In the tightly knit ecosystem that is functional sportswear and outerwear apparel, Rob Boyd is a pretty well-known name. The sportswear designer and fashion enthusiast is ushering in a new, contemporary take on functional design, as equally inspired by the early- and mid-00s as by the possibilities within creative and technical innovation.
It’s always tricky to gauge what someone will be like in person when all you’re going off is their finely-tuned Instagram profile, the little neat blocks colour-coded and paired, a mosaic of coolness. And admittedly, Rob wasn’t what I expected - and that’s meant in the best way possible. I’m not sure how the designer himself will take the following description but Rob Boyd is a really jokes, sprightly, amusing no-nonsense character full of nonsense, you know? The garments are one thing, the [B]oy[d] is another. Jaimus, why did you allow me to write this?
Being somewhat obsessed with similar material objects myself, I appreciated how much Rob really knew about the things he preached he knew about. A genuine enthusiasm glowed in his eyes, seeped through his body movements and relayed through the phrases that were so eloquently put. He’d beg to differ, which most would argue is another good trait. And while his understanding of the industry and his discipline was seriously impressive, it was his ability to have a good ol’ laugh about it all that turned this interview into a 5-hour conversation.
I’ll stop the gas now. Read the in-depth and wildly interesting interview with Rob Boyd below, a hearty sneak-peek into his nimble fashion and design mind, his work at Soar Running, his take on the developments within the industry and his home-kept prized possessions, wonderfully shot by Jaimus Tailor himself.
Hey Rob. First off, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I can, indeed. My name is Rob Boyd, I’m 26, born in Bristol, South West of the UK. When I was 20 I sold all my trainers, moved to London with my trainer money and put that on the deposit for a flat. I then joined a sportswear design course at London College of Fashion. I studied there for a while and did some freelance work whilst I was studying. I knew that I wanted to be in the sportswear industry someway, somehow, I just didn’t know how to go about it. Coming from where I come from, that wasn't a prospect mentioned too frequently.
I was actually a builder at one point - a painter and decorator believe it or not - before I moved here. So anyway, I ended up in London, graduated amidst doing other work for other companies and then I ended up joining a fairly new company called Soar Running. I’ve been designing running apparel for them since my graduation and alongside that I dabble in some consultancy and some styling work.
I collect garments, mainly sportswear apparel and some contemporary Japanese menswear but most of it features laminated zippers or some sort of sporting hardware. Everything resembles that aesthetic somehow within my wardrobe. So I pull that into some of my styling gigs, and that’s a bit about me, or a bit about the ‘industry me’ I guess.
What do you enjoy the most about the industry that you work in?
I like product testing and product development. I like testing samples so, for example, this evening I was running in new half tights. I basically created a Frankenstein garment, chopped up a running belt and sewed it onto some half-tights, drew a bunch of other details onto it and that’s the beginning of an R+D process right there. That’s what I like about sportswear product design.
I’m also quite old school in the way I design so I like watching a pen sketch turn into a factored garment that’s ready for sale. I think that’s really rewarding especially when you’ve got the original drawing that you did by hand whilst you were sitting on the train going somewhere, to then the actual realisation of the final product. I think it’s brilliant that you can still do stuff like this in the modern day. I know a lot of people don’t, they use CLO and Illustrator - and I use the same software as well - but initially pen to paper and then seeing the final garments is a real bonus.
That feeds into my next question. When did you realise you wanted to go into fashion design? When was that eureka moment when you were like, ‘yep, this is for me’?
My eureka moment hmm... so basically I was in a bit of a funny space at one point where I didn’t really know where I wanted to take my career. I didn’t have a focus, I was doing odd jobs here and there and messing around.
I’d grown up wearing sportswear. I’ve always loved sportswear so I’d be spending my paycheques on GORE-TEX Rab jackets and The North Face Summit Series trousers as opposed to jeans or whatever else people were wearing back then. I’ve always had a keen interest in that product and I just gravitated towards it. I went to a school where instead of wearing school trousers, we’d colour in our Nike swoosh on our tracksuit bottoms with a permanent marker so we could get away with wearing them as uniform.
