Alternative Fashion: Places to Shop.
Hull: STARHOUSE CLOTHING
Starhouse clothing in Hull has been running since 2004 and provides alternatives in the city with a place to go and buy affordable alternative clothing catering for all the different faces of the alternative market. It started as the vision of two friends in their mid twenties who were sick of saying…”one day we will..” and so they went and did it, creating the “ultimate” alternative store that they would like to shop in. With “zilch” experience in terms of knowledge they set about taking courses just so they could write their business plan. The rest, as they say is history.
Kelly Brown, who runs the store with her partner Julie, said: “It took us well over a year to get it all sorted and yes we started making clothes too, we spent 6 months before the store opened working full time on clothes, furniture, everything. We found other companies that were doing the same kind of thing and bought stock in from them too, we really wanted to have everything under one roof.”
Starhouse have managed to get everyone from UK punk legend Ginger Wildheart to US Goth punk powerhouses Aiden to wear their clothing, how and why did you manage we ask the small town business from Hull? They say that, it’s not about what you know but very much a case of who you know:
“Most of the people you see wearing Starhouse are friends or friends of friends, or their tour manager is a friend, if you see what I mean! Although we didn’t have a retail background, we had a head start by having a lot of contacts. It’s great that everyone’s so enthusiastic about it!”
Why is Starhouse different from other Goth/alternative stores anywhere in the North? well because they are like a unfinished work of art, constantly improving and changing products they make themselves to suit the needs of the audience:
“We are always finding new suppliers, smaller companies and companies who give us a lot of exclusives so you won’t see anyone else wearing it, as well as stocking a lot of the basics like skinny jeans and band tees. We also customize a lot of what we make ourselves to make it that bit different and suited to the person who buys it, and surely the point of being alternative is that you’re different?”
As for opening a store in Hull a place not really known for its alternative scene, Kelly assures us that there was huge potential and a gap in the market.
“We chose Hull mainly because that’s where we were living, and back then we saw a real gap in the market. At that time  Hull had one alternative store that was mostly fetish gear, and that was about it. We wanted to do something quite a bit different to that offering a more commercial alternative”.
To look at selling methods, Starhouse use EBAY alongside the sales achieved from their website and the store. To advise others, they say that having an online option really helps to boost sales: “Obviously the benefits of just being online are that there are fewer overheads, no rent, rates, bills or all the other stuff that comes with having a store. Also you reach a hell of a lot more people.”
The owners of Starhouse are keen to advice readers who want to own an alternative clothing business to be wary, Kelly states that although it’s great once the provisional business plans are made it is a hard slog getting everything ready:
“There’s a lot that people don’t tell you about starting your own business, a load of paperwork, solicitors, countless hours on the phone…a lot of it is just guesswork, it takes a lot of common sense and determination! Really you just have to get yourself out there. If you’re starting online it’s a little less complicated and with Myspace and EBAY, you have the perfect tools to promote yourself and reach your target market, though you don’t get that very valuable element of interaction.”
So what is the Starhouse key remit? Kelly says that for the owner’s alternative clothing and music is an important part of their life. Fashion for Starhouse is distinctly different for each gender: “For the girls it’s about keeping your femininity and sexiness whilst standing out in a crowd. For the boys it’s about looking like that rock star that all the boys want to be and all the girls want to f**k”
When confronted with the question of sales figures, Kelly seems stumped, this maybe because Starhouse has a real revolving door of brands and nothing is really certain as a lot of stock: “As a rule we don’t stock the same things all the time and fashions do change, even in the alternative scene! I think there are some things that will always be popular, band t-shirts, baseball boots and hoodies are pretty much staple items and we sell a lot of patches and badges, people like them as they are a simple way of customising clothing”.
In the future of Starhouse, the owners will be closing down the Hull store as it has become too expensive to run, but they are opening in Maraschino’s Parlour of Ipswich, which will also have tattooing, piercing and beauty elements added, alongside this there are also more plans for a store in York in the near future, as it has many independent stores, and a large alternative client base.
The hope for the new store in the south is that it will score some major success and for Kelly at least, it will pay off her student loan. Despite many setbacks with regard to getting funding to keep their Hull store operational, the pair have high hopes for the future and new ideas for clothes. The inspiration and dream of seeing their favourite bands play while wearing their clothing has already been realised, but they will not be stopping. Both Kelly and Julie are waiting to cater for you, and are always looking for new ideas from customers.
“We’ve never played by the rules and have done it completely independently and learned along the way. We’ve come up with endless new ideas. To us alternative means not doing the same thing as everybody else, not following a certain trend like some “alternative” stores!”
Though is sounds cliché, the girls believe in what they are doing and believe that they are unique to the North in that they will not only sell brands but also make clothes for their customers, the bottom line is that they love it, and will do anything to make their alternative market better:
“It may seem big headed but I am not really surprised by our success. We always had high hopes. It does get frustrating at times though as we expect so much from ourselves. We really believe in what we are doing and if you believe in yourself you can’t possibly fail!”
So why is Starhouse different from other Goth/alternative stores anywhere in the North? They are like a unfinished work of art, constantly improving and changing products they make themselves to suit the needs of the audience:
“We are always finding new suppliers, smaller companies who give us a lot of exclusives so you won’t see anyone else wearing it, as well as stocking a lot of the basics like skinny jeans and band tees. We also customize a lot of what we sell to make it that bit different, and surely the point of being alternative is that you’re different?”
And finally we ask on your behalf, what’s going on at Starhouse that you should be interested in…well Kelly is going to tell you:
“We’re going to be launching a whole Starhouse clothing line later this year and we plan to move into wholesale, to get other stores selling our products. Also we’ll be printing merchandise for bands and designing clothing for bands. We’re learning more and more as time goes on so the sky really is the limit.”