James Stewart History
James and Alexander Stewart – lovers of adventure and the finer things in life – were the sons of a Scottish haberdasher. Their enterprising spirit brought them to Australia to open a draper’s store on Brisbane’s Queen Street in 1860. Later it would become one of the country’s first department stores. James (known as ‘Jimmy’) went on to open several more stores, including James Stewart & Co. in Rockhampton, which remains operating today.
James Stewart & Co. was the first Queensland store to import international finery, such as hand-spun silks from Japan, hand-crafted knits from Scotland, bentwood furniture such as Thonet from Austria and glassware from Sweden. Jimmy’s sharp eye for design trends – combined with an innate ability to curate and source goods – kept him well ahead of his competitors until his death in 1923. The business continued to flourish and he realised his vision to construct a flagship store in 1926. With its café, fashion shows and couture garments direct from the fashion houses of Europe, it was revolutionary.
The business expanded into furniture and fashion manufacturing in the early twentieth century. With 150 years of history, James Stewart & Co. remains Australia’s longest surviving family-owned department store.
The James Stewart Furniture Collection draws inspiration from this visionary great, great uncle, evoking his sense of charm and employing his eye for detail.
David is the veteran expert and founding partner of Leather Miracles, the company that supplies the principal material for the James Stewart Furniture collection. For David, pride and curiosity of the leather and furniture industries were instilled at an early age. Both his father and grandfather were respected furniture manufacturers, working at the heart of the American furniture manufacturing industry in Hickory, North Carolina.
David has worked with many respected companies during the course of his 35-year career, including Lackawana Leather, where he was Vice President of Sales at the time it was considered the largest tannery in the US. David’s wealth of industry knowledge and passion for leather have supported the expansion of Leather Miracles globally. Sourcing hides from South America, Asia and Europe, establishing tanning partnerships in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, China, India and Italy, as well as furniture manufacturers in China, David has proven his standing as a pioneer of the contemporary leather industry.
As the great, great-nephew of James Stewart, Ian spent his childhood immersed in the family’s James Stewart & Co department store and in the imaginary worlds he created between the waterbeds of the furniture department and the dress racks of the fashion floors. At the age of six, Ian’s world dramatically expanded when his family embarked on a European adventure and witnessed first hand, glassware blown in Venice, leather shoes hand-made in Florence and other traditional crafts from the continent.
Ian returned to Europe after business school, firstly to Poland where he worked in a ‘big four’ accounting firm and later to London where he worked as a corporate IT Business Development Manager. In London he developed an impressive portfolio of international clients including BHP, IMG International, Westpac UK and Lend Lease UK. When Australia beckoned for his return, Ian used his savings to buy a furniture company and with his life and business partner, Susie, created the James Stewart brand and developed the James Stewart Furniture collection.
Susan Wall – Creative Director, Business Development
Susie’s appreciation for the arts, materials and textiles developed early in childhood, shaped by parents who loved being on the water and sleeping under the stars. Her aptitude for creating and making was consolidated by her experiences exploring the Australian coastline, perfecting boating knots, macrame and crafting objects from nature. Susie formally ventured into the arts when she began working with notable twentieth century decorative arts collectors in New York including Stuart Parr. She also worked on larger scale art projects for Jerry Gorovoy and Louise Bourgeois.
Upon her return to Australia, Susie worked for Italian Molteni Group, and U.S. Bernhardt furniture companies collaborating with designers and architects in the specification of furniture for commercial business. Susie realised her true calling when she met her life and business partner, Ian. Backed by their international experience and shared love of the arts, design and furniture, they created the James Stewart brand. Together they embarked on the product development that has resulted in the James Stewart Furniture collection.