A conversation with the founder of MARRKT
This week's Featured Seller is our very own Lewis Hull, founder of MARRKT. We sat down with Lewis to learn a bit more about his journey in the industry and his interests, as well as discuss the company's values and ethos at a time of rapid growth for the business.
Tell us a bit about your journey in the menswear industry. How did it all start?
I started my career in menswear back in 2006. I had spent the previous 5 years converting a run down B&B into York’s first boutique hotel. That doesn’t sound so progressive these days but back in 2000 the novel idea of crisp white sheets and a tasteful design in hospitality was very new to York. I like to keep aware of trends and developments and the change in hospitality was evident in the bigger cities, so I brought about that change to my home city of York.
Fast forward to 2006 and as we were in the process of selling the hotel, I needed an idea of what to do next. I figured I’d explore the USA and Asia for interesting products and bring them to the Western market as a distributor. My first port of call was a courier bag firm near Boston called Baileyworks, as an alternative to Manhattan Portage at the time. This had limited interest so I turned my attention to Japanese denim. I’d heard about the Osaka 5 as brands that only the hardiest forum sorts could get hold of. I quickly recruited the services of a girl in my local Japanese restaurant, she made some calls, we sent some emails and before I knew it I was on a plane to Osaka to meet Studio D’artisan.
In 2007 I set up Superdenim specialising in Japanese denim and related products, which quickly grew to be a well regarded store. In 2008 I developed a relationship with The Real McCoy's. I worked with the guys at Inventory Magazine to document the brand and its amazing story which really added a narrative to the products I was bringing in. That magazine really garnered an understanding of brands that were doing amazing things under the radar. It was an exciting time discovering these brands such as McCoy's, Viberg and Orslow and feeling like you were bringing something new to the market. That’s what drives me to be honest.
MARRKT had been around since 2014, more as a deadstock site that lay dormant until an opportunity arose, frequently selling Nigel Cabourn stock. It was somewhat rickety and you had to register to gain entry. On the launch days of the Cabourn sales it would often crash due to volume of traffic, but we quickly got it live again and had some exhilarating sales. In 2018 we sold a personal collection of Cabourn for a guy who had amassed a huge collection over the years. It was a mix of pre-owned and new and it all sold out. This was the moment I knew we could switch the focus to selling pre-owned on behalf of individuals. I felt the quality of products we’d been selling over the years was so high it was designed to last — perfect for resale and it would retain value. At the end of 2019 I moved on from my previous ventures and put all my energy into MARRKT, creating a managed marketplace for quality products from brands that I knew and understood.
MARRKT has grown to becoming the 'go-to' platform for timeless quality menswear. Why do you think that is?
I feel that we’ve essentially taken what are “second hand goods” and presented them in a shopping environment similar to Mr Porter, Clutch Cafe or The Bureau Belfast. It would be very easy to just take an iPhone photo of each item and put it online but I don’t think it would have the same affect. We steam, style and shoot each individual piece in our studio to present it in the best way possible. I think sellers and buyers appreciate this level of attention.
We're fortunate to be in a position where we can curate a large selection of items from the brands we are passionate about. Without the participation of our seller community this would not be possible, so it’s great to know we are offering a service that resonates with people.
We’re told time and again how customers await the daily drop newsletter to land in their inboxes, and we see in our “live view” the scramble to land those items. Often people missed those pieces the first time round or they are now available at a better price than before, despite being worn a few times. I don't think its just Gen Z that are buying pre-owned, I think it’s most of us.
How do you feel about the ongoing narrative around sustainability and ethics within the fashion industry? How does MARRKT fit into that conversation?
I think it is healthy and we’re proud to be part of the conversation. There are some bigger players in the resale market who have received vast amounts of investment yet they can't make their models profitable. It would be sad to see the resale movement and all the good it brings become another boom and bust story. There may be shifts in how resale business models are set up to enable long term profitability and in turn make sustainability 'sustainable'. MARRKT is built on sound business foundations, we’ve had no external funding so we have to make a profit to pay our employees, rents and reinvest in making the business better.
