words by Eddie STATS Houghton
To our knowledge, the new-brand Base Kingston–located at #11 Upper Park Manor Plaza, Kingston 8–is the only premium street-style menswear boutique in Kingston (possibly in Jamaica?) and certainly the only one of it’s kind. To get the inside straight we hit up co-owner Jason Panton–who is also the backbone of reggaefied hipster clothing label I&I–about his vision for the shop:
LU: How long have you been open?
JP: We opened our doors to sell freshness on February 16, 2010
Q: What brands do you carry?
A: I&I, Penguin, Ben Sherman, Civil Society, Cavi, Converse, English Laundry, Rocksmith, Sugar Craft , Kilo Goods & More…
Q: How closely (or not) does the mix of clothes in the shop reflect your personal style?
A: Some of the items we carry are dead on with my personal style, but as I have heard and practice, buying for a boutique isn’t about you, so we try to keep ahead of the fashion curve while still giving the people enough of what they want.
Q: How closely (or not) does the shop’s aesthetic hew to that of I&I?
A: I&I represents Jamaica & The Caribbean. It mixes the Caribbean flavor with contemporary design trends worldwide, so in a way it personifies what we are doing in the store. We are bringing great authentic “foreign” brands to Jamaica, and putting it together in a way the reflects our unique aesthetic.
Q: What would you say is a Base KGN signature item?
A: Well, besides our shop in the airport, Base KGN is the only place you can get I&I, so that is definitely a signature item. But my partner Cezar and I ask ourselves this question every week. It seems that we really do sell pieces across the board regularly. From denim to jackets, from military style to clean and prep, cologne and shades…so I think our signature is the combination of looks and styles.
Q: What international brands wear in Kingston that people wouldn’t necessarily expect?
A: People definitely don’t expect Rocksmith, Sugarcraft & Cavi. I think our denim variety is probably a bit unexpected.
Q: What guideposts do you look at to define yourself with no direct competitors in your space?
A: Well, like music, life is a mission not a competition. We just try to stay up on all the emerging brands and trends for men, so that we can have the best, newest, cleanest and freshest. We also change our stock on a regular basis according to season and colorways. We update the looks in our store weekly, so people can really see the new stuff when it drops in.
Q: Do you live off foot traffic or are the people who shop there ones who have specifically come to seek out Base KGN?
A: We do get some good foot traffic, and lately we have been getting a lot of press that has raised our profile, so many people come specifically for us to see what we have. We’ve already begun building a dedicated clientele that we are very pleased with and provide the best service to all our customers, especially our regulars.
Q: Where do you look for style inspiration?
A: Magazines, websites, my close friends that are in the industry & people I see out and about in Miami, New York, L.A. or Jamdown.
Q: Are you more influenced by cutting edge trends or images from past eras?
A: Jamaican style is dynamic & eclectic. I would define our influence as modern, eclectic, and classic.
Q: What impact (if any) have Vybz Kartel’s recent Clarks-related tunes had on the frequency of Clarks-sighting on the street in JA?
Clarks are already a staple for many breddrin in Jamaica. It was a huge style that became an iconic image of Jamaica, kinda like Timberlands in NY. I would love for it to go from the Vybz song to a revived trend….cause nothin’ beats a nice desert Clarks with a nice fitted pair of jeans and a tee–you feel NEAT.