A former furniture designer, Sweetu Patel is now known primarily for owning one of New York City's finest menswear stores in CHCM. Born and raised in Northampton, Patel is just one in a long line of Englishman who can find themselves described in a Sting song. We caught up with Patel to find out about his move to the US, his furniture designing path and how Northampton influenced him.
When and why did you move to the US?
I first came to NY in May 2001 to present a furniture collection I had designed for a company that I was working for. I met a nice lady during that trip and moved over to marry her in October 2002.
It's been noted that you were a furniture designer, can you tell me more about that?
I studied furniture design in Birmingham and moved to London in late 1998 to work. After some freelance design and retail work I got a job as the in house designer & product developer for a furniture manufacturer in the east end.
This led me to move to NY in 2002. In 2003 I started a furniture gallery called Citizen-Citizen in Williamsburg, which concentrated on up & coming British designers. The company soon moved into manufacturing by 2005, at which point I left to work on some other things. I worked in sales for the Italian furniture Brand Cappellini for a few years before starting C'H'C'M' in 2008 - the website came first & then the store opened last year.
How did the Northampton upbringing affect your relationship with clothes (or shoes as it is a shoe town)?
The Independent clothing stores in Northampton had quite a big impact on me, I stumbled upon a local clothing store in 1989 and became obsessed by it, I used to save up my pennies & spend them all there. I was a regular 'til the late 90's. I've favoured independent clothing stores ever since.
I knew of the shoe industry but didn't take it too seriously at the time as we were into trainers and Clarks. I learnt more about the shoe industry when I went to art college in 1991, whilst doing research on a leather making project found out about the leather industry and the shoe & belt making industry that was right there in front of me.
How does the store fit into New York?
The store slots in perfectly. It's a mixture of the classic men's stores uptown & the more contemporary stores downtown without being too obvious. The reception has been really good, from people who knew about the website and newcomers. It's a nice, unassuming place to come and purchase quality items and the shop still feels like a discovery to those who haven't been before. The customer base is very varied, from the older gentlemen, guys in the know, skate kids, hip hop kids, the fashion forward crowd and ladies looking for something for their guys (sometimes themselves) It's also a destination point for international visitors.
Would you consider making a store in London?
I have thought about it, I don't think so though, but you never know.......
Your choices veer on the classic side, how do you ensure the store avoids feeling stuffy?
It's to do with the actual pieces chosen. The colours, fabrics, cuts and how the various brands sit alongside each other. Most importantly its the context in which the items are presented. The store is pretty minimal without being boring, the surroundings enhance the products & the same goes for the website. Its all considered.
www.chcmshop.com - photo credits : Tom Chen
Interview by Jason Dike