My parents are both quite creative and artistic. My dad studied at the Royal College of Art and they’ve always promoted creativity in our household. One of my mum’s friends said to me one day - he was a tutor at college I think - and he was like “You know you can study design, garment or fashion design?” and I was like “Oh really?” and he was like “Yeah, you need to build a portfolio and apply to these colleges and universities in London”.
As soon as he said that, I left my job, applied for a foundation course and just got my head down, building up a portfolio so I could move to London. That was my eureka moment. I just wanted to do something that I was passionate about and could see myself enjoying, right?
And aside from the whole materialistic world that garments and sportswear lives in, I’ve always been interested in the finer details: why certain garments have articulated knees and why certain garments feature heavy duty laminated zippers, etc. All those things always caught my eye.
Were you into clothing when you were younger? How did your dress back then?
100%. I even remember in secondary school, you’d get awards when you leave right? D’you remember that? I won best dressed.
That’s an achievement.
Yeah! A mad achievement. I didn’t get much else from school but best dressed was one of them.
What were you wearing then?
I couldn’t tell you. Nike joggers and some sort of funky t-shirts from eBay I guess. I definitely was dressed terribly in school, put it that way, but I guess everyone else was dressed even worse. I’m sure if I looked back now, I’d be horrified. I was just moving with the times.
D’you know what? I had a fake pair of Air Max 1s. I conned everyone, they were all black with a neon bubble and everyone was like “Where did you get these? Where did you get these?” and I was like “Ah, I got them sent from America,” but really I knew they were fake, although I did think they were real when I was buying them. It was off of a website called airmax.com - I mean that should have been a bit of a giveaway.
What were some of the first brands that you started collecting?
Like properly collecting?
Yeah. Whatever comes to mind. The brands that you really developed a liking for.
Nike product. I wouldn’t really call myself a collector back then. I was just buying it because that’s what I gravitated towards. When I really started collecting things, like trying to build a rail, it was early Gyakusou. You see it blowing around the internet at the moment right, all the kids are into it, but I’ve got an extensive collection of first gen, all that 2010 stuff. I have all the AFFA bits as well which is quite nice to have sitting there especially because those are products that Hiroshi touched as well as Jun. I guess that would have been the first sub-line product line that I actively collected.
From there, it’s mainly been Comme Des Garçons. There was a point in time where I was just buying CDG as much as possible off of eBay and Yahoo Auctions and all the rest of it. But now it’s impossible to get all the fly stuff because these kids know exactly what they’re looking for because idiots like me post it all over the gram.
That’s so true. People online have made it so trendy that everyone else wants in on it.
There’s these big blog accounts, right, these screen grab accounts...
So you’d say your page isn’t a part of it? You’re also making it appear romantic as a lifestyle, aren’t you?
Yeah I’m trying to steer away from it a little more at the moment and not share too much. I’m also trying to buy less so that probably plays into it too.
How did you find out about CDG?
It was around 2014. I was in a library in Bristol called the Bower Ashton UWE. It had this book called ‘The Blueprint’. It’s a case study on CDG, their stores, exhibition spaces, and then Rei Kawakubo. This book was in there, the cover just leapt out at me and I acquired the book. Maybe since then I just started flicking through eBay and grabbing all the pieces that I could afford I guess? Maybe I could even call that book my grail, who knows. There aren’t many of those left.
So how'd you get stuff now? Where do you look?
I don't really. I've kind of given up. The game has changed. It's just like I'll bid on something and then 30 kids bid on the same thing. Everyone knows the tricks now. You know what? I acquire most of my stuff nowadays through trading with my friends I think. I do a lot of trades, we swap here and there. My friend might have a piece that I've been looking for for a while. And I might have something that he's been trying to get his hands on, something he's been eyeing up, and we just make a little deal. Yeah, that’s how.
I think that's how a lot of people do it these days. People who have the gems, they just keep them and trade them with other people who have the gems.
Yeah. Not even on some elitist shit.
Just like passion for it, right?
Yeah for sure.
What are some of your biggest fashion inspirations? What do you like, what do you appreciate?
I like originality and people's dress sense first and foremost. I like it when people know what shapes and silhouettes suit them. A lot of people now, they really can't dress themselves. They buy, you know, what's cool, what's hot, or what they deem to be cool, regardless of whether or not that garment's gonna suit their body type or hang on their frame properly.
