a look inside the wonderful world of hostem, east london's most exciting boutique

We talk to the shop's owner James Brown about running a fashion boutique in the 21st century.

by i-D Staff
26 May 2015, 10:35am

As East challenges Central to take London's shopping mecca crown, Redchurch Street boutique Hostem is emerging as a compulsory pitstop for any fashionista or fashionisto in the know. Owner James Brown and his talented team have created an oasis of some of the businesses best and most sought-after brands such as Ann Demeulemeester, Comme Des Garcons and Raf Simons. Complete with a gallery and rooftop space that opens this July, the Hostem gang knows that these days you need to be much more than just a store. We caught up with Brown to talk lessons in 21st century retailing.

What was your first memory of fashion?
I'd always grown up around fashion, I suppose, without necessarily realising it. My dad was a mod and I was always fascinated with his suits. As I got older I would go with him to Savile Row for his bespoke fittings and this has most definitely informed my love of tailoring, which has become a huge part of Hostem menswear today. I was also obsessed with underground and niche designers and seeking out the product. My first real store experience was shopping with Peter Sidell at The Library when I was 14, he introduced me to brands like Carpe Diem and Carol Christian Poell. So it was always something I was hugely passionate about but it was never an intention of mine that it would end up as career or lifestyle for me but those early influences have definitely had a huge impact on my thought process and what defines my interest in design and making today.

 Why did you want to open a store?
I opened Hostem when I was 22 and it was very much something that came about by chance to some extent--I grew up in east London and its also where both my parents are from as well. I would always come up to Brick Lane at weekends and as I got older most of my nights out were in Hoxton and Hackney so I was constantly inspired by the area the underground culture there. After leaving school I lived in Umbria, in Italy, for over a year, and then LA for a year too, and then returning to London I felt quite frustrated from a creative standpoint and really started to think about what I wanted to do. Then the idea of opening up a space came to me, somewhere I could work with designers and makers that inspired me and also build a team who shared the same beliefs. This lead me to opening in east London which was a very natural progression - I was always fascinated with Redchurch Street - there was something always so charmingly decadent about the street and it always had a slight sinister edge to it - I found the store purely by accident walking down the street on a Sunday morning and it had a to let sign in the window and I knew instantly this was the spot.

What were some of your inspirations for the store and its interiors?
I had the Hostem space for about six months before we opened it and I hadn't really intended on working with any interior designers. However, I just happened to be at an exhibition where JAMESPLUMB were showing some of their furniture pieces. They'd just graduated from Wimbledon College of Art and I was really intrigued by not only their work but by them as people as well. We began talking and they mentioned they had never worked on an interior before. I decided to show them the space which was just moments away and from that point on we worked together on the opening of the initial ground floor and lower ground floor. After 3 years we decided to expand and add to more floors to the building which allowed us to introduce womenswear and the focus for the space was very much creating a blank canvas - a almost non-interior. Which led us to the use of steel flooring and white plaster walls. The complete antithesis to what we had done before. This has enabled us to work with a myriad of different makers and individuals and to allow them to put their own stamp on Hostem - much like the recent collaboration with Studio Toogood.

How do you carefully select the brands you carry?
We just have to respond to what they are doing - its as simple as that. It can be a high fashion brand like Loewe where we really respond to what Jonathan is doing from an imagery stand point, and the world he is creating, or to a niche artisanal maker like Alice Waese, who hand dyes every garment she creates and personally delivers them to the store. Both these examples are of equal importance to what we do.

What are some of the hardest things about owning your own store?
The fact you can never switch off - when you own your business it never ever leaves your thought process. Its with you 24 hours a day, everyday. However this is what pushes me as I am never satisfied with what I have done.

Who is the Hostem man or woman?
The team who work here and the inherent style they all have. Hostem is based on them.

What's next for Hostem?
Our rooftop space which will be opening in July.


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