BOUJO HAKE was created and launched in Primrose Hill. In Gloucester Avenue, to be precise. It took some time for the animated, neighbourly chat to become an idea, for the idea to be explored and then grow into a full-time project, but in November last year, Nadia Boujo and Kathrin Hake launched their initial capsule collection.
BOUJO HAKE produces underwear and luxury basics. Styles are beautifully minimalistic, materials of the finest quality (mostly organic cottons), with emphasis put on the fit and comfort. The founding principle is that true sensuality comes from people themselves, and that people are their best selves in simple, skillfully cut pieces made from exceptional materials. This is traditionally a male design principle, I’m told, and indeed many designs hint at this sense of gender neutrality.
Kathrin and Nadia were frustrated at the extremes they observed in underwear: on the one hand, overly sexy, intricate designs; on the other, the poorly fitting styles from high street brands; and, of course, the more classic yet often frumpy designs of household name brands. They dreamt of quality, pared-back designs that fit beautifully, putting the focus on the wearer, not the garment.
Though their pieces are often described as minimalistic, they both agree that minimalism doesn’t entirely encapsulate the brand. Their clean aesthetic has heart, and each creation, whilst decidedly contemporary, draws inspiration from past decades.
Says Nadia, “We grew up in different worlds, yet had an overridingly similar style – if we ignore the dodgy fashion choices (and Kathrin’s perm). White vest tops, crop tops and T-shirts, along with dungarees, were a constant. I was wearing them in Willesden Green and Kathrin in Essen, a German coal mining town.”
This nostalgia is evident. Take the Grandpa Vest, which was directly inspired by a vest Nadia kept and still wears, some 40 years on, from her beloved Grandpa, a surgeon from the Wirral who had impeccable dress sense. The vest has stood the test of time, largely due to the quality of its cotton, which is luxuriously soft and drapes perfectly when worn. It has got better with age.
“Our Grandpa Vest will do the same. It is the opposite of disposable fashion. It’s important for us that our garments have longevity,” says Kathrin.
BOUJO HAKE is about thoughtful, slow fashion. The two founders are fascinated by the history of garments, and understanding why designs are a certain way. For example, the gaping armholes in the Grandpa Vest: these were an original design decision at the time, as it meant they were less likely to be soiled by sweat and so could be washed less frequently.
Also key to the brand is a sense that the meaning of sexiness has shifted, so that today it is more driven by women than ever. It is all about the natural female silhouette; about giving breasts support and utter comfort, allowing them to be their intrinsically sexy selves. Gone are the days of ‘Hello Boys!’ Wonderbra adverts, when breasts were lifted, hoiked and strapped into place.
Sustainability is such an overused word nowadays, but it is an integral part of the BOUJO HAKE brand; it also explains why it has taken so long for the brand to come to fruition. The garments are made in the UK at factories that protect the environment and respect their workers. Sustainability also means minimal packaging, so minimal wastage. Packaging is 100% recycled and 100% biodegradable, using recycled coffee cups.
Kathrin, an experienced designer who has worked in womenswear for 25 years, says, “Sadly, the fashion industry is still far away from where it should be, with most people not realising the extent of the problem. And there are some brands who use sustainability cynically. What is positive is that attitudes are changing; slowly, but it’s happening.”
Nadia adds: “Sustainability has to be a part of all brands nowadays, and many younger brands are creative in what that means to them, with upcycling being one of the biggest trends. It’s inspiring to see what is out there, but equally unsettling to see what brands proclaim they’re doing versus the reality if you scratch the surface.”
Beside Kathrin’s fashion expertise is Nadia’s 15 years of marketing, communication and development experience in the arts sector. They seem to make a complementary team, so do they divide and conquer?
“At the moment we hold hands at every stage,” says Kathrin. “We discuss and dissect every miniscule detail together, from the designs to the finance, marketing and photography. We both have a tendency to over-think, over-analyse. But what’s lovely is that it’s clear when one of us has to take the lead, simply because of our skill sets.”
One final question: What is it like running a business with your neighbour and a close friend?
“What do you want me to say?’ says Nadia. “She’s standing right next to me! Seriously, though: we see each other every day almost without fail, our kids are close, and we vaguely like each other’s partners so we