The co-owner of directional Newcastle menswear indie End Clothing tells Marie Davies how suppliers were won over by his passion
Why did you open the store?
My business partner John Parker and I met at university and quickly realised we were both really into our brands. Back in the day that would have been the likes of Umbro by Kim Jones. We thought there was a gap in the market for niche brands in Newcastle upon Tyne so John and I decided to start a business after university. Neither of us had fashion backgrounds - I studied economics and John studied IT.
As a new store run by people with no retail experience, how did you attract brands?
Getting original brands on board was hard and our brand profile now is a reflection of five years’ hard work. It didn’t just happen overnight. At first brands said ‘who are you and what are your brand adjacencies?’ Ultimately it was the concept of our well-presented store and our passion that led the brands to us. Levi’s Vintage, Folk and YMC were some of the first on board.
Were there any brands that were particularly difficult to get on board?
RRL by Ralph Lauren was a brand both John and I had liked for a while and wanted to get into the store. We were up against it because RRL didn’t actually have a UK distributor but we managed to get it on board for autumn 09. Commercially the verdict is still out on the brand, but we took it on because we believe in it.
Have you signed any other brands recently?
For autumn 10 we took on Visvim, Junya Watanabe Man, Commes des Garçons, Engineered Garments, Universal Works and Stone Island. For spring 11 we are being more cautious as VAT and wholesale prices are due to go up. We are expecting it to be a tough season, although the middle market and value sectors may be hurt more because the premium market is less price-sensitive. If someone is going to pay £800 for a coat then a small price increase is unlikely to make them waver.
How do you decide which brands to take on?
From speaking to customers and our staff, and we also talk to people at events and trade shows. It’s quite an organic process because brands approach us now. I also look at hundreds of blogs. My top blogs are Selectism.com, Inventorymagazine.com and Fuk.co.uk.
You opened your second store in Newcastle last year. What led you to do that?
We were taking on premium brands such as APC and Nom de Guerre and they were sitting alongside casualwear brands Barbour, Clarks and Fred Perry. We knew there was a demand from our customer for the premium offer so we opened The End Hunting Co next door to our first shop.
Was this not risky given the turbulent market last year?
The original store was outgrowing itself and we wanted to go in a new direction to differentiate our offer. We have a close relationship with our customers, who we know on a first name basis and that is very important in giving us that point of difference. We aren’t a family-run business but we employ the ethics that customers expect from one, and we offer personal and knowledgeable service. We want to be the best store in the UK.
Which other stores do you admire?
Très Bien (pictured) in Malmö, Sweden and Opening Ceremony in New York.
Which football team do you support?
Who inspires you?
Nigel Cabourn has been a massive inspiration because of his enthusiasm for the industry.
What are your interests besides fashion?
Food, reading, cars, football - the usual boys’ stuff.
Which is your favourite city?
Copenhagen (pictured) or New York.
Christiaan Ashworth is co-owner of directional menswear indie End Clothing at 4-6 High Bridge, Newcastle upon Tyne