For me, I try to avoid that at all costs because there's nothing worse than wearing something that doesn't fit and it throws your whole demeanour off. I guess most of what I wear, how I wear it and what I'm inspired by is fundamentally based on the functional capabilities of said garment. Today it was raining, it was super muggy and hot, so I wearing light Japanese nylon. It's going to dry quickly in the rain but also it's humid outside so I'm going to stay cool. My grandma always used to say dress for the weather so maybe that's where I get it from.
Outside of fashion, what are some of your biggest design inspirations? When you spoke about silhouettes and form...so many of those Japanese designers you mentioned - back in the day - that was a big focus for them. It feels like a lot of those things have blown up recently, that focus on silhouettes and that focus on form. Who were your design inspirations when it came to that kind of stuff?
Of course we've got Jun Takahashi, we've got Rei, Yohji. Yohji for the silhouette all day. And then you've got your Errolson Hughes and your Hiroshi, and of course Muiccia as well just because I've always been a massive fan of contemporary menswear. I like the way that Prada initially infused sportswear, sporting details, and fabrication and construction methods into their contemporary men's and womenswear. I think that was groundbreaking really.
It stood the test of time, you know? They've reverted back to it now and everyone's buying everything that they're making. They hit a sweet spot. I'll always be a fan of contemporary menswear but I'm not going to go to Our Legacy and spend lots of money on a pair of trousers that don't inhabit functional detail as well as being a nice silhouette. But, for example, all the 1999 and 2000 and 2001 Prada did that really well. So that's definitely an inspiration.
And what about product design?
100%. I look at Noguchi sculptures and Dieter Rams, product from Danish furniture companies, sinks by Vitra. Sources for inspiration and design ideas are endless when you’re looking at product design as opposed to garment design.
Jun Takahashi’s ‘Less but Better’ collection is obviously a testimony to that. The whole thing was inspired by Dieter Rams’ work at Braun. I've got a few pieces in the wardrobe. They really hit the nail on the head with that one. That's probably a prime example of how product design can inspire fashion design or help to produce a runway collection.
The way that I design at the moment is way less artisanal and way less avant-garde. It’s completely sports and performance focused. The silhouette that I try to achieve on a day to day basis at work - my day job - needs to be ergonomically fitting. It needs to impact moisture and perform well against heat. Everything is designed with the run in mind. In that sense, I really can't get too adventurous with silhouettes. It’s all form fitting, for now.
Do you ever get overwhelmed by how much content there is out there right now?
A hundred percent. I've unfollowed so many accounts. I know what I like. I don't need it to be forced in my face. I also think a lot of accounts don't even know what it is that they're sharing. They just screen grabbing things from people they deem relevant, you know? And I just think the whole thing has gone a bit too far.
Everyone is an enthusiast now, but the question is: are they really, and were they back in the day? If not, then that's great, you know, people will find things at different times in that life, but at the same time, I feel like a lot of people are just doing it to build a blog and gain some traction, get some free trainers or something. There's too much fast information out there and not enough detailed information.
That’s a very good point. I think that’s just the times we live in now as well. So you have an IG account that’s an archive of vintage clothing right?
Yeah, but we don’t use that anymore. We started like maybe two years ago or something and it was fun because we were sharing loads of rare archive bits. People enjoyed it and that was great. If I was to continue uploading like those rare garments on there now I'd be contradicting myself because I'm just feeding the beast. At the time it was nice but in this day and age, all these garments are just being screen grabbed and thrown onto these big blogs.
So in an ideal world, how would you want that content to be used?
So for example, by uploading all those garments and promoting this sportswear aesthetic that I enjoy and passionately care about, I was also driving up eBay prices and flipping culture. It was a nice way for me to flip garments that I was bored of but at the same time it was us just selling ourselves short and adding fuel to the fire. And now you can't get anything fly for less than £600 because all the kids know about it.
Maybe it's something we pick up at a later date and use as some sort of consultancy platform or - who knows, but yeah, I parked that one.
OK, and when you were still doing it, how did you source your garment pieces?
Grailed. Vestiaire. Charity shops. Thrifting. eBay. Trades.
Do you miss that hunt?
