With a self-referential sense of humour and minimalist style, up-and-coming fashion brand Ugly Studios shows incredible promise with its initial productions – even if the “fashion” label might give the creators’ pause.
Sustainability talks are ever-present in the fashion industry but, usually, the specifics of a brand’s sustainability efforts are either generalised or confined to the background — a brand may boast of using some undefined percentage of recycled fibres, or it might put out a press release making unquantified statements about “reducing waste.” Ugly Studios sees all this rhetoric and flips it on its head. Instead of obfuscating the waste produced by the fashion industry, they forefront it with pieces like their ‘Care Label’ tee as well as through a partnership with Plastic Oceans UK, offering an alternative other brands can follow to be more sustainable.
Ugly Studios launches today, June 13, with their “Carbon Neutral” collection featured below, but it will soon expand to release many more items. To get to know all about their present and future, we spoke with one of the founders of Ugly Studios just a few days before the “Carbon Neutral” release.
You say your work makes a statement against contemporary clothing and the throwaway culture of the fashion industry. What does that mean to you, and how do you implement those ideas in your design?
The fashion industry has a big problem with consumption, and we want to encourage people to shop more consciously – buy fewer clothes, but better quality – and to look after and care for them properly. In this collection, we’ve created the ‘Care Label’ tee that brings the information you’d usually find hidden on the inside to the forefront of the design. Not only does this make you think twice about how you care for your clothes, but also where they’ve come from and what’s gone into making them.
What inspired you to reach out to Plastic Oceans UK, and what is the nature of your collaboration today?
As a new brand, we’re never going to be 100% sustainable. There’s also a conflict between wanting to create and not contribute more to the problem, so we wanted to give something back. We decided to partner with Plastic Oceans UK as plastic is a huge problem in the fashion industry, from the packaging to the microfibres that shed from our clothes every time we wash them and end up in the ocean and food system. Plastic Oceans UK is really trying to solve the plastic crisis through science, sustainability and education programmes, and also advise us on the best fabrics and manufacturing practices to reduce our impact. In this collection, we are donating 10% from each t-shirt sold to the charity and this partnership will continue in the future with limited edition releases.
“Ugly Studios” is obviously a very intriguing name. What’s its history?
We took a long time to decide on the name, but Ugly Studios came about when we were developing our branding and designs. The brand plays on the idea of the fashion industry being “UGLY” – the fashion industry is the most polluting industry in the world, second only to oil. We want to turn the ugly industry on its head and create clothing that is “clean and beautiful” at every stage of its production, from the sourcing of raw materials and manufacture to the finished product. We want to challenge those traditional ideas and conventions, without compromising on quality or design.
How did you go about organising this product shoot?
We worked with Charlie Gates on our shoot, and the whole process was very much a collaboration. We’re based in South London, and wanted to move away from the idea that sustainable clothing is just for those who live closely with nature, and the negative stereotype that sustainability is just for “hippies,” so we decided to create a series of photos looking at the point nature intercepts city life. In cities, nature struggles to prevail, and we believe that with the right actions the future can be more harmonious, where modern city life and nature are balanced.
What is your personal history with the fashion industry?
I’ve had a complicated history with the fashion industry. I grew up in Cornwall, and from a young age, I’ve always been fascinated with fashion. I decided to move to London for Fashion College at 18, but after a few months, I dropped out thinking the fashion industry was a horrible place and not for me! Then a few years later I fell into writing and was drawn back to fashion. I began writing about the industry and going to fashion weeks, but it still wasn’t for me – the fashion industry just seemed so stuck in its ways. During this time I met my partner, Will, and he had the same mindset. We decided we wanted to push the boundaries and create something of our own, and originally we decided to start a blog but found the clothes we wanted to write about and wear — fashion-forward and sustainable — just didn’t really exist. So we decided to make them for ourselves!
Do you have any specific goals with Ugly Studios?
We want Ugly Studios to prove that sustainable fashion doesn’t have to be boring! The word sustainable fashion makes most peoples’ eyes roll and we don’t blame you – fashion is not just about function. Fashion is a cultural expression, a form of personal identity, body celebration or an expression of sexual identity, which is why sustainable clothing the way it is will never conquer fast fashion, and why we put design at the heart of our brand. We believe there shouldn’t be a divide between sustainable clothing and high-quality, desirable fashion and want to prove this to the fashion industry!
What does the future have in store for Ugly Studios?
Later this year we will be launching our AW19 collection, which will give you more of an insight into the brand and how we hope to develop. You can expect trench coats, hoodies, jeans and more…
products. Ugly Studios
photography. Charlie Gates
fashion. Will Hawkins + Sarah Ardell