Twin Visits Hostem

06.08.2014 | Fashion | BY:

Christie Fels is the Head Womenswear Buyer at the East London concept store Hostem. Working closely with founder James Brown, Christie quickly became Artistic Director also, and is shaping the way Hostem views luxury, not only in terms of the womenswear collections but for the brand as a whole. Above the well-loved, well-known mens space, Hostem completely renovated the building, adding new floors to cater for their growing business. Twin met with Christie at the recent store expansion to talk about the Hostem aesthetic, personal style and what luxury means to her…

Tell us a little about your background…
I’m originally from South Africa, I was born in Johannesburg and studied in Cape Town. Initially I studied Interior Architecture and that was what I wanted to do. However I moved to Antwerp, around the same time a store called Ra 13 opened. I had wanted to do more art-based projects with them, but in the end fashion was a much bigger part and so that’s where I began.

I was there for about three and a half years and I loved Antwerp, but I was too young to settle there. I decided to move to London and work for LN-CC. I tried PR and Marketing and thought it was for me, but it wasn’t. At this point, I was relooking at what I wanted out of the industry personally and professionally, and made a decision not to continue down the communications route but to look for a more creative role, this coincided with James [Brown] thinking about growing the business at Hostem. He approached me to join the team and build the brand so it was perfect timing.

What would a typical day be like for you?
I work very closely with James, which enables us to work in tandem on everything from product at the store to Hostem’s brand voice and special projects. I joined Hostem in advance of the opening of womenswear so my role developed quite quickly – I am currently Artistic Director/Head Buyer of Womenswear. This means I split my time between being in the office, on the shop floor, and travelling – no two days look alike.

Was it difficult to translate the Hostem aesthetic to womenswear?
We didn’t want to limit ourselves to a particular aesthetic. We thought about what was relevant to a womenswear customer, whilst staying true to what the blueprint of menswear stands for. There has to be substance and story, this is key to what we do. I don’t think it’s difficult, no – I do think people might be surprised by the way in which we approached womens by bringing in brands such as Thom Browne, Simone Rocha and Dries Van Noten. Saying that, mens has evolved so much since we launched, they’ve happily met in the middle.

Does your personal style reflect your buying choices, and vice versa?
It would be impossible not to have some kind of influence. It’s difficult to separate buying for yourself and buying for a store. I’m lucky that the store is very much me – I would wear everything we sell and I would put most of my wardrobe into it. There’s definitely a cross-synergy but that’s because I really get the brand. I genuinely love the product and that’s why I’m here. However, I do have my weaknesses and there are times when I have to stop myself and say no, that’s a Christie moment.

Who are your go-to brands and designers at the moment?
Well, they haven’t changed in a while. Yang Li is someone who I really respect and have been wearing ever since his first collection. In terms of emerging designers I think he’s one of the most relevant out there. Dries Van Noten is a an old favourite – I respect that as a designer, he’s still so involved with the brand on every level which shows as it’s a complete representation of himself and his passions. Simone Rocha, which is a surprising one for me as it’s more feminine then the things I would normally wear but in terms of London, she’s probably the only stand out designer.

What designers should we have on our radar?
We are about to start working with a brand called Raag who produce and make all of their clothes in India. They are creating an exclusive capsule for Hostem (available in time for Christmas). They don’t wholesale so this will be the first time they’ve worked with a store. CristaSeya is a lifestyle brand incorporating fashion, design and textiles who we’ll be stocking from Spring/Summer. Jeffrey Smith is a London based shirt maker who makes every piece by hand and dyes using natural processes.

What is it you look for when scouting new brands?
There’s supporting a person and their vision and really respecting the brand holistically and what their ethos is and then there’s responding to product without knowing any of the backstory. They both play an equal role.

We are always looking for value in product. That might be a designer who is militant in their approach like Yang Li – he is uncompromising in building his brand and the core values it stands for. Then there are makers who are doing things that hold a lot of meaning. We are constantly looking at the word luxury and what that means – it’s changing all the time. I think now, more than ever, people are looking for inherent value in the pieces they buy. If you look at Toogood, for example, every piece has a little passport with the designer’s initials as well as everyone’s who took part in the making process.

What will you be wearing this Autumn/Winter season?
The Elder Statesman cashmere and a Toogood coat.

Photography by Trinity Ellis

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