Yuka O’Shannessy lives and breathes creativity and community. The founder and director of Ponsonby Road’s Public Record was born in Japan and brings with her an innate sense of timelessness and high-level refinement.
Photographed & Interviewed by Adam Bryce
Tell us what you do and why you do it.
I’m the director of Public Record. I do everything to operate the business — curating artists, directing shows and workshops, introducing artist’s work between Japan and New Zealand, and styling. I also sometimes take the shoots for products we sell. When I find some spare time, I design clothes for my other little label called Yuka&Tristan.
I do this because I love it. I’ve met a lot of amazing, talented people along the way and want to share their work.
What is the concept behind Public Record?
What inspires the Public Record aesthetic and how do you decide which goods to carry and sell?
Things that I think are beautiful. There are no boundaries of old or new, perfect or imperfect. The fine balance of two opposed elements and the contrast that creates that often attracts me, bold and elegant, smooth and coarse. I also love things that are unique and playful.
My vision for Public Record was a long time in the making. Ultimately, the people I met and the time, understanding their dedication, ability and their unique point of view shaped what type of space I wanted Public Record to be. The makers and artists we represent come from many different backgrounds, disciplines and philosophies — but they all give everything they have to what they do. They care deeply about what they produce and labour over its quality. Public Record is a space to represent them and share stories and philosophies. They really do put their soul into their work.
I care about how to display their works too. Not like a gallery or like a normal product store, I think of my business as a big canvas and sometimes of myself as an entertainer.
What do you see as the biggest differences between operating your business in Japan and here in New Zealand?
I’m very grateful having my store in New Zealand, especially in this difficult time. I feel protected by the government and a great landlord who are supporting retailers and artists. I have a lot of support from the locals and the many kind people I see in my day. I can’t think of anywhere else in the world I could have set up my dream store at this time.
Downside of being a retailer in New Zealand is the population, and the economy size can make it hard to sustain a business like mine… one of the reasons I do so many things in my business.
The world is in a state of turmoil. The pandemic has affected retail hugely and issues around racial inequality have people re-evaluating the way they spend and their priorities. How has your business adapted or planned to adapt to, what is essentially, a new world?
I’m good at adapting to new things or if I’m facing difficulty I try to think of the opportunities it creates. Change or a new challenge always gives me growth and strength. There can be no hesitation or altering my way of thinking.
Covid-19 came at a time when all my plans for Public Record had been made, but almost nothing was set in stone — so I could have still called it off. It was a big decision, but good things take time, I’ve just set myself a longer business plan… and I’m chasing my dreams regardless.
What are your future goals for the store and how do you see these being accomplished?
I want to establish the community, one day I’d like to have a space where coffee, food, music and socialising is a part of Public Record, but that might be a while off. I don’t really have a critical business plan, or a single vision — which is perhaps the best approach right now with the ever-changing landscape we’re in. I also want to have a little base, office/gallery store back in Japan too.
Right now, I’m very focussd on the artists and makers I work with and representing them in the best possible way. I’m dedicated to finding unique work and creating the best environment to show it in.