Brixton is a hive for fashion creativity. Katrin Magnussen went to meet the people behind some of the area’s very own up and coming labels… Hustlebucks, Chidora Hats and Refache Denim Wear.
Deep inside Brixton Village nestles a hip design label, Hustlebucks. One of its designers, Paul Davies (21) tells me more about a label so hot that even Hollywood star Will Smith snapped up its designs.
“When Will Smith visited Brixton Market last year, I ran up to him and said ‘I work for Hustlebucks – come in!’ And he did!” Paul laughs incredulously at his own bravery. “He came in and actually picked up a couple of our T-shirts for his kids.”
Paul’s audacity seems to tie in perfectly with the notion behind the label’s name.
“Hustlebucks means being young and trying to earn some money, it’s all about hustling for the bucks!” explains Paul.
The label started life as a pop up shop by founders Samuel and Aisha in 2010. Following its success, Hustlebucks went on to become a ‘youth design agency’, which now designs and prints T-shirts and hoodies in its Brixton workshop.
You can buy off the peg clothing featuring their unique designs or create your very own, in collaboration with the in-house design team of three staff and a handful of design apprentices. The brand’s goal is to be “the most recognised youth fashion brand in the market that speaks for you.”
“We have actually become much bigger than we expected, despite lacking online presence”, says Paul. “We mainly get our customers through word of mouth and we now do prints for Marks & Spencer, the local market and for most of the gigs in Brixton.
Paul would love to grow Hustlebucks so they can reach even more young people, though.
“We want to be more of a teaching facility rather than a shop so we are able to encourage kids to become designers too.”
To get involved or see their products click here.
“I feel like I should tap into the Brixton market more, but I am just so shy…!” explains Brixton-based founder of Chidora Hats, Stella Ekebuisi, as we meet over a coffee. “I need to put myself out there and I’m finding it nerve-wracking!”
Stella started making hats because she wanted to take better care of her hair and that’s when she got interested in natural hair practices.
“To help keep the moisture in my porous hair, I started wearing silk scarves while sleeping and suddenly my hair started to thrive,” Stella says.
She soon realised there was a gap in the market for high quality headwear that also offered moisture-locking properties. So, she decided to create her own, entering a market she knew nothing about, enlisting the help of family.
It’s refreshing to hear an entrepreneur be so candid. Also working as an E-learning Advisor at Queen Mary University, Stella is an inspiration for anyone who is scared of taking a leap into the unknown.
“I’m as bad as the next person in thinking, ‘I should do this or I should do that’. Launching Chidora was the first time I said to myself, ‘you know what – I am actually going to do it!’” she explains emphatically.
“Chidora is named after my younger sister”, Stella continues. “My mum and my older sister, who’s a dress-maker, help me sew the silk fabric lining into the woolly hats. It’s time-consuming work. The last batch of 60 hats took us two and a half days to finish.”
Just relying on word of mouth, Chidora Hats recently caught the eye of Guardian Weekend’s fashion section, which resulted in a sell-out. Clearly buoyed by this interest from mainstream, Stella has many plans for her future collections: pastel colours, festival wear, straw hats, headbands and longer unisex hats.
The hat business is growing and Stella now has a happy conundrum. “I love my job as E-learning Advisor, but it’s quite hard to combine this with my business as they are so different! I have so many decisions to make – it’s exciting but daunting!”
Refache Denim Wear
“Barack Obama is not cool enough to wear my clothes,” says Ivory Coast-born Mario Refache, 42, a denim and accessories designer who has lived in Brixton with his wife and four-year old daughter since 2003.
“I love Brixton and its diversity,” exclaims Mario over a glass of something cold one evening. “I buy all the fabrics for my jeans range in Brixton’s Atlantic Road and always buy my meat and fish at the market here.”
Mario founded Refache Denim Wear due to his obsession with skinny jeans. “I started making jeans as a twelve year-old in Africa, because I love slim fit,” he explains with a wide smile. “Every time I bought jeans I had to have them taken in at the local tailor because I found them too wide.”
Then one day, his uncle returned from Italy with a gift for the young Mario – a pair of skinny Diesel Jeans. “Since then I became so fussy that I decided to make my own,” he laughs.
The designer takes his inspiration from what he sees people wear and believes his clothes will flatter any man aged 18-60 due to its combination of 80% cotton and 20% elastan. In addition to his jeans and leather belt ranges, Mario has plans to expand with suits, shirts, tops and linen trousers (Dockers).
“I want to make a limited collection that comprise jackets and trousers that I can take to fashion exhibitions like Start Up Britain and PURE London,” Mario says, putting his finger on a problem facing many unknown designers.
“I am re-launching my website soon but it’s hard to bring traffic to a site unless they already know my brand, so going to exhibitions will expose me to buyers who can put my products in a shop and thus expose me to customers.”
But as Obama is not Refache’s dream customer, who is? Mario laughs heartily: “Jude Law would be my ideal customer. He looks great both in suits and jeans – I would be glad to dress him from top to toe.”
Check out Refache here