No because I still do it, I just don’t promote it. I still hit all my favourite little vintage spots and there are a few sellers that I go to knowing they might have pieces that I'm interested in. I'm always on the hunt but I just don't really promote everything I buy nowadays. I don't feel the need to capture everything I buy. I'm content knowing that I have it when I want to wear it.
How do you feel about everyone being super into GORE-TEX now and into the outdoors? Even some people going outdoors purposefully to get a fit check?
Yeah that whole world freaks me out a little bit. Kids spend like 10 grand on the best outdoor gear that you can physically get your hands on and then they just walk up their local hill and get their friends to take photos. It looks nuts.
Plus we've been doing GORE-TEX jackets since secondary school so now this whole thing is beyond played out. The only thing that is never going to be played out is this shoe right here. [Shows the AM90 Anniversary].
How have you kept it so clean?
I have like three pairs, maybe more?
Hah sick. OK so do you go back to Bristol much? What do you do when you go, reconnecting with your roots, your friends?
You know what I do, I just go and chill at my local skate park called Dean Lane. Of course I go see my parents for an evening, but the next day, I just walk straight to my local skate park and there’s guaranteed to be someone that I know. And then from that, people just start showing up. The community in my local skate park is like nothing else. That's really what made me who I am, just from going to that skate park every day of my life.
So before you started at Soar Running, you did some internships and you worked with some other brands. How did that all kick off?
I had this tutor, Thomas Elliot, he’s so low-key but he has done so much. He set me up with an internship at Y-3 but I ended up working closely with this gentleman called Lars McKinnon who used to be a designer at Arc’teryx Veilance, what it was called back then. I knew of his work already so it was nice to stand alongside him. He was quite a reserved character.
I was also dabbling in a few things when I was studying. I was doing some studio work for different designers and putting in those stupid hours before show day, like sewing on like elastic loops to some horrible jacket, you know, all that sort of stuff.
How would you describe your personal fashion sense right now?
Relaxed. I like wearing Nike joggers from JD Sports but the 2010 model because the shape’s better, the cotton's heavier, the swoosh isn’t embroidered and instead it's like a patch. They got metal rivets on the back pocket. They're serious. That's a really good shape. I grabbed a lot of those.
You know, I like wearing really cheap tracksuit bottoms but expensive t-shirts. That’s my thing. I’ll wear a pair of joggers I bought on eBay for like £10 with an Undercover t-shirt that I bought brand new from Dover Street.
I need to look comfortable. I don't want to look like I'm stepping out and ready for a photo every day of my life. I want to just appear relaxed. It just suits me more personally.
That's interesting. That's very interesting. I was very surprised to hear you say that.
I mean, I have my days. If I’m going somewhere and meeting a bunch of friends that are going to be pulling out some serious pieces then I might take the AM90 off and put on some Pradas or something and match that with a nice piece of Junya from 2012.
When you talk about these things you literally have fire burning in your eyes. I know the feeling, knowing you have something no one else has or even knows about.
But that’s the whole point. Everything I have now, everyone knows about it.
It’s just the cycle of fashion I guess. So OK, you released your first capsule collection back in 2019 when you were at university. What was the inspiration behind that collection?
Everything within that collection was based on experiences that I could relate to. Each outfit in that collection was designed with a friend in mind and how it could aid that friend's day.
So I made a jacket and a pair of trousers that would hold my friend's camera. They had the exact measurement that he needed it to be within a little slingback and then pockets that could hold his cards and his keys. These features would still enable him to move around the city and hop on and off trains and buses and in and out of cars without it all becoming a burden. I just wanted to provide solutions in garment form that would eradicate the need for these massive bags that he was always carrying around.
Wicked. How synonymous is your approach to design with the word ‘solution’?
Completely, intrinsically, in-line. The way I work at the moment is… we develop a garment and then once it's been tried and tested, ran-in for six months let’s say, you start working on the second iteration. So whether that means the garment’s fantastic and performs really well but there’s a bar tack or a seam that could be moved or displaced somewhere else to create a better movement within said product, we’ll work that way. Everything needs to solve a problem and become a solution to something that wasn't already perfect. It’s just product design. It’s product design.
So the best kind of design has a problem and a solution?
