W O R T H
'WORTH' is a growing project about people. Who they are, and an invitation to learn a little more about them. An intimate first step in being personable. Through the course of 'WORTH' I will be learning as much about my own self as I will about the people that inspire me. Growing up in the Midwest I am greatly inspired by people and their work, 'WORTH' is an effort to become more in tune with those around me.
WORTH is entirely shot on film.
Laura is the owner of Johan, a small shop in Portland, Oregon. I had the pleasure to talk with her and visit her beautiful space this past December. We chatted about all sorts of things and I left wanting to visit her shop again soon, it has an openness to it that is so prevalent its intimate. If you’re in the neighborhood please stop into her shop.
632 SW Pine Street
Portland, Oregon 97205
All of these photos were taken on medium format
Tell me a little about yourself.
My name is Laura Housgard and I own Johan, a lifestyle shop for the design-minded in Portland, Oregon. I grew up in the suburbs of Portland. I left to study business and merchandising during undergrad, then completed a master's program in Sweden in marketing and branding. After graduation, I moved to New York and worked in technical design on the corporate end of fashion for four years. I moved back to Portland a little over four years ago. I feel pretty lucky to have family here and to be able to call Portland home again. When I'm not doing shop things, I like to hike, thrift, eat burritos, and binge watch things on Netflix that I should have been watching 5-10 years ago, like Mad Men.
How did JOHAN begin?
Johan started as a blog in 2011 while I was living in New York. I had a terrible boss and hated my job. I'm thankful for that though, because it forced me to take an honest look at what I actually wanted to be doing. At the time I was still obsessed with Sweden, so I started a blog called Johan's Son that covered Swedish brands and designers. In November of 2012, I turned the blog into an online store where I sold Swedish brands like Fjallraven, Stutterheim, and like, a ton of clogs. When I moved to Portland I thought it would be fun to try out brick and mortar since the risk felt a lot lower here. I had family, friends (read: safety net) and rents were dirt cheap compared to New York. I changed the concept a bit since there were so many cool local artists and designers, and opened the first shop in my living room. It was a secret. You could only shop when the "yes" sign in the window was on. Eventually word got out, I started getting more and more press, and the business outgrew the tiny space. I moved in downtown in the summer of 2016, and I've been here since.
How do you think living in Sweden and New York influenced your taste and style?
I'm sure both places influenced my taste and style, but in a more indirect way. I've always been a visual person interested in aesthetics, but I think moving to Portland is what honed my style the most. I would argue people here are way cooler than New York or Sweden. Of course in New York, it's a huge city, so you're bound to get the extremes of people who are well dressed and poorly dressed. In Sweden everyone looked the exact same. Literally every girl wore H&M head to toe. It's been almost ten years since I lived there, so I'm sure things have changed. But Portland felt different. The creative community when I moved here was tight, and everyone had a distinct point of view. It was incredibly inspiring. I would also say that as my confidence grew with the growth of the shop, I was able to express myself in my taste and style more boldly.
Favorite coffee or tea spot in Portland?
Go to album or musician?
Very into HYUKOH right now.
Biggest inspirations or influences?
The Vignellis and Corita Kent.
Where do you see yourself and JOHAN in a few years?
I've always done crazy things with Johan. I've never wanted it to be normal. It was a hidden shop in my living room, then it was a shop with a secret address smack dab in the middle of downtown, then I opened a project-based gallery a few blocks away, then a coffee shop called No Coffee. It's been so cool to have Johan be boundary-less, a concept I can play around with. I think because of this, Johan will be around forever, but it will continue to morph. A goal I have for 2019 is to find a way to encourage more people to buy less. Kind of backwards coming from a shop owner, but I guess that's my MO.
Marc is the owner and operator of a small menswear shop in downtown Columbus OH. called KILN. I'm always encouraged when I stop in the shop and see Marc. We swap stories and I'll typically buy a candle, and than we launch into a short but very deep conversation about something. We share a similar sense of place I feel, and we both have an avid adornment for all coasts and bodies of water alike. I had the greatly valued opportunity to sit down and chat with him a little about KILN, whats next, and a little about him and his background.
Tell me a little about yourself.
"I grew up in Maine coast in a small blue-collar coastal town, Saco, sandwiched between Portland in the north and Kennebunkport in the south. Saco and it's neighboring city across the Saco River, Biddeford, are most known as a manufacturing and logging hub during the Industrial Revolution. The Saco Island Mills were second only to the mills in Lowell, Massachusetts in textile production. To understand the rise and fall of the mills is to understand the town. Most of us are only one generation removed from millwork and are constantly surrounded by those stories which certainly had a major impact on me growing up and definitely much later when I entered the fashion industry."
What made you start KILN?
"KILN started as an idea on our first trip back to Maine with our newborn daughter. At the time I was working as the head designer for a couple of categories at one of the big mall brands. The hours were long and I just wanted to spend more time with her. We started having long conversations about how we could make a change, eventually giving us more freedom for her to experience everything I loved about the coast while still maintaining our family connections in Columbus. KILN was born from all of that. A potent mix of jagged coastline and salt air while seeking a deeper connection to family and the place I grew up. Around the same time, two Men's shops in the Short North had closed, leaving guys with almost no where to go. I had a unique and very granular experience from my career behind the scenes. The goal was to pass on that knowledge to our customers and help them to become better informed consumers."
How do you select brands for the shop?
When I left my last gig I was part of a two man Concept Design team, helping the VP of Men's design set the tone for each season. This included building these elaborate, immersive spaces to help get designers and merchants psyched on the upcoming season. Part of the job is being an encyclopedia of what's happening in the world, reading the cultural tea leaves and being aware of industry trends but not shackled to them. Our roster is built simply on some of my favorite brands and makers for very specific reasons whether it's pedigree, quality, versatility, production location/methods, sustainability and/or innovation. We don't bring in brands because they're buzzy. They need to stand on their own without the support of the label. We're very sensitive to pushing a costume or "look". There's no hip-kid club you have to belong to come see us. Our only agenda is to help guys feel good.
If you could travel to any place where would it be?
Impossible to answer. Too many. Changes daily. Kyoto? Kathmandu? There's a lake in Palau full of pink, non-stinging jellyfish. I think I'd dig that.
What's your go to album?
Again, another impossible one. Depends 100% on mood. I was surrounded by a pretty crazy mix of music growing up. My mom raised us on 70s California Pop and Singer/Songwriters --Beach Boys, Carpenters, Gordon Lightfoot, Jim Croce, Eagles, America, Bread-- my dad almost solely church music. My older brother was into 90s grunge and alternative while my older sister was into the 90s neo-hippie stuff--Grateful Dead, Phish, Blind Melon, Mazzy Star, Natalie Merchant. I was a BMX/Skate kid--if it was loud and fast I was into it.
If I pulled up my iTunes today and sorted by most played I'd guess it would be something along the lines of Pixies, Floyd, Sabbath, CSNY or T.Rex.
Where do you see KILN in a few years?
A crew of super-passionate like-minded individuals who are psyched on coming to work every day. Like "Empire Records" but with less drama.
K I L N 988 N. High St. Columbus, OH 43221 P: 614.867.5610 kilnmercantile.com