First Person | Inventory Magazine’s Ryan Willms edits with quiet confidence

Inventory Stockroom, 45 Powell Street, Vancouver | Source: Inventory

VANCOUVER, Canada — When a friend in London called my attention to Inventory Magazine earlier this summer, I was intrigued to learn that the impeccably edited menswear title is based out of Vancouver, a city known for beautiful vistas and excellent food, but not usually for understated style.

“Inventory began as an outlet for us to write about products and things we were interested in personally,” explains editor-in-chief and creative director Ryan Willms. Together with a small team including fashion director Simon Roe and managing producer Owen Parrott, Willms carefully curates international menswear brands with quiet, exacting discipline. “A lot of the brands, people and products we were interested in were not getting much coverage at the time so we decided to interview and photograph the stories we wanted to read ourselves,” he adds.

Usually when I hear this from emerging designers or young magazine editors, I take it as a sign that they haven’t done any market research. When Willms says it, I really believe him.

Interestingly, Willms first gained credibility as online editor of the much lauded h(y)r collective, and grew Inventory from there to include a printed magazine, an e-commerce store and most recently, a studio-cum-shop in the heart of Vancouver’s Gastown district.

Ryan Willms | Source: Inventory Magazine

“We decided to start printing the magazine because the photography and interviews we were getting were so good and in-depth, that we felt they deserved to be printed,” he says. “There wasn’t another magazine focused on this area of menswear. We felt confident that we would be able to find people to invest in a printed magazine that covered the same kinds of stories.”

Willms’ hypothesis is being proven correct. Inventory is selling briskly, having successfully tapped into a growing interest in staple menswear brands amongst industry tastemakers.

Margaret Howell — a designer renowned for a pared-down aesthetic, but not her public persona — is the unconventional cover star of the magazine’s second issue, which saw its print run increased by sixty percent to 8,000 copies.

Colette, Dover Street Market and Beams — who apparently share Willms’ belief in appreciating “products and clothing for more than just their appearance” — are amongst the more than 75 international retailers and boutiques who carry the magazine. And many more requests to stock Inventory are coming from other stores around the world. All of this has been achieved with no outside help. The magazine’s entire distribution is handled internally.

The recently-opened Inventory Stockroom carries the same products that are featured in the pages of the magazine, artfully merchandised with sparse urban sophistication. Standouts included a yellow Rangoon jacket by Nigel Cabourn, an indigo tote bag by The Real McCoys, and a military insipired Ashfield Jacket from Engineered Garments, originally made as an exclusive collaboration with Beams Plus in Japan.

“We always wanted to have our own store,” says Willms. “It started online because that was the best, most cost efficient way to sell products in small quantities and work our way into retail. In the beginning we were the first blog or web-magazine to actually collaborate with brands to make real products — now it’s a lot more common. But because our main focus and business is the magazine, we don’t have to compromise with the products in our shop. Every brand and every piece is something we like, would wear ourselves and know all about, which I feel is pretty rare today.”

In the sea of corporate chain stores with poor quality, ‘me too’ merchandise which dominate Vancouver’s retail scene, Inventory Stockroom is a breath of fresh air. The magazine and store are a kind-of editorial and retail mirror image, making no bones about their commercial intentions. It seems completely natural that Inventory would sell the products it editorialises. This is in sharp contrast to many mainstream magazines who are required to feature the products of advertisers, but don’t own up to it.

For those who want to get a taste of what Inventory has to offer, but aren’t able to make it to Vancouver, Willms and his team are setting up shop for one month only at Partners & Spade in New York this October.

“The [Partners & Spade] studio/shop is one of the best spaces and more interesting retail set-ups in New York, and it seemed like an unexpected, yet creative partnership for us,” he says. The pop-up store will feature product collaborations with Duluth Pack and Scottish knitter Inverallan and coincide with the launch of the 3rd issue of the magazine.

Imran Amed, Founder and Editor of The Business of Fashion, is in Vancouver and is participating in a Q&A session on fashion and the digital revolution on 30 August at the Opus Hotel. For further information and tickets, contact Searching for Style.

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  1. Great concept, but another pop up shop? Is this still considered fresh thinking? Yawn ….

    Roger Dunhill from Bicester, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
  2. I’m sorry, but this article is ridiculous.

    Impeccably edited? The Inventory site, and the previous incarnation H(y)r Collective, regularly feature typos, grammatical errors, and factual errors.

    The team over there has accomplished a great deal and deserve a lot of credit for capitalizing so efficiently on the rise of the Americana and craft trends in menswear, but let’s not get out of step with reality here. Inventory has a long, long way to go before it is anywhere near impeccable.

    Diz from Bronx, NY, United States
  3. Have you read Inventory? The articles are poorly written and edited. And their concept of touring factories and reported on what the Japanese magazine’s are reporting on is hardly a fresh take. That said, the photos in the magazine and the quality of the paper are top notch.

    Derrick from Los Angeles, CA, United States
  4. Inventory is one of my favourite magazines at the moment; a magazine I want to hold on to and keep. I relish reading it and wish them all the best.

    Silvano from Delta, BC, Canada
  5. @Diz and @Derrick Thanks for your comments — when using the word editing, I meant the editing of clothes, products and objets to feature in the magazine, not the actual words and numbers. Perhaps I should have used the word curate, but I had already used it! That said, your points are well taken and we always appreciate reader feedback at BoF. It’s true that Inventory is a young magazine and has much opportunity to develop further, but I haven’t seen a magazine out there like it and think the business model is very interesting. I also agree with @Silvano that it is the kind of magazine one wants to keep.

    Imran Amed, Editor from Delta, BC, Canada (post author)
  6. I love the magazine and appreciate the hard work that goes into all the aspects of the business(es) these young, passionate workin’ boys are putting together. Well done.

    Mel from Duncan, BC, Canada
  7. Inventory Magazine is always so great to read and it just keeps getting better. Their website and products are fantastic as well. Best menswear magazine I have read – definitely a breath of fresh air.

    Ash from Vancouver, BC, Canada
  8. To my knowledge, I know nothing right now that is doing something as good and to the standard that we would believe could not be done. The fact that the magazine and retail side is running as a cohesive group and not controlled by an external finance cooperation or some other kind of setup like most large fashion brands is such a breath of fresh air. The shortcomings to Inventory will always be natural shortcomings in any person’s endeavours. Inventory isn’t aiming to cover every single piece of men’s news and neither every single menswear designer. Your more than likely not going to see the Belgian avant-garde nor any women’s designer. Its strength is its edited focus. And I have to say without a doubt, Ryan has been it worked being the or one of a very rare few to start an online blog site to now work and have a magazine put out. And do it in a way with diginity.

    Mike from Revesby, New South Wales, Australia
  9. I think the credit Inventory gets is largely undeserved. The absolute deal breaker to me is the lack of real talent. Ryan Willms writes like a 14 year old Supreme fanboy, and the aforementioned typos and grammatical errors are only the tip of the iceberg. I challenge you to read 3 sentences by Willms without cringing.
    I cannot speak about the other guys at Inventory because they never get to say or do much, and seem to be happy with it, but in case of Mr Willms, it would take a lot at this point to change my opinion of him as a very shallow, untalented poseur who travels to Japan and writes little reports on what Cafes he went to and what jackets were on display at the Engineered Garments store. A Canadian Nathan Barley.

    Waan from Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan