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Q&A August, 26 2013

Showroom Visit with Greg Hewitt of DMSR London

Showrooms are the silent partner when people talk fashion. Even the likes of Industrie magazines overlook them in favor of the slightly more glamorous backstage workers. Showrooms are a vital point of the fashion business – and have some of the most interesting people we’ve met – so it’s only right we take a deeper look at them. We kick off this coverage with Greg Hewitt of DMSR London, who works with several brands you’ve seen on this site including Berthold, Common and Études. Take a leap to read about how he got started and his career path up to and including DMSR.

Image:Ivan Ogilvie/Selectism.com

Symbolic beginnings  – the 94 East era

Two of Greg Hewitt’s loves started in his hometown of Chichester. The first was clothing. The second was Prince. We’re sure his family, friends and loved ones rank higher than those two but just go along with us. Coming from a family of fabric manufacturers, Hewitt wasn’t necessarily a stranger to the world of clothing, but it wasn’t until he got his first job that he really found what he wanted to do. “My first education into the fashion industry was D’Artagnan and D2 clothing in Chichester.” Starting there at the age of 19, It was here that he discovered the world of fashion, and specifically, the world of buying in fashion (and Prince). The owner of D’Artagnan used to take Hewitt on buying trips. “That was when I had my eyes open to a world that was for me. I absolutely loved it, made some friends I still speak to.”

Around the world in a day

He was an avid shopper, regularly leaving Chichester to visit London and Brighton. “[I came] up to London at 16, 17 years old.” says Hewitt. During his trips to Brighton, he’d always visit his favorite shop, Minky. Minky had a name change, becoming Peggs & Son. “I was going up to Brighton about once a month,” says Greg. “I have a close relationship with Minky (Greg was best man at Ian Peggs’s wedding). I did some buying with [Ian] in the past. I started working for [him] and it opened my eyes even more to brands I was really into. It was the first time I’d seen brands like Peter Jensen and smaller brands like Daddy. I thought, ‘This is me.’ I was into seeing shops. I didn’t go and study fashion or anything like that. I was quite happy record shopping or going out and doing the shops like that. I found things I liked. I remember really getting into an old brand called Gravy — things like Felix Blow, Can’t Skate. All those brands that aren’t around any more. I don’t want to use the word non-mainstream, but those independent boutiques were where I liked to spend my money. Ian was selling things like Burro. If you’re from Chichester, you didn’t see anything like that.”

Uptown

After travelling and working for Peggs & Son, Hewitt went back to Chichester and started working for his family business. He then decided to make the move to London full time. “I just wanted a change.” This change led him to take the spare room in his friend’s flat in London. He went out and got a job in Offspring to pay the bills and started visiting B Store. “I thought it was the best shop in the world. Loved every product in there, had my eyes opened again to some new product.” It was a while before he started working for B Store, a result of “pestering” the founders, Matthew Murphy and Kirk Beattie. About a year after his initial queries, Murphy called him and asked him to cover a day or two during fashion week. “I did a couple of shifts, and that became more and more and more. That also dragged me away from Offspring, which was great.”

After he left Offspring, he was offered a job at B Store doing wholesale. “For me, that was a dream job. That was like, ‘Fucking where do I sign up for that?’ I started doing UK wholesale, working closely with Matt and Kirk. You couldn’t ask for better guys to work with.”

At first, he spent a few days a week doing UK wholesale at Six London, a showroom  and footwear company who make shoes for a number of brands, including B Store, Opening Ceremony and Ksubi. This was mixed with a few days a week on the shop floor, but he eventually became full time in the showroom. This culminated in Greg becoming B Store’s men’s brand manager.

The Artist formerly known as Greg Hewitt

After two and a half years of B Store, Greg was forced to choose his next direction when the B Store label stopped. “I think running a showroom is the dream. I just thought, ‘Let’s fucking do this.’ It’s the time to do it. I didn’t want to be that guy that’s thought about it and didn’t do it. I thought, this is the time to do it.” And so, DMSR was born.

…& The Revolution

The main thing we noticed about DMSR was their stellar yet succinct selection of brands. Matthew Miller, Berthold, Common and Études are the brands on DMSR’s roster. If your head’s screwed on properly, you’ll be fans of two or more of those brands. So how did he get those four brands on board? “At the end of last year I started to work closely with Berthold and Matthew, helping them with some wholesale ideas and where we could go. I did London collections with Raimund and Matthew and went out to Paris with Matthew. I opened the showrooms three days after coming back from Paris with two labels. I had an amazing conversation with Common — a friend introduced us to each other. I really, really loved what they were doing and they were like, ‘Let’s do it,’ on a handshake. ‘Let’s get a little thing going together.'” He’s just started working with Études, who rounds out his roster of brands. “I just think that brand mix is nice.  There’s certainly enough for a store to buy into at least one brand.”

He’s been most pleased by the reaction from stores outside of London. “You can get away with certain things in London, so it’s nice introducing a store from Birmingham or Manchester who may not have seen Matthew Miller yet. Maybe for these London guys they haven’t got to that wider audience yet. If buyers don’t come down to the show, then that’s it, no one gets to see it. I’m working with a couple of shops that are buying three, four brands off me, so I know these labels can go into a store and all sit with each other.”

As of right now, DMSR is solely Greg Hewitt. “I’m going to stick it out on my own for as long as I can. Just solo. I’d like to get someone in eventually but I need to build a business on my own first.  I need to make sure it’s all working. I have great belief in the relationships I’m building with the brands. It’s not just ‘Give me your collection and I’ll see if I can sell it.’ It’s day to day, they’re helping me as much as I’m helping them. It’s great. To say I’m really enjoying it is an understatement.”

Sign O’ The Times

Enjoying it or not, we can’t help but notice how tough the current market is. After all, the UK is still in a recession. So how does Hewitt hope to differentiate DMSR from other showrooms, aside from having a great collection of brands? “I think I’m very honest with buyers. I’m not going to hide away other stores I’m getting through the door. No one hesitated about coming to see us again which was the worry when you do this. It’s a tough game. It’s financially difficult for all walks of life at the moment. It’s quite brave for us going in and doing labels that are of a distinct look. It’s getting that trust that they will come and see and I hope that when they do come and see, they’ll trust my eye a little bit and think ‘if Greg’s brought them maybe he sees something in them.’ DMSR is quite a good looking showroom that they’ll trust me for next season.”

It’s fair to say that Hewitt has brought his way around the shop floor to his showroom. “It’s great that it’s going back to the age of the shopkeeper. I’m trying to build that atmosphere here. That’s where I learnt my trade, on the shop floor. It’s like working the shop floor at B Store and the hub of designers that used to come through there. You could speak to celebrities and they’d come back and go, ‘Alright Greg, what’s new?’ Then they come to you first. [You end up] having, almost, that black book that you didn’t own. You phone people up, say ‘I’ve got this coming,’ and if they came in you’d be like, ‘Holy shit you need to see this.’ Which is what I’m trying to create here. Just emailing a store and going, ‘I think I’ve got something that you’d really like.'”

So it’s like he’s come full circle in a really grown up way?

“Yeah. I like that. I like that a lot.”

Jason Dike is a london based writer who’s contributed to the likes of Esquire UK and Men’s Health amongst other publications. He has a highly entertaining (his own words), but sporadically updated (our words) website at jasondike.co.uk and you can follow him on twitter at @jasondike.

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