For me? Yeah. I guess that's just the way my mind works. Of course I care a lot about aesthetics. We all want stuff to look good. But at the same time, if you can make something look aesthetically pleasing and beautiful whilst solving issues and bettering someone's performance physically in the sporting world, then let's incorporate all of it.
How would you describe your design process, from start to finish?
That's so difficult because sometimes I'm designing products for a company that isn't a sports specific company. And then sometimes I'm designing product that is completely founded in running. So within those two worlds, the way I begin designing within those two worlds is completely different.
Let’s say I'm designing a lifestyle product. I'm going to revert to my sketch book, see what I've got floating around in there. And if there's a design that I like that I've drawn up, I'll start pulling inspiration and design details from magazines and books that I have. I'll kind of do a Frankenstein mock-up of a design and work from there.
So then we'll cut it up, see how it looks in Illustrator, start cutting patterns, choosing fabrics, selecting trims, and then we'll take it to a seamstress and see what they do with it. And then back and forth until we get it right.
And then sportswear, that all starts completely differently. So I'll be out on a run and I'll think to myself, okay, you know, if there's a garment - let's say I'm starting from scratch and not creating an iteration of something that already exists. Let’s say I want to design something completely new. A thought may pop into my head that revolves around something that would benefit my run, that isn't already on the market. And I'll try and achieve that in a similar way, by sketching and selecting fabrics and choosing trims and passing things over to seamstresses and then sending tech packs over to manufacturers and we end up with prototypes and we test them again and keep testing until it's correct. So that's two different ways in which I design.
Thank you for that very granular description. What have been some of your favourite pieces that you’ve designed?
I developed some tracksuit bottoms, some run trousers pre-post run; pre-run warm-up or post-run warm down tracksuit bottoms. Considering I've worn tracksuit bottoms all my life, that’s always been somewhat of a dream, something that I've always wanted to do. They’ll be reaching the market through Soar soon, the running brand that I work for at the moment.
That's really exciting, you know, because as much as we designed for elite runners and what not, I want my friends to be able to get those too so they can wear them when they are kicking about in the streets or whatever it is they do, you know what I mean? So that's cool for me, and this is coming from someone that's never owned a pair of jeans.
What’s your process in merging the new and the modern with the iconic designs from the past, from the fashion archives and all the nostalgic pieces? How do you bring those two together?
So we're always going to reference designs and designers from the past. As designers, there's always going to be - whether it's subconscious or intentional - there's always going to be some sort of link between the work you're doing and something you've seen previously.
But that question is tricky because I don't normally look to garment design when I'm taking reference from something. But I guess if I am referencing something, then I’ll always try to apply it in a direction that is relevant to the garment that I'm applying it to, you know? Making sure that it has as much relevance in the referenced piece as it does in the piece I am designing.
I reference art more. I take a lot of inspiration from architecture and art, much more so than other garments. I look at buildings and take elements from the structural positioning of said building and I'll drag that and it will then form seam lines. Or say, the way something's been joined might turn into a construction method forming in that sense. But yeah, I don't really reference designers that often really, or just all design in general. Although, saying that, subconsciously I’m sure I’ve referenced like a hundred designers by now.
I guess I’m asking because you like so many designers from that era, I just assumed you’d be taking inspiration from them in your work today. What's the main difference in the form, the fit and the structure of garments released back in the nineties and early thousands to now?
I can only really put it into my own practice which is obviously sportswear design. All garments that were serving their purpose back in the day are now serving their purpose in the same way, but much better and much more efficiently and that’s down to technology.
So you have software like CLO 3D where you can body map a garment and see how it's going to ergonomically fit in, let's say, in a mountaineering jacket. Whereas, back in the day, these things would have had to be tried, tested, developed, taken back to the lab, tried and tested, developed, taken back to the lab, tried, tested, et cetera, et cetera. You know, it goes on, it goes on.
So garments nowadays are still serving their original purpose, they're just doing it more efficiently and that's done via technology and advancements in machinery and all of that good stuff.
And how important is research in your process?
Very important. I do it all the time. I'm always buying magazines, books, old archive finds. I go to art galleries. That's all research no? You’re soaking it up. If we're talking stylistically then I do a lot of research just when I'm with my friends. I’d just be taking photos of what they're wearing, just getting detailed shots of certain aspects of the garments that they've got on.