A big part of our 2023 plans is to create partnerships with brands to enable them to reach out to their customers and “buy back" their used goods in exchange for store credit. MARRKT will manage the process and deal with finding homes for the used items, creating a cycle of new and old garments in circulation. I think brands are crying out for sustainable initiatives such as this and it’s great to be in a position to make it happen.
What brands are you drawn to at the moment?
I’m pretty set in my ways of the brands I like to wear to be honest. I’m drawn to quality and still feel inclined to buy product made in the UK, North America or Europe. I know it’s not always possible, and maybe a little backwards looking these days. I really like New Balance made in USA sneakers, all things Arc'teryx and Veilance , big fan of Drake’s and Margaret Howell (we have an outlet store here in York). Basics - I wear a Truss tee-shirt pretty much every day and I think the direct from factory sweats from Blank Expression are hard to beat for made in Canada quality and value. If I’m getting dressed up I really like Thom Sweeney for tailoring, Emma Willis for shirts, and nearly always paired with an Edward Green piccadilly loafer.
Outside of fashion, a big interest of yours is music. What is your set up for listening to records at home?
I’d always admired record players and the concept of buying records. I was dissatisfied with streaming as the music felt so temporary and flippant. I was drifting through playlists, listening to the “best tune” and aided by quick tap you were on to the next track.
I’d been to see The Cure in Stockholm with my wife and stayed at a beautiful new hotel called Ett Hemm. It only has a handful of rooms and we really enjoyed the concept of almost shared living in this beautiful home. They had a lounge area with a record player and a fantastic selection of records that I would commandeer most evenings. It was basically what I wanted from my own home.
My first set up was by British brand Rega and some BW speakers, but during the demo at Sound organisation in York, I clocked numerous Linn LP12’s around the room. I was happy with my Rega but had a nagging interest in the Linn that a year later I was sat in the demo room once again. They make each product at their factory near Glasgow, it appealed to me greatly so when I decided to upgrade my speakers and create a purely Linn system I visited the factory for a tour and demo and was convinced. To answer your question, a Linn Klimax LP12, Dynavector Cartridge and Akudorik speaker system. I have around 800 records and try to take time out to listen most days.
What records have you picked up lately from Vinyl Eddie (popular independent record store in York)?
Vinyl Eddie is a fantastic record store. It is a treasure trove of records and rarities. I enjoy picking up originals of 80’s and 90’s classics which they’ve had some blinders in over the years. I got a first press Screamadelica over Christmas and noticed an original '3 Feet High and Rising' when we popped in to shoot that’s been put to one side! I picked up an almost mint first press collection of Scientist Dub records last year. They don’t sell online making it even more fun to get stuck in a see what’s inside.
I used to visit Tokyo twice a year and would always visit a great store called Waltz in the Nakameguro area. They actually specialise in cassettes and old school boomboxes but they have a beautifully curated record section of original classics and Japanese jazz. The kind of store you can build the back bone of exceptional record collection from. My hand luggage would be dominated by vinyls from Waltz.
You’ve lived in York most of your life. The city is thriving with new independent businesses and a growing creative community. Are there any particular places you’d recommend for anyone visiting?
York has always been a great place to live, but I think since the pandemic it’s perhaps appreciated even more. We’ve seen a huge migration of young families and couples from London in recent years. The city has responded to offer a more progressive dining, coffee, drinking, hospitality, arts and retail scene that has been embraced by “natives” and “newbies” alike.
York has more pubs per population than any other place in the UK. I like a great pub and there’s a few I frequent such as the Phoenix, The Golden Ball and The Swan. Eating out I like Skosh but sadly you need to book in advance and for a lively Italian with amazing food it’s hard to beat Delrios. Bishopthorpe Road is very popular and has a great range of shops, restaurants, pubs and wine bar. I’d recommend hitting the city centre for the sites then moving to a suburb for a great local experience.
Shop Lewis' pre-owned pieces from the likes of Arc'teryx, New Balance, Drake's and more.