What drives a de­signer?

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

NONTANDO MPOSO

WHEN it comes to cloth­ing brands, some­times all it takes is a clean and dis­tinct de­sign aes­thetic that will set you apart from the sat­u­rated mar­ket. Streetwear brand Un­known Union (UU) is one of a few South African la­bels which have man­aged to stand out with its dis­tinct track­suits and sep­a­rates like T-shirts, caps, socks and jack­ets

We get to know the founder of the brand, Jason Storey. Tell us a bit about your­self. I wasn’t al­ways a de­signer. I ac­tu­ally spent my early ca­reer as an in-house cor­po­rate at­tor­ney in New York, work­ing around the clock on deal af­ter deal. But I al­ways had a pas­sion for ex­pres­sion out­side the field of law. I grew up sur­rounded by the study of art (my fa­ther was an art dealer).

Tell us about start­ing your la­bel.

Un­known Union was born from that pas­sion, but it’s vi­sion has changed sig­nif­i­cantly since its ori­gins. My fam­ily and I have been trav­el­ling to South Africa since I was much younger and it is through that ex­pe­ri­ence that I de­vel­oped a deep affin­ity for the peo­ple, places and cul­tures here. UU orig­i­nally was orig­i­nally founded in 2010 and at that time we pri­mar­ily im­ported brands from out­side of South Africa, such as Obey, Levi’s Vin­tage, Pendle­ton, and War­riors of Rad­ness.

We also were the first to of­fi­cially in­tro­duce Top Shop to the African Mar­ket through our ex­clu­sive pop up shop. Around 2011, we be­gan de­vel­op­ing our in-house cloth­ing brand, UU, which was in­spired by lo­cal art and cul­ture, and it didn’t take long be­fore this be­came the pri­mary fo­cus of our shop. To­day, you can find our range at our new­est lo­ca­tion in Cape Town CBD (44 Bloem Street), where our gar­ments cel­e­brate the rich cul­tural his­tory of Le­sotho and South Africa and sev­eral new de­sign projects that touch An­gola, Congo and Kenya.

What’s it like be­ing in the fash­ion in­dus­try?

The fash­ion in­dus­try is fun, but chal­leng­ing. From the out­side the in­dus­try can eas­ily ap­pear to be sexy and glam­orous, but peo­ple don’t al­ways see how much work and ef­fort goes into the cre­ation of each gar­ment. From de­sign to pro­duc­tion it takes a team work­ing metic­u­lously around the clock to pro­duce some­thing worth buy­ing.

How would you de­scribe your brand?

We be­lieve that there is some­thing that binds ev­ery per­son on this planet to­gether. There is no name for that thing. There is no way to smell it, taste it, feel it, see it, etc. But we all in­trin­si­cally recog­nise that it ex­ists. That’s one of the mean­ings be­hind our name, Un­known Union.

How dif­fi­cult is it to re­main orig­i­nal when streetwear brands seem to emerge daily nowa­days?

If you are pin­ning your orig­i­nal­ity on the unique­ness of your de­sign, then few de­sign­ers can meet that stan­dard be­cause al­most ev­ery de­sign you could think of to drape the hu­man body has al­ready been thought of or cre­ated.

Is it im­por­tant for the brand to have the cloth­ing worn by celebri­ties?

While we are thank­ful many celebri­ties have taken an in­ter­est in our brand, our cloth­ing is de­signed for every­one .

How have you seen the role of so­cial me­dia de­velop for you as a brand?

So­cial has me­dia has be­come more of a fo­cus for the brand over the last year. Un­til re­cently, word of mouth and print were our pri­mary mar­ket­ing ve­hi­cles.

What’s next for Un­known Union?

Our UU fam­ily can ex­pect to see new and in­no­va­tive cap­sule col­lec­tions from up­com­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions with lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional artists. Every­one is in­vited to come through our flag­ship Cape Town shop for the launch of our next ex­hibit: Fash­ion Art, on July 12. For de­tails on the ex­hibit or to RSVP, please con­tact sidis­a­fari@ gmail.com by June 12.

Con­nect with Un­known Union on In­sta­gram @un­know­nunion.

Un­known Union de­signs.

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