The Bureau speaks to classic gentlemen who quest for long-lasting clothes that provide them with a timeless style. Thus the brand-repertoire encompasses Engineered Garments, Barbour, Visvim, EG Workday and footwear options from Converse, Birkenstock, Yuketen and New Balance. This said, there is no surprise that a strong focus is put on heritage and durability –The Bureau’s classic men look features Moc Toe boots, selvedge denim, checked or striped shirts, workwear-inspired jackets and a bucket hat to round up the summer look. To us, store founder Michael Hamilton explains the hard start in the late ‘80s, the all-time bestsellers and whether after 25 years in business customers do ask for something else. Interview by Lorenzo Molina

How were the beginnings of The Bureau? Did the political situation in Ireland affect the business’ take off? Do you remember any specific episode?
We started The Bureau in a small back street in Belfast city centre in 1989. This was a very difficult political time in Northern Ireland and especially in Belfast. There were many incidents in those early days and we had to replace our shop front on a few occasions due to bombs going off in the surrounding area. There were times you had to shut the shop for a morning or afternoon due to suspect devices having to be defused or maybe due to a shooting nearby. When I look back it does sound a bit crazy but we were in our early twenties and this had been the life of the city since we were born, stupidly, it seemed normal to us.

How do you manage to continue being relevant among a young generation who’s overwhelmed by an ever-increasing offer of both online and physical retail?
I do not think we are relevant to a vast amount of the market whether it is young or old. What is important for us is that we continue our journey in a direction that is true to our own aesthetic that we have developed over a period of 26 years. We understand that this must have some sort of relevance to what is going on within the menswear market but at the same time there are certain parameters that we cannot influence. This is “The Bureau Aesthetic”.

The store focuses on heritage and durability with brands like Engineered Garments
The store focuses on heritage and durability with brands like Engineered Garments

Within your brand repertoire, which ones are being overwhelmingly welcomed?
Most of the brands that we stock sell well for us but their performance is usually relevant to the time that we have worked with the company. We started to work with Nepenthes NY in 2002 so therefore it is natural that this relationship is more mature than that of a young company like Arpenteur who we have worked with for three/ four years. The internet has obviously sped up this process and now a brand can receive a lot of attention and media coverage in a very small amount of time, making the consumer very aware of it.

Some designers are blurring the lines between women’s and men’s fashion, creating unisex collections wearable by both genders; sporty influences are invading almost all ready-to-wear collections in the market… What is your opinion about the direction that menswear is taking right now?
Truly we do not give much thought to the direction of menswear or the fashion world in general. There are so many influences and sectors that are of no interest to us. Regarding this current trend of fusing sportswear and ready to wear, I do not see anything new here. A lot of forward thinking consumers were mixing sportswear with top end designer clothing twenty/ twenty five years ago. My perception of the difference now is that the large sportswear companies actively pursue the fashion market and the fashion world is pursuing the sportswear market. In the past companies tended to stay in their own perceived market. In the past it were a few that mixed both, but now the industry along with its obsession with celebrities is catching up with this trend and therefore it is part of the wider conscience.

La Bureau has been opened for 25 years and has a loyal customer base
La Bureau has been opened for 25 years and has a loyal customer base

The Bureau opened 25 years ago. In all this time, do you perceive any significant taste changes among your regular customers?
We have many customers who have been with us since the very early days. Some were poor students then but are now at the top of their profession while others have taken a different path in life but they all share a true love for clothing. Quality has always been a constant but we hope that together with our customers we have developed and matured our aesthetic over the last twenty six years.

Could any fashion retailer manage without being active in social media these days?
I am sure there are many successful fashion retailers that have no internet or social media presence at the moment. I can think of a few very successful brands that have no presence on the internet and are very active in making sure that this is maintained. To be successful and not have any social media you need to be in a very special or unique situation but I am sure this is possible. Ironically you will be so unique that social media sites will be telling the world about you.

The Bureau Belfast
310 Newtownards Road