Summer 2013 Issue 20 of your FREE guide to everything that is anything in Covent Garden coventgardenjournal.com
COVENT GARDEN JOURNAL /20
COVENT GARDEN Journal
Summer 2013 cgj_issue20_cover.indd 1
AND YOU KNOW IT...
IF YOU’RE HAPPIE
16 Covent Garden Journal Issue 20 Summer 2013
LIFE Happie Loves It 37 Drury Lane 020 7379 5455 iamhappie.com
Stevie Martin meets Sean Han, half of the cheery duo behind the colourful Happie Loves It label
Happie Loves It is not your average profitobsessed clothing brand. For a start, co-owners Sean Han and Happie axed their deal with TopShop despite being the most popular guest brand there, and breaking almost every record the high street clothing giants had going. They did this in order to set up their own small Drury Lane store. “We had no complaints with TopShop,” explains Sean. “The money was good and they were great, but we wanted a nice little place for friends. We wanted to create our own space so people could enjoy the shopping experience, away from the hectic crowds.” Furthermore, they prefer not to talk about themselves, including Happie’s real identity, their relationship to each other and both of their ages. “The less you say, the more like a fairytale character Happie becomes,” Sean insists. “When you know a lot about a person, it limits the mystery.” Fairytale enigma aside, the brand began with Happie (a stylist from South Korea) and Sean (a model from Japan) making clothes for themselves and their friends. It wasn’t until some European holidaymakers they met on a beach invited them to come to Italy that the pair realised they could make a living from their hobby. “People in Italy said, ‘Hey, if you want to be professional
you have to charge’, so I took their advice,” remembers Sean. “At the same time I wanted to make our friends happy, so if we could do both of those things that would be perfect.” Surrounded by a culture heavily infused with art and fashion, Happie and Sean picked up a lot from the people with whom they socialised. “I picked up ideas for designs and because Happie already had basic skills from her time as a stylist, she could make the clothes.” Italy not only gave them the motivation, but also their core ethos. “To me, Italian people have the keenest sense of colour,” says Sean, “and they’re always trying to make things more beautiful, as opposed to stopping halfway. That’s a mentality we thought was great.” You can see this throughout the Happie Loves It range— each dress, blouse and accessory commits to a statement fully, be that a bold pattern, a strong cut or a surprising detail. “It’s about feeling comfortable, as well as looking good,” he adds. “To me it’s quite simple— trends come and go but there are certain dress shapes for women that will never go out of fashion.” He believes the secret formula to be a well cut shape that’s not too tight at the waist, but highlights feminine curves. The clothes demonstrate a classic, timeless Italian style shot through with a distinct quirkiness that keeps them contemporary. It’s not often you get a clothing company that sticks to its roots quite so closely—Sean and Happie began by making clothes for friends, and that’s what they continue to do, only now with the help of a small team of highly skilled machinists in South Korea. “There are some bad things happening in the world in clothing manufacture,” Sean is quick to point out, “but we treat our team like we would like to be treated. We don’t do mass production, we don’t run sweatshops.” They can hold their own against the high street because of the quality of their products and their sunny disposition. Hence the name. “When we first came to London, a guy in Camden asked us if we were hippies,” remembers Sean. “Without really thinking, I replied: ‘We’re not hippies... we are happy.’” Both come up with ideas and designs, but Sean looks after the “more boring”
parts of the job. “We both get stuck in, but it seems I’ve ended up doing a bit more of the paperwork,” he laughs, “but it’s important to make that side of the company work—it’s a difficult time at the moment.” Despite the current climate, though, they’ve done well in the five years since the shop first opened. “We started making clothes for our friends and now we just have more friends —nothing’s really changed,” he says. “Even when it’s tough, there are always customers looking for something different from the high street. Sometimes you can’t tell the difference between high street stores—the same brands follow the same trends.” While many people flock to the Oxford Street chains, there are plenty of others who want something different —a place that provides something more individual, detailed and flattering, away from the hectic mania of London’s main shopping drag. Covent Garden was the perfect place to set up their new home, so they shunned the option of a Carnaby Street flagship in favour of Drury Lane. “It’s big and central, but with a real neighbourhood feel,” Sean says. “Everyone who lives here has been really nice and so supportive. We spend all our days here and really feel like we picked the right place.” Thankfully for us, Sean and Happie won’t be moving anytime soon. “I like it. There’s something about it that’s hard to explain,” he muses. “Of course we would like to make more friends, and Happie loves New York, but if all goes to plan we are here to stay in Covent Garden. When I come back from a business trip, I feel like I’m home.”
17 Covent Garden Journal Issue 20 Summer 2013
Happie Loves It is not your average profit-obsessed clothing brand. For a start, co-owners Sean Han and Happie axed their deal with TopShop...