I'm heavy on my phone man. I'm always taking photos - whether I post it or not online, that’s another story. That's called primary research. My friends wear some crazy shit.
Has the explosion of the outdoor industry had an impact on your design direction? I know you walk in the sportswear industry but you can't deny that like what you do and how you design does have rooting in that trend right now?
A hundred percent. The trend has definitely brought more opportunity to my doorstep. Me being an announced sportswear apparel designer and there being this boom and interest in outerwear apparel design, it's definitely brought more freelance jobs to my table.
And it's definitely made me think about function - and this is for pieces that I’m not doing for Soar - think about and see function from a way more aesthetically driven standpoint. Prior to this explosion in outerwear, I was definitely using functional attributes within my garments to serve a purpose as opposed to just providing an aesthetic. Whereas now that aesthetic - whether it's functional or not - is everything for the younger generation. They just love it.
So you recently styled that Nike Server Zero Waste Approach Project, right? So what are you using about the premise of vintage Nike shoes and resole-ing them with Vibram?
I think it’s fantastic, if it’s done right. First and foremost, Linus, the guy behind Nike Server, he’s from my hometown and is a really good friend of mine. Shoutout to him.
I do think some of those shoes could have been polished off in a slightly neater way by the Vibram team, but the Zero Waste Approach... if you’re into trainers like you and I right, if you can get an extra lease of life out a pair of shoes that you love with a sole unit that is gonna last another six, seven years, then I'm all for it.
It sits in that realm of buying and selling garments. Once you're done with something I think it is great that you're able to sell it on eBay or Depop or Grailed or via your Instagram account. I think that's fantastic.
It just lowers that mass culture of constant consumerism. It’s helping deplete that in a way. So yeah, that Zero Waste Project and the idea of resoling otherwise unwearable throw away shoes, I don’t think anyone can see anything wrong with it at all.
Yeah nice. OK so what do you do at Soar Running? Can you tell me a little bit about your day-to-day?
I report directly to Tim Soar, Creative Director and Founder of Soar Running. I also work directly with our product developer. Generally my day will start by replying to emails from suppliers or factories or working into a tech pack that I was doing the night before.
Can you explain what a tech pack is?
A tech pack is a technical drawing that you can then send to the factory and they can interpret and build a garment using it, or use as a guideline to build a garment. It's basically just like a flat computer aided drawing of an item. It's a way to illustrate trims, fabrics and design features in a clear way.
Got you. Back to the day-to-day.
Yeah, so if the factories have any questions, they’ll get back to us with those, hence why I may start my day by replying to factory queries. Then I'll chop it up with my Creative Director and see if he wants me to do anything more specific. He might have me doing some R&D on a new cap model, or he might have me making some sort of Frankenstein product, and when I say Frankenstein, that's just a term we use at the studio where I'm chopping one garment or accessory up and mashing it into another quickly on a sewing machine to then do a wear test and see if it should or shouldn't be a product. And that's typically how my day goes.
OK, and how do you do product testing?
Run in it. Thoroughly, Long distances. Short distances. Speed work. Slow recovery runs.
Does the whole team run in the product?
Oh yeah, my CD will heavily test garments. Our head of marketing, he tests garments for us. Every single person at Soar runs, but when I say that, I mean runs properly. It’s not like some hobby jog or whatever you want to call it. We really get out there and run.
This gets me onto my next question. Are you into running yourself and is this why you went into functional apparel and your love for sportswear?
Nah I wasn't into running at all. They literally said to me before I joined, go enjoy your summer but start running now because you can't design here if you don't run.
Like a lot of these guys who work for these running brands, they don't run but they design running apparel and it’s evident in their kit. Like you go into a shop, pick up their garments and they weigh a tonne. You may as well be running around in Dickies or something, you know? I feel like if you're designing running apparel, you have to run.
That’s great that Soar has that ethos.
It's really good. On a weekly basis I'll be asked how my running is going. I'm not the most serious runner ever, but at the same time we do get some good runs in. I'd probably go for a run around four times a week. But in the world that I work in and the world that Soar sits in, by no means am I a good runner. I’m very average compared to the guys around me.
Are you working on any personal side projects while you're at Soar?
