a talk with brookes boswell from shop boswell
at ankle, we have an unconditional for hats - whether it be straw hats, bucket hats, caps or beanies. that's why we enjoy learning about this craft so much - and why we reached out to brookes boswell. the hat designer is also the owner of shop boswell, a carefully curated store in portland. here's what she had to say about millenery, hiking and the spirited american woman.
firstly, how has your day been?
hello and good morning! my day is just getting started. i do my best work early in the morning, and always start my day with coffee and sending clear headed emails. so you're getting my best self at this moment.
do you have a morning ritual – what do you do when you wake up?
i wake up pretty early. i don't use an alarm, but wake up when my body tells me. i get ready and leave the house pretty quickly, but enjoy taking my time walking to the shop and stopping at the park so that my dog can play on my way to the store.
can you tell us how shop boswell started?
shop boswell was an expansion of my hat business, brookes boswell. i'd always wanted to open a store, but when i stumbled upon the cute retail space i knew it was the right time to make the move. the aesthetic grew out of a personal love of apparel and accessories, so the selection of products and styling of the store is very personal to me and my tastes.
apart from managing your store, you’re also a hat designer. where does this passion come from?
i love being a designer, maker and business owner. i would get very bored if i spent all my time doing just one of these tasks, i like doing a little bit of everything. i am trained as an interior designer but fell into millinery by accident after finishing graduate school. i loved the process of making hats and also felt that there was a gap in the women's market for simple, classic but excellent quality hats.
do you feel like your craft is regaining popularity in recent years?
i think that the market changes fairly regularly. right now straw hats are very popular and is an accessory that most women can feel good about adding to their wardrobe because it has the added benefit of sun protection.
what is your main source of inspiration? does living in portland influence your work somehow?
inspiration is very hard to track - there's always a give and take between what i'm seeing around me in the natural environment, what I see designers in other fields doing, and how i react to those influences. i love piecing together disparate influences into something that fits aesthetically into my brand. i love living in portland because we have such great access to the outdoors. i like to spend my free time hiking and backpacking, and i think that being able to get out of wifi range, clearing my brain, and stripping down your clothing and gear to only what is really necessary and functional is very freeing. i come back to the studio refreshed and full of new ideas.
what is your thought process when it comes to handpicking items or emerging designers for your store? because it’s all very well curated!
thank you! the shop is full of pieces that i personally love, and that's important to me that i have a connection to each item that i sell. i know a lot of the designers personally, and am able to translate their story to my customer.
how would you describe your customer, the "spirited american woman"?
the 'spirited american woman' reference is something that i've thought about a lot in developing the store's brand. "american woman" isn't so much a reference to geographic place, as it is to the idea of the americana genre of traditions. the idea of folk crafts, quality goods, items with character, history and purpose. a woman who dresses under this philosophy requires her wardrobe to be functional, easy to move in, makes her feel good, isn't restricting, is made of natural materials honoring fair labor and livable wage practices. this is elegant modern workwear and a feminist take on dressing that isn't overtly a protest sign with boobs drawn on it. we're also not afraid of quirk and we have a sense of humor so our ideal woman is a little weird, idiosyncratic or 'spirited' in other words and she's able to mix these diverse influences seamlessly.
any cool projects or new pieces you’re currently working on?
yes! a few great new hats styles in the works, and we can't wait to share them with you in the fall. we work with weavers in equador to develop new styles and colors of panama straws. we also recently introduced our kids line of hats, and will have more exciting styles coming very soon. also our shop is always changing. we recently expanded the store from being micro sized to almost normal sized (we're still an exasperatedly small shop!). an exciting new product development is that we recently expanded the vintage selection and am absolutely in love with the pieces that we're carrying. it's totally unique and unlike vintage offerings at other shops, so we're very proud of that.
when you’re not working, what do you like to do?
hike steep hills and long miles. also dining outside with shared plates and glasses of wine, being able to walk everywhere in my neighborhood near the store, and when i eventually have more free time to do more work in my garden.
any favorite spots in portland we should check out?
yes! please visit the rhododendron gardens in the spring, sauvie Island in the summer, teutonic winery, commons brewery, and all the great shops on the east side of portland - spartan, olo fragrance, una, beam & anchor and lowell.