My name is James Rennie and I am the founder of Ryan James – a menswear and lifestyle concept curating independent brands from around the globe.
So, what’s the story?
Pictured with Lyn Cunningham, Creative Director at The Matinée.
My grandmother was a professional dressmaker and my grandfather was a master baker. Whenever I went to visit them we were always making things; from altering clothes or creating new ones from patterns, to digging out the arts and crafts box and baking cakes for family and friends, as far back as I can remember.
So it’s perhaps not surprising, given the creativity I grew up with at home, the natural study choice was within the creative industries. I gained a degree in broadcasting at the University of the West of Scotland, with a mind to get into television. But then, my path took a different route when I graduated, through a friend who was working in fashion styling. I started assisting at shoots and shows and I absolutely loved the buzz and excitement in each of these experiences. It just fell into place that actually, fashion was the industry for me.
I started working at Ted Baker Glasgow, my first job in retail, and after learning the ropes I worked my way up. I was offered a Visual Merchandising role at their concession in Selfridges, London. What followed was a five-year stint in London working for a succession of brands, implementing their creative strategy at high profile stores across the West End and the City.
Being immersed in this world, observing and learning, the idea that I’d like to be doing this for myself started to develop. As a Visual Merchandiser your role is all about inspiring the customer, telling them a story through product and I was ready to write my own story.
The idea was to curate a collection of menswear that I liked, for people who know what they like – well-made, key pieces; things that you need, that you will reach for time and again; the jumper that will become your favourite, your failsafe. I was also conscious that people are increasingly interested in the origin of what they buy – so we stock watches designed in Glasgow and skincare that’s made here, as well as wallets handmade in England, and t-shirts produced in Bogota. It’s all about craftsmanship and skill, and less to do with trends.
I took research trips to New York, Barcelona, Paris and, of course, back to London – all places that I knew interesting things were happening both in menswear and retail in general. But while travel helped bring Ryan James to life, I knew that to make it happen I wanted to come home. There is so much happening in Glasgow in all the creative fields – art, music, food, as well as fashion – which makes it such a vibrant and dynamic city. I knew that people here would understand the value of good independent design and that’s what Ryan James is about; bringing the work of those designers and brands together and making it accessible.
So I’m back where it all began, with another new beginning, in the city where I got my first lessons in building and making something from scratch – from my grandparents, for whom Ryan James is named.
I hope you will follow this journey as we take a look Behind the Brands that we curate, bring you inspiration through Ryan James Concierge as well as the latest news on what we are up to!