For our latest Q&A we sat down with friend of the blog, Timur, the brainchild behind one of our favourite new brands of recent times, Arhto. Discussing inspiration, struggle and hope for the future, this is a brilliant chat which covers the whole emotion of owning and running your own brand. We hope you enjoy…
Morning Timur, how are you?
Morning Dan mate, I’ll be honest, it was a tad like I was stuck in Groundhog Day for a while there. So I decided to be kind to myself and took a mini break from work. Now I’m feeling replenished and so ready to go again.
For those who may not know could you give us the background to Arhto?
I’ve grown up around the fast fashion business, so I’ve always been in tune and aware of it. I joined a company that was similar to the family business but I soon realised that the fast fashion industry felt disposable and I just wasn’t able to connect with it, like it was missing something. So, I decided to create my own brand which I feel has longevity, substance and is an investment. My aim was to create everyday staple items, that could line up in your wardrobe, ready to be pulled and something I’d be proud to wear.
Where did the name come from?
I originally wanted to call it Manifest actually, but found out that name was already taken. So after 8 months of throwing names about, the name Arhto popped in to my head, after seeing the skateboarder Arto Saari’s name being banded around from his renewed found fame through photography. It turns out that the meaning aligns with my name, Timur, iron, together, joined and noble strength, so it felt like a no brainer and Arhto was created.
What inspired you to start the brand?
There’s a lot of American and East Asian brands creating products similar to what I had in mind. You know, the hard wearing, fabric focussed, casual understated, functional, bigger fits and it just didn’t really exist in the UK at that calibre of clothing, so I realised I could fill that void.
You’re very popular with customers – why do you feel you form that connection?
That’s very kind of you to say thanks, I guess I just don’t try to be anyone other than myself. I enjoy having conversations with my customers, always welcome feedback and I hope that I show gratitude to everyone. I pride myself on answering quickly, honestly and I try to provide a service I like to endure when I’m buying something. How it should be really!?!
What’s the product you’re most proud of to date and why?
Am I allowed two? It would have to be both the Deuce Tee, my heavyweight T-Shirt and the Bam Jacket, my trucker jacket. For the Tee I under went a series of developments based on fabrics I had in hand, during the development process something amazing turned out, it’s proper hefty, yet soft, comfy and durable, I’d created my ideal T-Shirt. The Bam Jacket well, as soon as I found the fabric by chance when rigorously sourcing, I became obsessed with it, its like a denim mated with corduroy, which weirdly doesn’t translate so easily online, but as soon as you witness it in person, it’s something exceptional.
You’re running an incredible sale at the minute, why did you slash prices so much?
If I’m honest, to survive especially in a pandemic. I think we can all agree that the last year has been tough for known brands let alone the new ones. As Arhto is a newcomer to the market, I decided that getting my stuff out there, creating awareness and a loyal customer base was more important to me that sitting on the products and waiting for it to pick up. Although it wasn’t an easy decision to make, I’m really pleased I made it, the response and recognition from customers has made it all the worthwhile.
How has COVID affected you and the brand?
Since launching, it’s been a whirlwind of excitement, hard knocks and valuable lessons. COVID has allowed me to create the space to breathe, realign and remind myself exactly why I started Arhto. As a whole it’s given me a clear insight on all I’ve learnt and enabled my creative juices to start flowing again, so I’m in good place a to how I want to move forward with Arhto for myself and my customers.
How have you been keeping busy and positive?
Orders from the sale have been keeping me fairly busy, but when I’m not working I’ve been working on me, dabbling in yoga as well as meditation and taking lots of walks in nature, along with most of the country! One of the big things that has allowed me to stay positive though, is my customers and their positive reviews. Don’t get me wrong there’s been those slippery days.
What interests do you have outside of Arhto?
I worked in the Film and TV industry for close to a decade before moving in to fashion. So, I’m a big movie buff and love films of all genres. Ive been picking up books more recently, reading all kinds of literature. It will come as no surprise that I love good clobber and I really enjoy a bit of online window shopping, seeing what other people are creating and how they translate it online as well a tell their story. I love cooking , however I’m way more dedicated when doing it for others and take too many shortcuts when just for myself, so the past year I’ve made more effort for me.
Who are your favourite designers and why?
I really admire Teddy Santis (he was just made Creative Director of New Balance Made in USA, props to the guy) from Aime Leon Dore there’s such simplicity and great colour palettes in his stuff. Stone Island Shadow Project puts so much attention, detail and great engineering into their products. I also recently discovered Goopi Made in Taiwan which seem to utilise great fabrics, bigger fits and appears really functional and last but not least in Tokyo TS(S) for their diverse fabrics, aesthetics and styling.
What advice can you give to anyone wanting to channel their creativity but unsure where to start?
Just do it! Start small and move forward with progress over perfection. Stay true to your own voice and listen to people with experience, see if you can learn from their mistakes, failing is a great lesson. It’s useful to get retail and marketing contacts and advice prior to creating your products, they’re experts for a reason. Most importantly, choose the people you surround yourself with carefully and for good reason, they are the people you’ll want on the rollercoaster with you and remember to have fun with it all, even when times are hard.
What life lessons have you learnt from running Arhto?
That I’m not Superman! I don’t need to do everything by myself, in fact I’m better when I don’t. I’ve learnt how to reach out to people, how to ask for help and advice and experienced how important it is to surround myself with people I trust, respect and enjoy. Everything happens for a reason.
We’re also bang into football and music here at Casual Cultures – do you have interests in both?
I used to be an Arsenal supporter, but when Ian Wright left in 99 my heart slowly left the game along with him. I’ve grown up around underground hip hop, but over the last couple of years my taste in music, alongside myself and Arhto has evolved and I’ve been enjoying a variety of new sounds.
What does the future hold for Arhto?
I’m really excited to be planning new lines, all of which will be made in the UK! I will be scaling it back somewhat and then growing it when ready.
Finally, can you summarise Arhto in only 3 words…
Original, Understated, Boundless.