New(ish) to Portland, Shop Boswell is located in inner South East with giant windows, a clean neutral palate and an extra special airiness to the space. Owner Brookes Boswell has a background in architecture and environments, elevating the old storefront with amazing oak fixtures, large plank white floors and a womb of a dressing room that’s entire height of the 20 ft. (?) ceilings (in the perfect soft pink). Even more impressively, she has thoughtfully chosen some seriously crush worthy designers to have in stock. We fell in love with footwear from The Palatines, the bundle bowls by the talented Maryam Riazi and garments by wrk-shp. Brooke’s also carries a solid stockist of Portland’s own like accessories by Sara Barner, Notary ceramics, jewelry by Better Late Than Never, and ARA handbags. The result is a meticulously curated women’s shop with contents that effortlessly compliment one another.
The main course of Shop Boswell are the lovely hats that Brookes makes by hand in her studio (located in the back of the shop). She showed us some of her process and beautiful materials that she uses and even blocked a hat for us. An impressive trade that she learned apprenticing under a milliner while living in New York. Her millinery work is immaculate, minimal and wearable, while keeping function at the forefront of her designs. We loved the Monarch in Panama Straw a clever hole cut out of the top - conceived to not disrupt your updo but still keep the sunshine off your face.
Take a look at the stunning photos of the store and the interesting art of millinery a la Brookes!
1. Why Portland? What was it that drew you to Portland or has kept you here?
I first came to Portland in 2001. I took a road trip from Bellingham to Santa Cruz, looking for a new home. I spent a little time in Portland, and fell in love with the city. I lived here for a chunk of time, left for a chunk of time and ultimately decided to move back because of the mellow lifestyle. I wanted to spend more time hiking and being outside, gardening, biking and taking road trips. Portland is the perfect city.
2. What are your favorite things happening in Portland (design or otherwise)?
All the small shops! There's seems to be a renaissance of new retail shops and I love that there's so many local designers opening up their studios to the public.
3. How did your brand start?
The brand started slowly. I started making the collection in my apartment while working another job. My business is self funded, so it grew slowly but steadily. And as my business grew, I learned more about the industry and especially my customers. I worked hard to refine my technique and designs. Sheer tenacity and a strong gut instinct has carried me through to this point in my career.
4. What has been your biggest obstacle?
I think money is always the biggest obstacle, right?
5. What or who inspires your design?
Almost anything except other hats. I love looking at fashion, architecture and photography and trying to capture the feeling of an art direction.
6. What are your favorite things about Portland?
Spring! The big trees, big ferns, big blooms.
7. What is your favorite part of your studio?
The natural light that comes streaming into our shop from the big windows. Also being right on the street is nice, it makes you feel much more connected to the the life of the city.
8. Your favorite thing about your workspace?
The neutral palette. It has a soft and comfortable feeling and is filled with natural materials, nothing harsh going on here.
9. Tell us two truths and a lie!
I love hammocks
Scary is my favorite movie genre
I'm not so great with houseplants
10. 5 things you can’t live without.
grapefruit, broken in shoes, Windowwall haircuts, loving family and friends, Morgenstern's ice cream.
11. Tell us about Shop Boswell! (How long have you been open, where is it, etc.)
We're celebrating our 1 year birthday on May 13th. The year flew by, but I also can't believe that we made it this long! The store is in the front with clothes and accessories and the hat studio is in the back where we work. I work all day making hats and just pop out when the store has a customer. I love having people pop into the shop, it breaks up the day and I love helping people in the shop. We're humming away over here on our little corner of South East Portland. We're pretty centrally located on SE Morrison street, situated right in between the SE Industrial neighborhood and just before the transition to residential. It has a nice feel with lots of people working nearby or coming over the bridge from the West side.
12. What made you decide to open a store front?
I was actually studio hunting and didn't decide to open a store until after I found the store front. I listened to that little bird called intuition. It felt right and worked out. It required a lot of renovation work but I think it looks cute and I love coming to work everyday. I also really love the labor of having a store, which is so different than my hat business and in a lot of ways feels more creative.
13. What is the concept behind the store?
Spirited American casual wear. The store is really built around pieces that women can wear everyday, with an eye towards elevated nostalgia. High quality production, excellent design and natural materials are musts, just like with my hat line. You'll see a mix of contemporary workwear, grandma chic, unique vintage, loungewear and statement pieces. All highly functional though we're not afraid of a little whimsy to break it up.
14. How did you come up with the name Shop Boswell?
It took me a really long time to decide on the name. Initially I didn't want it to be my own name because I wanted to be sort of anonymous. But I also wanted it to be related to the hat line, so I settled somewhere in the middle. Boswell is my last name and I liked how Shop functions as the store's first name. So I've got Brookes Boswell and Shop Boswell.
15. How do you find designers you showcase in your shop?
Most of the designers I already knew or knew of, from working in the industry. Some are close friends who's products & processes I'm delighted to share with my customers. I only carry pieces that I truly love and I think that my customers are able to read my enthusiasm when they ask me about items in the shop.
16. What are your 3 favorite things in the store?
I'll tell you about 3 things that I personally own and use everyday.
Sara Barner Morrison Bag - literally everything goes in and it only looks better with age.
Lloyd linen tee's - I own 3 and it's hard not to wear at least one everyday
Eleonor Bostrom Ceramics - These little helper dogs make everyone smile. They're real mood lifters.
17. What’s a funny shop story you have?
Well, I have a funny shop dog. My Great Pyrenees/Golden Retriever mix, Bao, hangs out in the shop with me. People are usually pretty surprised to see such a big dog in the store. Sometimes he sits in the window staring at folks who walk by, but usually he's sleeping under the garment racks waiting for a customer to pet him.
18. Who inspires your style?
All the hard working ladies out there who look great & get their shit done.
19. Tell us two truths and a lie.
French fries and a smoothie is my favorite lunch
I never wear heels
I like fast cars
20. Where are your favorite places to shop?
Antique malls in small towns, Dream Collective in LA, Lowell in NE Portland and more often these days - Instagram feeds for vintage.