Justin O’Shea has made a considerable name for himself through the dogged pursuit of the unexpected. Perhaps that’s why the prospect of his latest venture, Goldy, a London style dry gin produced in collaboration with the restaurateur and designer Maurice Terzini, goes down surprisingly well, without as much as a second thought. After all, at the tail end of a year in which O’Shea has gone from a six-month tenure as the creative director of menswear house Brioni, to touring Central America with Metallica, to launching his own self-funded clothing label, SSS World Corp, it would now appear that nothing is off the table.
“I think because it’s left of field is the perfect reason to do it,” O’Shea tells GRAZIA on his return to Australia in the days prior to Goldy’s global launch at The Dolphin, one part of Terzini’s growing portfolio of Icebergs Group venues. “I didn’t grow up surrounded by fashion and because of this I believe it helped me to get where I am today. It’s all about taste and direction at the end of the day. Being an expert only takes you so far.” Plus, he adds, were you to require further evidence of his credentials in the spirits department, “Gin is my favourite drink, so to me that makes it not such an estranged project.”
The Goldy project began, as many before it no doubt have, through a fortuitous introduction made in Bondi – albeit one made under rather extraordinary circumstances. Terzini and O’Shea first met while the latter was working in his capacity as a buyer for the luxury Munich-based retailer, Mytheresa, for whom he worked for seven years prior to his arrival at Brioni (despite rather infamously having no formal training as a designer). Famously draining the Icebergs pool for the 2015 debut presentation of Ten Pieces made quite the impression on O’Shea, who bought the unisex ready-to-wear label Terzini designs alongside his partner, Lucy Hinckfuss, for sale on Mytheresa’s eCommerce site, which grew to become enormously successful under O’Shea’s watch. The two remained in contact, forging a friendship that the rural Queensland-born, Northern Territory-raised O’Shea says he solidifies on each return visit to Australia over a meal at Icebergs, his favourite restaurant.
“On the outside we’re a little different!” O’Shea laughs, conceding the perceived odd-coupling of his collaboration with Terzini. “He is way more handsome than me. But apart from that, we’re pretty similar. And I think that’s what makes this relationship authentic. It’s based on taste. That’s the most important thing at the end of the day. I don’t care how anyone looks. That’s not why I am mates with them. It’s who they are and what they represent which makes the difference.” Also at the Goldy table is the London bar impresario Tony Conigliaro, founder of the Drink Factory and proprietor of renowned cocktail bars including 69 Colebrooke Row, Bar Termini and Untitled. O’Shea and Conigliaro met last April through mutual friends and forged an immediate bond, the former says laughing, over a shared affinity for drinking.
Goldy, it should go without saying by now, enjoys a little black book of industry credentials that few boutique spirit launches propagated by Australia’s current boutique spirit boom will. As such, it’s landing on the shelves of some of the world’s most prestigious bars internationally: in Paris, you’ll find it at the Hemingway Bar at The Ritz and Caviar Kaspia; in London, Chiltern Firehouse and Selfridges will come to the party. Given the local connections enjoyed by both O’Shea and Terzini, Goldy will enjoy a place of pride at The Dolphin and Icebergs in Sydney, and in Melbourne’s Bar Americano, Romeo Lane and Mayfair. It will also be available for purchase online at DRNKS. All the venues have been chosen according to the discerning tastes that have cemented O’Shea’s reputation as, essentially, a career tastemaker of the highest order.
“They all are places that mean something to me,” says O’Shea, who, having spent the last 15 years of his life living in hotels, restaurants and bars – itinerancy sounds as though it is a major occupational hazard – is well-versed in the kinds of venues he wants to play in.
“Whether they’re high class or low class doesn’t make the difference. It’s the vibe which is important. I have a pretty good knowledge of exactly where I wanted Goldy to be.”
And as for the name?
“I got a really shitty 80s vibe tattoo of a cobra,” laughs O’Shea. “And originally it was going to be on bottle as the ‘mascot’, but we decided against it. I was having a coffee at the Ritz Paris with my good mate Will Welch, the Chief Editor of GQ Style America, and we were discussing this topic. He Googled ‘Cobras’ and discovered there was one called a ‘Goldie Tree Cobra’. And as the label was Gold and we wanted an anonymous name, it worked out pretty perfect.”
Only days ago, O’Shea celebrated the first drop of Aloha From Hell, the first collection from his menswear brand, SSS World Corp, which had its debut with a guerrilla show in front of the Ritz Hotel on Place Vendôme at Paris Men’s Fashion Week in June. The online launch was made possible with the support of the Berlin-based publisher 032c who are not only stocking the line through their eCommerce site, but who are also reportedly providing O’Shea with advice, production and manufacturing support. Last month, O’Shea also partnered with both Metallica and the London department store Selfridges on a capsule collection of cross-branded SSS World Corp merchandise that includes bomber jackets, raincoats, sweatshirts and trousers in addition to accessories like caps, beanies and socks, all replete with Metallica’s signature typography (the band famously starred in O’Shea’s first campaign for Brioni under his art direction). Aloha From Hell, conversely, includes riffs on O’Shea’s signature look, the one that made him a readily identifiable fixture on the international show circuit: tailoring, baseball jerseys, double breasted coats rendered in vivid animal prints, and naturally, Hawaiian shirts.
Of one in particular, cut from burnt orange viscose and emblazoned with a weed-come-hibiscus print, O’Shea writes with characteristic fervour, “I can’t decide whether I love our Magnum Hawaiian Shirt because it makes me want to drink gin tonics in the sun or because all my mates just want to have a job that requires wearing one every day. Hang on – we already have jobs where we can wear one everyday. And we love gin tonics in the sun.”
After a year of dramatic upheaval characterised by an exhaustive output that would tire even the most relentless in their pursuit of the unexpected, a gin and tonic in the sun sounds as though it’s exactly the kind of prescription O’Shea might happily indulge in. What might he take away from the enormity of all that he has experienced – the abrupt about-face in his career, the unprecedented collaborations and the ambitious product launches in heretofore unchartered markets?
“That I should never have so many things come at one time!” he says, laughing. “Man, I am bloody tired. But at the same time I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love work and it’s the major focus of my life. To be surrounded by friends, [doing] things that make people happy and [having] a great time along the way is what keeps me going. I think that I [have] discovered that life is only worth living if you do what you love. Don’t make compromises, don’t settle for mediocrity and don’t take shit from no one. And be a good person, most importantly!”
Tile image: Zackery Michael/Courtesy of Goldy
Cover image: Tom Ferguson/Courtesy of The Dolphin