Trenton fashion may not be a “thing” at the moment. But it soon might be. From the fashion program at MCCC to the buzz about Trenton Fashion Week, there is some noise on Trenton fashion and merchandising.
Hampton’s House of High End dress shop on the corner of North Broad and Perry streets is a rebirth of his East Hanover Street shop where he attracted a clientele of young women looking for an alternative to the mall — and looking to also stand out, way out.
His merchandising skills are creative and imaginative, focusing on bright, tropical colors and patterns, definitely not what you’ll find at the Gap. His style and his enterprising personality come together into a youthful, but classy brand, and it runs in the family.
“I’ve always had my own sense of style. My mom is very stylish. People think she’s my sister. I pretty much stopped going to school (Rutgers) because it was just too expensive. I took a break for a while with a goal to save to go back, and I enrolled at Mercer for a while, until I just decided to go for it and open my own shop that summer,” he says.
Hampton was raised in West Trenton in the West State Street neighborhood. Hampton’s grandfather is Ira Blackman of the old Blackman’s Record Shop on the commons, where many Trentonians got their cassette tapes, wall posters, and incense back in the day. Blackman actually found Hampton’s original space.
“I pitched the idea to my grandfather and he found the shop for me. I’m very much into fashion. I’m self-taught. I have a vision for fashion. You can get so caught up in working other jobs, putting so much of your energy into building up their company when I could be putting that same energy into my own establishment. I was willing to sacrifice and take the chance,” he says.
“There’s different stuff here that people aren’t accustomed to,” he says. “It’s way out of some people’s comfort zones. Once I see on outfit on you, I can give you a hairstyle. I can accessorize you. It’s easy for me,” he says.
According to Hampton, all the girls who come to him and who tag his shop on Instagram feel really good in his clothes. He just started carrying plus sizes, which were in high demand when he first opened. The best sellers at House of High End for fall are his jackets and coats, items ladies can pick up that serve a purpose, as well as provide style. Nothing in the shop costs more than $110, so everything is a bargain. He loves that about owning the shop but still insists there’s no bona fide fashion scene here … yet.
“Trenton does not have a fashion scene,” he says. “Trenton has some dope designers like Qaysean Williams of Manikin Mob LLC and Shahedah Textiles, who specializes in swimwear. There’s Courtney Samone, who’s an amazing designer. There are so many fashion influencers in the city but there isn’t much of a scene,” he says.
Hampton thought about opening a location in Philadelphia. He conformed to the sense of fashion here because he was getting a lot of feedback about the pieces he has and how different they were. After a while he needed to make ends meet and get stuff that he knew would sell rather than the bomb pieces that are sitting on the racks, which sucks the fun out of it sometimes.
“I have to have more of that minimal, casual, everyday wear … things you can either dress up or dress down. Things you can wear with heels with or wear with sneakers or slides to add that versatility so if you wear something during the day, you can go out at night and just change your shoes and create a whole other look. I have to strategically choose my inventory,” he says.
Hampton has his favorite wholesalers, mostly from California and Florida. The shipping costs of the pieces are factored into the cost of the goods. When he first opened his first shop he was getting a lot of stuff from overseas. But that takes too much time — dealing with customs and delays — and he would be babysitting partially empty racks with gaps in replenishing his inventory for sometimes a week or two at a time. So he found new wholesalers and now gets most things shipped out in four or five days. This brings him to the greatest piece of advice his granddad Ira taught him.
“My granddad is very business-minded. I learned from him to appreciate when business is slow. Because it’s going to happen,” he says. “It’s not always going to be just fast, fast, fast. You’ll have those seasons when you just have to patient. When you do hit those seasons you just have to plan and figure out ways to generate some foot traffic, figure out ways to get people in, and bring any type of attention to the business. Things don’t happen overnight. Everything will work itself out,” he says.
House of High End Boutique, 200 North Broad Street. www.houseofhighend.com