When Everton Campbell came to see us, it was with a travel holdall in his hands and sunglasses perched on his forehead, ready to leave the next day for a buying trip to New York.
That has been Everton’s life for a long time now; seeking and bringing the freshest styles to The Hip Store, which is now on the corner of Vicar Lane — “Right on the edge of everything,” says Everton, “Or the start of it, depending on how you look,” he adds, with a smile.
The Hip Store originally opened a few streets away, in Thornton’s Arcade, in 1987. It wasn’t the first thing Everton did after leaving school, but it was close. “I did a stint as a press photographer,” he says. “And then I skipped from that and went to being a trainee computer programmer. But I didn’t really like the life in an office, so I went to go work in a vintage clothes store called Billy’s.”
From there Everton went to X Clothes, a legendary punk and goth store. At the time in Leeds, there was a sportswear store owned by ex-footballer Paul Reaney, and over the road was Class, for the mod scene. Everton’s own style was to the smarter end.
“My dad was a sharp dresser. He came over from Jamaica in the sixties, and dressed in Italian slim cut suits, and Gabicci, and pork pie hats. That look really set me up for when all the bands came out of The Specials and Madness, and that ska look, which was originally from Jamaica, was there for me in my dad’s wardrobe.”
What Leeds didn’t have in the mid-eighties was a store selling sharper suits for the men Everton saw at jazz-funk clubs and all-dayers, and with his experience of working at X Clothes behind him Everton thought, “I could do that.” Even though he was only eighteen.
“I was quite young and naive,” says Everton. “I met my old partner, and we began to look for a store unit. The Tory government at the time were actually behind young people who had an idea, and they used to fund you. You had to apply for this grant, and I filled it out, did a business plan, so for the first year I had some funding — it was about £40 a week, enough to live on and then buy new stock with the takings from the store.”
Hip stayed current. When house music was dominating the late-eighties London party scene — where Hip had also opened a store — and rave culture was about to sweep the UK, Hip moved from jazz suits to baggy t-shirts, bringing to Leeds labels like Duffer St George and Vivienne Westwood.
Hip Ladies opened for women — “They’d only get two or three of each dress in,” remembers SpeedQueen’s Suzy Mason, “And the staff would tell you who else had bought that dress, so you wouldn’t bump into someone in the clubs in the same outfit” — and Hip evolved again in the nineties, first in Leeds to get new streetwear styles, represented at the top end by Supreme. First anywhere, in fact; Hideout in London and Hip in Leeds were the only UK spots for a brand with only a handful of stockists worldwide.
“We used to go to New York and buy sneakers really cheap and bring them back,” says Everton, “And then we used to put them next to the clothes in the store. That wasn’t really done before that, and we got into the sneaker/sportswear scene.”
Now at Hip, “There’s a lot of different men’s looks going on these days,” says Everton, “So it’s about what makes you feel happy.” And about working with students at Leeds College of Art and independent stores like Village to support the next generation of fashion in Leeds. Hip is as much a part of that generation as it has been of every other since 1987, but at thirty years old, it now also has stature.
“I think that now we’re more of a destination store, as opposed to having to rely on passing traffic. If you want to come and see us, this is where we are.
“You can’t stop. You have to keep on going. You can’t think, it’s thirty years so now we’ll stop. I think I am fortunate that I do enjoy what I do. It is work, but in a way it’s not, because I’ve always liked buying clothes.”
Which is what he’ll be doing in New York, as a job, but also as a life. Everton’s job is synonymous with his life, and his lifestyle, and the way he’s regarded; a lad from Leeds with a store, who is recognised and respected all over the world for what Hip is, and for who Everton is. Which is pretty much the same thing: Hip.
Originally published in The City Talking: Fashion