Hostem: East London’s Quiet Light


Fashion and luxury retail has become a very loud business. Concept, heritage, set design, collaboration—all words thrown in our face, all to sell garments in a now three-monthly cycle of cruise, summer, pre-fall, and winter collections. Crammed with product, many stores struggle to distinguish between sale items and new arrivals, furs arrive in high summer and bikinis whilst the snow has barely melted. Hostem, a boutique in London’s Shoreditch neighbourhood, is fighting that excess; quietly opening their light-filled womenswear atrium this month in a celebration of intemporal, artisanal fashion.

Garnering a reputation for cult menswear finds over the past three years, founder James Brown has today diffused his calm, spare aesthetic across the three story boutique that he named after the latin phrase audio hostem, or “I hear the enemy”—the motto of the British Royal Navy’s 845 Naval Air Squadron. Despite the somewhat aggressive title, few could oppose his exacting eye for stripped-back luxury, in a vision Brown has cast over the ground-floor men’s boutique, an adjoining Santa Maria Novella apothecary space, the bespoke basement service, and finally the women’s level—a crowning jewel that catches afternoon sun across its herringbone steel-tiled floors. His women’s offering is a wellspring of new and established talents with the focus on hand-finished textiles, a soft palette, and technical patternwork—the latter perfectly encapsulated in Yohji Yamamoto’s felt origami dress, hanging dramatically against a swathe of muslin draped from the ceiling. Elsewhere grungy, threaded separates by London-based weaver Faustine Steinmetz contrast the Victorian opulence of Meadham Kirchhoff’s signature chiffon blouses, and ultra-sleek maroquinerie by Belgian house Delvaux drives the accessories offering with aplomb. Next spring will see Hostem present Thom Browne’s womenswear in exclusivity, alongside Toogood, the debut outerwear range by British industrial designer Faye Toogood.

With the garments themselves edging close to art, it’s no surprise that artworks proper hold their place in the mix. A suspended glass sculpture by American artist Elias Hansen will find its permanent home at Hostem in the new year (thanks to a partnership with Margate’s Jonathan Viner Gallery), and plans are underway for a rooftop garden that Brown is calling their “pod,” to be pruned into shape by cult landscaping duo Tommaso del Buono and Paul Gazerwitz. “Experience, intimacy, and personality will always remain at the forefront of what Hostem is,” explains Brown, a born curator whose obsession for detail extends from the sculpted steel hangers “akin to simple line drawings” through to the concrete display shelves embossed with genuine wood grain. “For me modern luxury is experience—a memory, something intangible outside of the product you are buying.”