A menswear shop which was inspired by the hippie movement and became the destination for dedicated followers of fashion in Hull has entered a new era after the owner of nearly 50 years decided to step down.
Prem, which was launched by Ashwin Shah in Anlaby Road in 1971, has undergone a change of name to Squared Clothing after being taken over by son Sumit Shah.
Prem became established with successive generations of customers and we will keep looking after them. But during the 10 years that I’ve have been involved in the business I’ve developed the online service to give us global reach rather than just local reach.
We send to customers in the States, Canada, Australia and all over Europe and we can deliver within two days. A lot of our online customers are people from Hull who have moved away and still want to buy from the shop they grew up with.
The international element reflects Ashwin’s origins. Born in Kenya, he moved to London in 1967 but turned his back on the capital when his cousin introduced him to the community spirit of Hull.
He studied law at the University of Hull but dropped out after being distracted, and then inspired, by the hippie phenomenon. Through his contacts in London he was able to secure the latest hippie clothing, which he sold in Prem, taken from the Hindi word for love.
As the hippie craze faded, and demand fell for embroidered shirts and coloured cotton trousers with 20-inch flares, Ashwin diversified into denim jeans as the next big trend and took the business into the streetwear market of such major brands as Levi, Ellesse Heritage and Fila Vintage.
Trends changed but customers stayed, introducing their children and then grandchildren to Prem as Ashwin grew the business by expanding the original premises and then buying the shop next door.
Our product range reflects our customers, from age three months to more than 80 years! But times are changing, technology is playing a big part in the business and it was about time some new blood came in, bringing in fresh ideas and taking the business forward. The minute you start hanging onto the business it starts going down.
Everything is owned by Sumit now but this is still my life. I am past retirement age but I plan to keep working. I am very hands-on, first to arrive in the morning, lifting the boxes when the deliveries arrive. I can’t sit down and do nothing. I enjoy talking to the people who have been coming here for years.
Sumit, whose first business venture was selling shoes from his bedroom, leads a team of six which includes Ashwin, two staff from the Jameson Street store and Lee Preston, who joined the business more than 30 years ago.
I intend to keep doing more of the same, targeting different age groups, not being too expensive or too cheap. We bring in the brands that people want by listening to customer feedback and by looking at what people are wearing. That includes looking at what is happening in other cities.