Spotlight: The Brokedown Palace
— 8 Apr 2017 by Lauren Furey
Few places bring the great outdoors to the big city quite like The Brokedown Palace. Their units at Boxpark Shoreditch have been referred to as an 'urban campsite' and it's easy to see why. Their impressive selection of kit is both robust and stylish and guaranteed to appeal to anyone who loves London as much as they love escaping to the countryside. We caught up with co-founder, Dee Dee O'Connell, to find out what makes Brokedown Palace so mountain-chic.
Tell us who you are and what you do.
We are The Brokedown Palace. We bring outdoor life to the creative and cultural heart of the world’s greatest city. Our customers enjoy hanging out in Shoreditch as much as they do hiking in the mountains, and we provide the gear that does it all. Think cosy knits, plaid flannels, retro backpacks and old school camping accessories.
Our aim is to encourage people to get into the outdoors - whether that’s in a wilderness far away or within the city. 47% of London is green space and it has 8 million trees; the world’s largest urban forest. The more people use these spaces, the more they will want to protect them. There is even a campaign to make London a national park.
Myself and Ian White started The Brokedown Palace in 2012 as an online store and, a year later, we did a pop-up in a single container at Boxpark. We’ve never looked back and The Brokedown Palace is now in Boxpark’s flagship 5 container unit - formerly occupied by Nike. The first product we ever stocked is still our most popular - the iconic Fjällräven Kånken backpack from Sweden. They take up an entire section of the Boxpark store in every colour of the rainbow. The original Kånken Classic hasn't changed since it was invented in 1978 and it was the world's first carbon neutral bag. We also stock a range of Fjällräven’s clothing and traditional waxed canvas bags.
The American north west is well represented by Pendleton, Poler Stuff and Filson while Californian outdoors brand Patagonia fits the concept perfectly. Also hailing from the Golden State are Stance - the cult sock brand from LA. Not forgetting our UK roots, we also stock British outdoor brands Rab, Paramo and Cornish surf brand Finisterre.
Our love for nature means we also want to protect it, and we aim to stock long-lasting products that are ethically sourced and made from eco or recycled materials whenever possible. We value our amazing London team and we are a certified Living Wage Employer. In short our products are high quality, ethical and functional - and they look damn good too!
Which song best sums up your brand?
Our name is taken from the Grateful Dead song "Brokedown Palace". It's an early '70s American folk song about the healing power of nature, set by the riverside. It seemed to represent us perfectly - we started out in our own Brokedown Palace, a tiny wooden cabin by the River Lea in Hackney. Our logo is a picture of that cabin, which also represents the desire for escapism often felt by city dwellers. The connection with rivers is important to us, and I'm a founding trustee of London Waterkeeper, a charity created to help protect London’s waterways from pollution. Sometimes people come in because they recognise the song name, being Deadheads has definitely brought us luck.
What is your favourite item that you currently have in stock?
It has to be the Patagonia Torrentshell - perfect for the April showers. Patagonia’s tagline for the Torrentshell is ‘this jacket is garbage’ not because it’s rubbish, but because it’s made from recycled fibres. It’s a classic waterproof jacket, just like you had as a kid, and comes in a range of colours and men’s and women’s cuts. It even packs down into its own pocket - perfect for stashing away in your pack whether you’re going to a gig after work, or travelling the world. Like all Patagonia products it’s covered by the Ironclad guarantee, meaning they will repair it if possible, and when it’s beyond repair they provide a recycling program to save it from landfill. Sustainable, keeps you dry, and great retro styling - what more could you need?!
What makes The Brokedown Palace unique?
We think that the combination of city and outdoors makes us unique. We offer a carefully curated collection of the world’s best outdoors brands, with something for everyone’s needs - whether that’s the commute to work, a summer festival or trip of a lifetime. We bring together the best bits of heritage and technical American, Scandinavian and British outdoor gear and clothing. Many of our brands are hard to find and we have limited edition and exclusive products, meaning we are often the only place in Europe to stock some sought after collections.
Which other Boxpark Shoreditch trader would you recommend to customers?
We love Greek food place The Athenian. We always used to go there when they had a street food stall opposite Boxpark, so we were super happy when they became permanent neighbours upstairs in Boxpark’s food court. They are a genuine indie who built their business from scratch, just like we did, and have stuck to their ethics sourcing from sustainable suppliers and treating their team well. Plus their food is delicious with homemade sauces and fresh ingredients. Athens is an amazing city, and we enjoy hiking in the Greek mountains too. Apparently the song "Brokedown Palace" was written in London over half a bottle of Retsina - the traditional Greek wine, so Greece is in our DNA!
What is your favourite thing about Shoreditch?
Shoreditch is creative and diverse, and you never know what might happen next - which makes it exciting! We meet people from all over the world every day. Shoreditch also has a great sense of community and in the four years we've been based there we've got to know lots of local people.
We have always bought our paper bags and price stickers from Paul at Gardener's Bag. Gardner’s was established in 1870 by Paul’s great grandad, and it’s the oldest shop in the area. East London is changing rapidly and many businesses and residents are being priced out. We think it’s important to shop local and support other indies, and help preserve the history and soul of the area.
We also love the fact that there are people in Shoreditch who dedicate their lives to help others, sadly there are a lot of homeless people in Shoreditch, and the Spitalfields Crypt Trust is a great local charity which offers a range of support to people facing problems of homelessness. We have a warm clothing donation point in the Boxpark store for attendees of SCT’s drop-in centre.