I do freelance design. I do freelance styling work. I do some graphics here and there. Yeah. I have a few little side things going on.
Do you think that keeps your passion for design burning bright even more?
100%. It’s good because you get to see all ends of the industry. It’s nice being invited into an office to select garments from a rail that, you know, sits on a runway as opposed to sitting on a runner. Obviously I still have that deep rooted interest in runway garments and high fashion too so it’s great to still be able to work within that world.
Things like form and function weren’t that popular a few years ago, and not many people were talking about it -
They were with my friends.
Yeah cool, so you were obviously on bigger things.
I remember, even leaving secondary school and shit, it was like “ah, you got a Hyvent layer, you’re not even wearing 3 layer GORE-TEX…”
What kind of school did you go to?
A school full of chavs for lack of a better word. If you had a basic North Face and it wasn't GORE-TEX Pro or whatever, your jacket was not popping.
Hm, but I guess there you’re talking about brands and not form, function, silhouette.
But in terms of the silhouette and the way things fit, I don't think many people would take that into account at all. Most people don't even know what size t-shirt suits them, let alone jacket. I don't think a lot of people were taking the silhouette and the form into account when they're getting dressed. I think they're just putting on whatever's most technical looking.
Yeah, agreed, That’s all very true actually. And where do you stand on sustainability and producing eco-friendly products and then how do you balance design with those elements?
This is just a huge question and I’ve been asked it before. Obviously I care about sustainability. I buy vintage garments, I buy used clothing, I buy used shoes. I sell, I resell garments. Like all of that is helping I’m sure but at the same time, I make sportswear garments that are ‘eco-washed’ or ‘green’ but they're still made out of crude oil. They're still the most damaging synthetic fabrics on the planet.
Here’s my outlook. If you design something really well with durability and function in mind, drop aesthetics, they can come after. If you give a customer a garment that's going to last them a long time, something that's gonna help the depletion of constant consumerism, I think you're doing something good.
But yeah, at the same time, you're still selling them a sportswear product that's made out of oil - essentially an oil-based fabric for the most part - so it’s not good for the environment at all. But if you design something to last the test of time or to last as long as possible before the buyer feels like they need to re-up on that, then at least then you're cutting back on that consumerism I spoke about. Just as long as you're cutting back on the amount that people are buying, I think you're doing a good thing.
I went to a Central Saint Martins Graduate Fabric and Bio-Design degree show. And there was this person there that had designed this fabric that was as strong as Cuben Fiber or Dyneema but when it was submerged in warm water, it completely evaporated because it was made out of this crazy algae, some sort of plant. It was mad.
There are definitely people that are going to pioneer some really interesting sportswear but at the moment it's definitely still really bad for the planet.
Let's just keep making things durable and longer lasting and that way people won't need to consume as much until someone comes up with a completely biodegradable GORE-TEX jacket.
Also if you look at the amount we're producing as well... if we make more durable product and people need to buy less, we’re then cutting down on air mileage and shipping pollution and all that stuff. It's just this massive chain. AFFIX did something cool though.
What did they do?
Their packaging dissolves in water. More of that. AFFIX is sick, big up.
Are your designs based on a UK subculture or wider global subculture? Do you think you're influenced by the country that you come from?
A hundred percent. I'm influenced by my friends and the skate park that I grew up in, but I'm also influenced by Japanese street culture - but then Japanese street culture is influenced by UK culture. So it's a nice full circle for me. Also, I like how the guys in Paris dress.
Japanese street culture is influenced by UK culture? What about the other way around?
They love that punk aesthetic. They love it. They just do it better. So yeah I am influenced by the country I grew up in. I'm not a very well traveled person, I haven't had a lot of time to do so which is why I like to do primary research so much, and that comes from the UK and the mates I have around me.
Do you find design enthusiasts with similar passions to you? And would you say it's quite a large community?
No, I wouldn't say it is. There are a lot of people who like to say that they're on it.
How do you know when someone's on it?
Man! For example, when I talk to a friend of mine and I mention a jacket from SS17 and it’s a Bottega Veneta runway piece and they know about it because it was the first time in a while that they had featured laminate zippers, that’s it.
