos.

It does fit so well and shows why the brand is becoming a success not just here but globally. You now have stockists around the world. From your past career what do you think have been the most important skills that have transferred to building Porter James Sports today?

I think it comes down to product quality and brand. With product it’s very unlikely you’re going to reinvent or reinterpret menswear in an entirely unique way.

That's very true. It does feel like everything in menswear is "done" or is just slight improvements here and there. How do you counter this with Porter James?

Your product quality needs to be very good to stand a chance at getting repeat purchases. We focus on ensuring our product is absolutely perfect - the fabric, construction and drape. As for brand I think this is your key differentiator. What does your brand stand for, truly, and how can you tell this story, authentically.

For sure, I respect what you're doing because every product you design I can see you wearing it or it's just an extension of yourself.

[laughs], yeah the brand is who I am.

Indeed. What I really admire about you is turning a negative into a positive, with the Porter James Clubhouse literally days away the New Zealand government announced a lockdown for Auckland. What was going through your head at the point in time? I'm sure some hair may have been pulled [laughs]

[laughs] thanks man. I guess as a business still establishing itself you have to be ready to pivot and try new things. Plans don’t always go as intended so be open to change.

… and I mean you could have held out and assessed how long we were going to be in lockdown for but releasing the Carta collection for the Clubhouse online and it selling near instantly, that must’ve been pretty special?

Totally. We have a really special group of customers now and we are so grateful for the support during lockdown. We found ways to continue releasing product and being overly transparent with our customers in terms of potential delays and they were more than accommodating.

That's great to hear - and being honest as a brand is taken for granted I think. So let's talk about the Summer 21 collection, tell us more about it and what was your favourite part of working on this collection?

Definitely the more tailored garments. I think not having been traditionally trained in fashion it was always going to be a big challenge designing more technical/menswear pieces. I feel that we took on more risk and really evolved as a brand which I’m proud of.

Agreed, it's something unique and everything looks amazing so congratulations on that.

Thanks man, it's definitely seen a wide positive response.

Let’s change gears (no pun intended) into watches, I know you’re a newcomer to the hobby but what have been a few pieces you’ve seen that have caught your attention?

[laughs] all thanks to you my friend.. But as you know I’m interested in Rolex. It's just something about the brand, the history and aura it possess. For me personally I really like the stock you have at the moment - a 1970's-1980's era Rolex ties in with my lifestyle perfectly. They're not too precious or flashy, it's something that I could wear golfing, in meetings, working on my laptop or taking my dog for walk.

In terms of models I'm leaning towards an Oyster Perpetual 1500 or a Datejust is pretty hard to beat in my eyes. A navy/blue dial gets my heart racing.

Well yeah that would tie in well with the Porter James headline colour [laughs].

[laughs] yeah it sure would. A Datejust 1601 or 1603 would be nice I think, I've also considered newer models as well or buying one box fresh from the AD.

All options considered, let's try and get you one soon. Thanks for your time Josh.
. You can find Porter James Sports at porterjamessports.com and on Instagram @porterjamessports

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