Scouting for the coolest brands and developing innovative collaborations are just two of the reasons why The Hip Store is celebrating 25 successful years of independent retailing.
When Drapers catches up with The Hip Store co-owner Everton Campbell, he’s busy making plans to mark the retailer’s 25th anniversary this year. Campbell opened its doors in 1987 with business partner Umberto Annechini and the help of the then government’s Enterprise Allowance Scheme, and hasn’t looked back. “My ambition was to go to university, but then I opened up the shop and there’s no way you can do both,” he says.
Situated in the heart of the Thornton’s Arcade, one of Leeds’ hippest (excuse the pun) shopping districts, the menswear indie is known for its cool, forward-thinking buying, one-off collaborations, and partnerships with local musicians and artists.
Ahead of the pack
Stocking brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren and Penfield in one store and more directional labels including Norse Projects and Comme des Garçons a few doors down in another unit, Campbell says the indie attracts a broad age range, with a customer base from 16 to 65. “Our customers are charismatic and quite discerning, but we like to think of everyone as welcome,” he says, adding that most shop across both stores.
Campbell declines to disclose the business’s turnover and is reluctant to delve into the secrets behind how he does his buying, simply revealing that the qualities he looks for in a brand are craftmanship, durability, functionality, and made in England, the US or Japan. He doesn’t have a rigid system of introducing, and dropping, a set number of brands per season, instead saying his buying decisions are based on gut feeling. “You have to buy what you’re into at the time. If you work well with the team behind an existing brand, then it often pays to keep that relationship going. However, it’s important to keep your eyes open for fresh new brands that will help you gain a point of difference,” he says.
The one thing he does say is that attending trade shows is essential – when the weather suits him. As Drapers sits down to interview Campbell, the January edition of streetwear show Bread & Butter is in full swing. He attributes his failure to attend to the fact “it’s too cold in Berlin at this time of year”, instead opting to attend the summer edition – a mindset that appeared to be mirrored at Pitti Uomo the week earlier, according to some brands – surprising given that outerwear is such a big-ticket item. Campbell also travels to Copenhagen for Gallery, and says London menswear show Jacket Required, which launched last year, is “really well put together”.
The brand he is most excited about seeing for autumn 12 is Visvim. “This Japanese über-brand is forward-thinking in design, with amazing craftsmanship, attention to detail and very exclusive in fabric choices,” he says.
Eye on the future
Finding clever ways of retailing helps to set The Hip Store apart from the competition. The indie joined forces with young fashion brand Ben Sherman to open a 700 sq ft concept store, Hip Presents: Plectrum by Ben Sherman, next door to its existing shop in October. “I was working with the brand on a consultancy basis for the Modern Classics collection and the opportunity arose for the joint store venture. It’s the only one of its kind outside of London,” he says.
Campbell remains tight-lipped about the possibility of further concept stores, but plans to continue the Hip Presents franchise, albeit in different forms ranging from concept stores, to collaborations on collections, to events. “Each time it could be something completely different,” he says.
He is full of plans to grow the business in 2012 and beyond, and this year will see collaborations with footwear brand Tricker’s on a range of men’s shoes, and with clothing brand YMC on a Made in England range. Campbell hints of a further collaboration – though he’s keeping the details under lock and key for now – for a capsule collection to be launched in November, marking the month the store opened back in 1987.
Streetwear goes premium
Since Campbell opened his store he says the market has gone through considerable change, noting that in the past 10 years the rise of the internet has facilitated an influx of in-demand yet exclusive Japanese brands, taking the streetwear market in a more premium direction.
“Streetwear as we knew it started to get a little bit smarter and more sophisticated. The Japanese influence definitely had an impact and changed a lot of things, and then we started to see a whole new generation [of consumers] prepared to queue overnight just to buy a hoodie or a pair of trainers,” he says.
Campbell says recent collaborations between sportswear brand Adidas and Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto, Japanese label A Bathing Ape and luxury watch brand Rolex, and US brand Stüssy and footwear brand Timberland, have helped move streetwear on further. “As a definitive it’s become a bit blurred. Street, sport, designer and casualwear can now sit together comfortably, or uncomfortably, depending on the consumer. More recent, clever brand collaborations, such as the one between [menswear designer] Adam Kimmel and [US brand] Carhartt, or a simple design change such as the classic Vans Era with brogue wingtips, can prove that streetwear has moved on leaps and bounds,” he says.
“Apart from the obvious hip-hop brands it’s not just streetwear anymore, it’s like anything goes. Everyone’s got a pair of Vans or Converse now, and people can dress like a skater on the bottom, and then wear a cardigan and a bow tie on the top,” he says.
Campbell is modest about the store’s success, saying he has been lucky to work with some amazing brands, while admitting his customers trust his judgement. However, there’s no doubting he knows this market inside-out and that a mixture of knowing what his customers want and innovative buying has been the recipe behind the store’s enduring success.
2011 Opens Plectrum by Ben Sherman concept store in Leeds
2009 Website launched
2005 Introduces US streetwear brand Supreme to the UK
1999 Collaborates with Jigsaw on a menswear store
1992 Second The Hip Store opens
1989 Opens shop-in-shop at Hyper Hyper in London. It closed in 1992
1987 The Hip Store opens in Leeds
Which other indie do you admire?
I really admire menswear indie Philip Browne in Norwich. The business is really well run and he’s just a really good geezer with a good vibe around him. I think the store is a good reflection of who he is.
Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by the people close to me, my mother and my wife.
The other person who inspires me is boxer Muhammad Ali. Every time he got knocked down he just got right back up again. He just stood for so many things and if you ask me he’s the greatest sportsman of all time.
What brands inspire you?
To be honest, I’m inspired by all the brands we stock at The Hip Store. These brands give me a really good idea of what’s going on in the market, and they are sort of my barometer, if you like.
What labels do you wear?
My favourite labels to wear are the complimentary ones I get given. Those are the ones that always feel the best on too, strangely.
Who are your style icons?
My style icon has to be Sly Stone. Not Sylvester Stallone, not Rambo, but Sly and the Family Stone. They are that early 1970s funk band. They are icons both for fashion and music.
If you didn’t work in fashion, what would you do?
I love working in the fashion industry, running the store and working alongside the brands we stock, but if I could do anything else then I would want to be a stay-at-home, full-time dad to my kids.