My friend will know about that, automatically, whereas some people claim that they may or may not be enthusiastic about this stuff, and chances are they, well, more often than not, they might not know the finer details, the things that aren't necessarily thrown in their faces. So when someone's gone and done their digging and read books and been in libraries and stuff before, you know, Instagram was a blog.
I feel like that’s when you know if someone is actually passionate about this stuff or not, and you can tell by the way someone dresses as well, you can just tell. You can also feel the enthusiasm about someone by the way they speak about garments and the way they speak about the industry. It's the same way when you speak to someone who's enthusiastic about watches. When they start bringing up numbers and dates and their eyes light up, like you can just read enthusiasm. It's just something that just spills out people!
Agree completely. How do you feel about tech-wear pieces that haven’t been created with a specific environment or activity in mind? Created for purely aesthetics.
Yeah, I rock with them, why not? That's the same as some sort of avant-garde runway piece. The CDG Lumps and Bumps collection, what environment was that designed for? If they're using sportswear fabrics and construction techniques, why not? I understand that it's a reference. Let’s geddit.
Where are you hoping to take your career?
I'd like to do some creative direction and I would like to develop a slightly more signature design language that is apparent throughout all my works. Obviously I know it's going to take time and it's early days for me but that's definitely something I want. No matter whether it's for myself or for a brand, I want it to be like a notable design from myself and I think I'll only achieve that if I develop some sort of signature design language there.
I also want to work in the sporting realm but not necessarily within garment design. It will be quite interesting to get my hands dirty in the automobile world and do some car interiors. I've got experience in performance fabrics and these cars, these super cars, need to be lined in performance fabric. That would be an interesting route to go down.
And then also a passion of mine is film. So I’d love to do costume design for a sci-fi film or for any film for that matter, but sci-fi would be brilliant considering that it’s really suited to my interests and sits within my world. If I was going to take sportswear into costume design, it would probably end up in a sci-fi movie somewhere.
What’s your favourite sci-fi film?
There’s a dystopian film that I love called Equilibrium starring Christian Bale. The garments are just amazing. It just looks like a Veilance collection, like it’s so sick. They were all designed by this guy called Joseph Porro. That’s fire as well. So yeah, I don't know who to reach out to so hopefully someone will reach out to me when they read this!
100%. Law of attraction, if you really love something, it’ll happen for you.
All of that law of attraction is the realest shit man. If you speak it will happen eventually. It might take five years but it will happen. Trust me.
Did you ever want to start your own thing, like your own company or your own label?
So I had the offer to do that. Two department stores asked me to build my graduate collection into a capsule collection. It never happened, for numerous reasons, one of them being lockdown and all, but we did have some stuff in the works just before lockdown kicked in. I would like my own thing though, of course, but that’s all in good time.
Would you want to be creative director of yourself or creative director of someone else’s brand?
Myself. I know what I want to do. I don't want to work for another man forever but I would definitely return to it again after doing my own thing...work for another company and then maybe go back and do my own thing again. I literally just take things as they come, but yeah, yeah, that might, that answer might change next week, you know?
And final question. So I see that you collect brand swing tags? How come?
I wish I had collected them from earlier. It's disgusting because, you know, we were just talking about consumerism and whatever, but here I am with bags of swing tags. Initially I used to collect swing tags from garments that I mainly bought from Nike outlets back when I was younger as a way for me to remember how much something cost me. And then it just became a collection of swing tags because there were already a handful there.
I know I’m going to refer to them when I need to design my own swing tags because it's just a good reference. I like to keep neat little things like that. It's nice to have around. And I also think that I keep it around because you kind of see the transition in the way in which my style and way in which my life has changed.
So you'll find 40 tags in there that are just from Nike outlets. And then as you sift through you’ll start seeing Comme des Garçons and Prada and other luxury brands. And that's an example of how my life has changed, right? I'm now able to afford and buy those things for myself whereas back then, I wasn't getting that stuff because I couldn't afford.
I’m fortunate enough now to be able to purchase garments like that. So yeah, it's a nice reminder. And I think it tells a story about where my style is gone as well. It’s still linked to all the older stuff I used to wear but now it’s a mad fusion of high-fashion and basic sportswear. That’s it.
No, thank you for your time and good conversation! And thanks to Jaimus for allowing me time in his studio during tough times.