x

En Route: Shop Boswell

Shop Boswell

Visit:  729 SE Morrison St, Portland, OR 97214

Story by Rachel Schwartzmann – Shop Brookes BoswellPhotos by Nicholas Peter Wilson for The Style Line

“Doing what you love is one thing, but doing what you

love in a professional capacity is another,” millinery designer and new shop-owner Brookes Boswell relayed in our interview below. “As much as I love designing and making, I also truly love the day to day mundane chores of running a business…”

When it comes to Brookes’ story, it’s not hard to argue with these sentiments. From building her eponymous hat collection Brookes Boswell to growing a community around her newly launched store Shop Boswell, fashion has truly manifested itself in nearly all aspects of Brookes’ life. Her newest endeavor Shop Boswell is an extension of Brookes’ millinery design and was opened with the goal of providing visitors with an intimate look into the making of her beautifully crafted hats. The space also serves as a platform for Brookes’ tasteful curation of fellow emerging contemporary fashion and accessories designers – many of whom Brookes knows and shops from personally.

With the colorful Portland community as a sounding-board for Brookes’ endeavors, it came as no surprise to us just how special and thoughtfully-crafted the shop appeared during our recent visit – this idea also extended to Brookes herself, whose unwavering passion for quality design, and impeccable personal style set the perfect tone for our interview. Drenched with natural light and filled from floor-to-ceiling with unique clothing, accessories, and objects, we were thrilled to have a chance to catch the busy shop-boss in a quiet moment at the store to chat more about her transition from designer to small business owner, and learn more about her experiences in turning a passion into a profession. Read on for our full conversation and enjoy exclusive snapshots from our visit captured by Nicholas Peter Wilson for The Style Line.

*THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN MAY 2016 AND REFLECTS UPDATED CHANGES TO THE LAYOUT AND INTRODUCTION

I love getting out of the city.

Hiking and camping with my family and visiting remote places without many other people around. Being in nature is the most relaxing environment for me. 

Millinery design a special craft – where do you think millinery design fits into the industry as a whole and what about it resonates with you the most? 

It’s definitely a smaller and more specialized segment of the industry. Sometimes it can be challenging for a handmade accessory to fit into the budgets and schedules of a traditional fashion buyer. But it’s immensely satisfying to see my hats carried at shops and being worn by someone who might not necessarily be interested specifically in a handmade product. Or maybe they are specifically interested in a handmade product, and that’s cool too. 

Why do you think hats are an essential aspect of the modern woman’s wardrobe?

I’m inspired and attempt to design for functionality. Other than the obvious reason that modern women are concerned with sun protection and comfort, I feel that we’re also becoming increasingly concerned with not just quality of our possessions but the maker behind the piece, especially in regards to accessories. Accessories are becoming a more important part of our wardrobe and women want to know the story behind each piece, as if they were pieces of art or are collectible, and tied to our identity. Though I make no claim to my hats being works of art or collectible (they’re neither) I think they do fit into the wardrobe of a woman who likes a story behind her accessories. 

From designer to shop owner you quite literally wear many hats! What’s been the most challenging yet rewarding aspect of juggling life as a small business owner?

Time management! There is literally a never ending mountain of work, enough for a few lifetimes. It can be hard to prioritize and take time for myself. I find that it’s hard to squeeze in personal time for cooking, exercise and vacations. But those are just as important to a good quality of life as work, and when I do get to take personal time it’s all the sweeter. 

How has your experience design translated into life as a new shop owner? What are some tools/resources you would advise researching or utilizing for other emerging business owners? 

The biggest benefit to transitioning from a designer to a shop owner is that I’m not just selling a product anymore, I’m also buying products. I think that this gives me the benefit of empathizing with the designers that I carry in the shop. I have a bit of insight into a designers process and can apply this knowledge as I learn to become a buyer. What I love about being a shop owner is that I get to exercise different aesthetic muscles. It’s been so fun to curate a store full of products that I truly love, from designers that I deeply believe in. I know almost all the designers of the products that I’m carrying from working in the industry so I feel a real personal connection to the pieces that I’m carrying in the shop. 

[CLICK EACH THUMBNAIL IN THESE GALLERIES TO EXPAND IMAGE]

How would you advise the next generation of makers, creatives, and fashion professionals to leave an imprint in the world just by doing what they love? 

Doing what you love is one thing, but doing what you love in a professional capacity is another. As much as I love designing and making, I also truly love the day to day mundane chores of running a business. There are a lot of ways to run a small business, but if you don’t truly love the minutiae of customer service, photography, website updating, social media, bookkeeping, emailing, punctuality, etc then you might be better off working for someone else doing something more specialized. If you’re ready to jump in and start your own label, then do it 100%.

Portland is truly a creative hub that fosters industries like fashion. How has your experience been in this particular city and how would you characterize the community? 

The community is incredibly supportive! There has been a real renaissance in accessory design and craftsmanship here in the past decade and it’s been wonderful getting to know the other designers and the folks who support our work. There is a very high caliber of work being created here, on par with other great design cities of the world. I feel so fortunate that I’m able to live in this vibrant city that has a great quality of life, yet my working community is among the best in the world. 

The Style Line was built on the premise of discovery, exploration, and transit. With this in mind, what is “the style line” in your wardrobe? 

I love slightly odd or exaggerated variations of basics and I veer towards comfort above all else. Sneakers, denim, linen, and layering are staples. Cozy is the rule. 

How do you think creativity contributes to some of the world’s bigger conversations and what role is fashion playing in this shift in thinking?

Creativity or at least consumable creativity seems to be inextricably linked to the economy. The Art Basel’s, Fashion Weeks, Design Fairs and Coachella’s of the world all showcase creative work that is for sale. Maybe that’s the challenge for the next generation of makers – navigating their creative drive through the world of commerce. Everything is for sale, but maybe that’s not always a bad thing. 

“I feel so fortunate that I’m able to live in this vibrant city that has a great quality of life, yet my working community is among the best in the world.”