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Shaun Hoolan, New Owner of Hockley Vintage Store Wild Clothing, on Preserving the Shop's Legacy

19 October 20 interview: Anna Murphy

Wild Clothing first opened its doors in 1983 and, when its original owners decided to retire recently, word spread that the legendary location would be shutting its doors for good. But this couldn’t be further from the truth: our fashion editor, Anna Murphy, chats to Wild’s new owner, Shaun Hoolan, about his passion for this iconic Nottingham store and his plans for the future.

Congratulations on taking on Wild Clothing! Is this a new venture or is your background in retail?
I initially worked in the motor trade for Rolls Royce for twenty years, but I’d always been interested in barbering. I did my barbers training when I was still at Rolls Royce, then I took on one of my friend’s barber shops as a franchise; it had an empty shop next door and I put in a vintage shop, Dandy Gent in Derby. 

I’ve known Robin from Wild for years I’ve been shopping at Wild since 1985. Although I’m from Derby I’ve always gone shopping in Nottingham – there’s no point going to Derby when this is twenty minutes down the road! I came into Wild one Saturday afternoon and was moaning to Robin about it and he said, “Why don’t you take this off me? We’re planning to retire anyway but if we knew we had someone to take it, it might allow us to retire a bit earlier.” Hopefully they felt it was going to the right person.

It must have been a difficult decision for Robin and Mary to leave Wild after 37 years...
The shop was their life and they were very proud of it. I don’t blame them – it’s got a fantastic reputation and it’s an iconic shop. When they told me they were retiring, my first thought was, ‘that’ll leave a huge hole in Hockley’. It never crossed my mind that they’d consider selling it to me – it never entered my head until that conversation with Robin that Saturday afternoon about fifteen months ago. 

So it’s been quite a while getting everything to this point?
We had a good plan, everything was going well, we thought nothing could go wrong…

I guess taking over a retail business during a pandemic isn’t great timing. Are you concerned?
Not really, no. I mean, it really took the shine off everything – I was so looking forward to it and so excited about taking over. But there was no way I was going to pull out of the deal – it was too good an opportunity to miss. It might still be a struggle and I do expect it to have quiet times, but I’ve taken over at our busiest trading season (August to Christmas) and you’ve got to just try your best. If it was in Derby, then I’d be seriously worried but Nottingham is a totally different city. 

Wild Clothing is such an iconic part of Nottingham’s independent business and clothing scene, and most people can remember the first thing they bought there (I know I can!). It opened doors for other Hockley independents like Braderie, Cow, Rough Trade, Cobden Chambers, even Ark Clothing (RIP). Despite all of the changes to the city centre, Hockley has clung onto its identity. Have you seen people turn to local businesses even more during the pandemic?
Absolutely. Robin used to say that the corporates would like to be us. All the big names are having problems and, while they have their place on the high street, hopefully people are having that mindset and supporting independents, too. When you go to a new city, the first thing you do is go and look for interesting shops and nice places to eat and drink. Not “oh, let’s go to M&S” – they’re all the same. 

It’s individuality, isn’t it? Even if something’s only five years old, the chances of someone finding it in a shop or having it in a wardrobe is rare. It’s a throwaway culture now.

So, what are your plans for Wild?
We’ve stepped up the social media big time. I don’t think Robin and Mary used it to its full advantage but I’m just happy to get all the staff involved and give them some input into the business. I’ve got a good bunch here and I’m interested in what they suggest. We’ve got a new website: it’s still a bit clunky, but we want to get that loaded up soon.

We started doing Instagram selling too. We put this old school blazer up that was like a boating jacket and someone bought it in LA. The postage cost more than the jacket!

That’s incredible! Where do you source your clothes from?
It all comes from a wholesaler in America. We’re weighing up the best way to get stock in moving forward, but we’ll still be getting American stock – that’s what Wild is built on. Although we’re also looking at buying in other vintage, such as Fred Perry, Converse, North Face, Patagonia – all second hand, all in great condition.

What are your bestsellers?
I think, in Nottingham, you could put anything in this shop and there’d be someone who would buy it! We sell a lot of printed t-shirts, especially ones that are eye-catching and colourful. Fred Perry always sells and branded stuff like Carhartt and Dickies always does well. This morning, I’ve just bought loads of Billabong and Element, so we’ll give that a try. 

I always find it interesting that some people have such strong aversions to wearing secondhand. In your opinion, why should people do it?
It’s individuality, isn’t it? Even if something’s only five years old, the chances of someone finding it in a shop or having it in a wardrobe is rare. It’s a throwaway culture now: it’s unusual that people will wear something for more than one or two seasons. People that shop here do that because they don’t want to shop in Primark. Our stuff is dearer than Primark but it’s better made and no two are the same. You can confidently buy something and be the only person in it. 

So, can you remember your first purchase from Wild?
It would definitely have been a fifties bowling shirt. They used to have loads in here and they’re really hard to get now. We still sell them and I still love them.

It’s brilliant hearing your passion for this shop, especially as it’s so iconic to so many people. Here’s to the future!
Thank you. Hopefully I’m the right man for the job.

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