After a short break we are back with a corker of an interview. We caught up with Paul Clapham, owner of one of my new favourite brands, Uskees. If you like well-made menswear in bold colours, you must check them out. Enjoy!
Hello Paul, how are you?
Yes, very good thank you.
For those who may not know, could you give us the background into Uskees?
Uskees launched in winter 2019/2020. We wanted to create a range of simple and functional clothing that could be worn at work or out having fun. We wanted it to be plastic free, organic where possible and importantly to represent good value for the customer. We wanted to present an alternative to the throw away culture of fast fashion.
When did you first decide you wanted to form the brand?
The initial decision was taken around 2017, our core business started as an internet retailer which simply involved sourcing and selling other suppliers products so the decision to source and sell our own products took a long time to see through. We are a long way into the this transition but with some way to go yet.
Talk us through your ‘not fast fashion’ message?
Our stand against fast fashion is simple. We want you to have a longer relationship with your Uskees garment that’s why we provide a mini repair kit with every garment should it need some TLC and we also offer a free repair service should the garment need some additional help.
I have been working in retail since the age of 19 ( I am now 50) and have witnessed the shift to the disposable fashion industry we have in some quarters now. Clothes used to be expensive, relative to what you earned and as such you made choices carefully and hoped items would last. The damage to the environment caused by fashion is huge, I saw one statistic that stated that the global fashion industry is responsible for 10% of the Earths waste problem. This is of course terrible and not all necessary.
I am keen to stress that we are not perfect, we use cotton (albeit organic) we use sea freight and ultimately the clothes do have a lifespan. The term sustainable fashion is often misused, to be sustainable you have to replace what you use – Uskees doesn’t do this, we just want you to keep and love it longer.
Hailing from Manchester – how big of a part does the city play in the brand?
Manchester is a brave city, it has a rich history of protest, industry , innovation and talent. It has a huge past but always looks to the future, the city changes daily and is growing fast. It’s difficult to say how the City specifically influences things, I do know that after spending time in the city I leave feeling invigorated and inspired. It has good and bad, shiny and dull, perfect and damaged . It was said by somebody (might have been Ian Brown) that the only thing Manchester doesn’t have is a beach.
You also offer a free repair service – tell us more?
The idea is to extend the life of your product for as long as feasible. We cannot make it perfect and new but we can keep it alive longer.
What’s the product you’re most proud of to date and why?
I think the #3008 smock ticks all the boxes.
Talk us through your new zero waste range?
The idea is simple for us. Organic cotton is simply too good to waste. We have to commit to certain quantities of fabric when sampling, dyeing and developing products. It may be that we have excess fabric left after the development and production process. We just want to put it to use. The products in our zero waste range are only available on our website and will usually be only available in smaller quantities , one -offs and limited runs.
Must be gratifying to see how popular your designs are proving to be?
Massively, it is a privilege creating garments that people love to wear.
How has COVID effected your business?
We have been fortunate, being online has helped massively. We are small and nimble which has enabled us to weather the storm and adapt. Like everyone I have been unable to travel , this has made the design /manufacturing process a bit more challenging plus the home working situation has caused challenges. As I type this I have two team members isolating, working from home. On the whole I have no complaints, I know plenty of people who are in tougher situations than we are, hospitality for example.
What interests do you have outside of fashion?
Music and running (though it involves a lot more walking now)
Who are your favourite designers and why?
Tough question, I don’t come from a classically trained design background. I like design in all shapes and forms. I have been admiring the recent Gucci adverts and shoots in magazines the last few weeks, the use of colour and pattern is amazing. Alexander McQueen blew my mind when I saw the documentary on Netflix and the recent film on YouTube. I love Art (not that I know much about it) and buy the odd painting , I like architecture and love looking up in a city.
What advice can you give to anyone wanting to channel their creativity but unsure where to start?
Just start, procrastination is the enemy
What life lessons have you learnt from running your own label?
The biggest lesson I have learnt is to be focussed, I have wasted too much time spreading myself too thin on different ideas, and can still be guilty of it. Focus is the key, laser guided focus. Do one thing well and be patient.
We’re also bang into football and music here at Casual Cultures – do you have interests in both?
Yes, I enjoy watching football . I was born in Leeds so I love to watch Leeds Utd when I can. I am also involved in the management of my son’s U15 local team, I am obviously excited about the Euros and just hoping for some glory in my lifetime (come on England!!). Music is a huge part of my life. At the moment I am listening to John Lee Hooker and Wooden Shjips, but I love all genres and types.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
We have some great new colours arriving in the Autumn and some beautiful organic cord coming. We are also about to press the button on some Made In Britain products, but ssshhh don’t tell anyone.
Finally, can you summarise Uskees in only 3 words…
Exciting, Challenging and Rewarding