Throughout the years Uskees have been in the clothing business, they’ve noticed a change in the relationship with what we wear; a shift to a faster, quicker model built on ever changing trends and cutting of corners. Founder, Paul Clapham created the brand to provide an alternative to that shift. From sourcing through to design, they use high quality, organic materials - putting a passion for craft at the centre of everything they do. Traditional techniques are shown the respect they deserve, so that the lessons of the past can be used to create something for the future. The Uskees range centres around traditional workwear styling, brought up to date for the modern consumer. Classic work shirts, over shirts and jackets head up the core line of pieces, with a focus on utilitarian silhouettes and functional design.
In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Paul Clapham, Founder of Uskees about his background in fashion retail and eCommerce, and how his 'built to last' workwear brand was born. He was attracted to the simplicity and aesthetic of work garments which go against the disposable clothing attitudes the 'fast fashion' industry has brought to the masses in recent years. Our host Peter Brooker and Paul also talk about repairing clothes, inspiration and history behind their designs, the meaning behind the brand name, and what it has been like growing a business through the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Hello and welcome to another episode of The menswear style podcast. I'm your host Pete Brooker. On this episode I'm going to talk to Paul clapper owner of Huskies, and Huskies. Their background is in denim and casual clothing. And for many years, they had been selling other people's clothes. And during that time, they had seen a change in the general relationship with clothing a shift to a faster, quicker model built on ever changing trends and cutting of corners. When the time eventually came to make their own range of clothing, they knew they'd want to do something different. And that time is now from sourcing fruit to design. They use high quality organic materials, putting a passion for craft at the centre of everything they do. traditional techniques are shown the respect they deserve so that lessons of the past can be used to create something for the future. And they offer free repairs and maintenance to ensure that their products don't end up on the scrapheap. You can find out more about our skis through the website www.posguys.com. And here is Paul clapping to tell the story of how it all began. Yeah, so I've been in the retail arena for many years. You know, my first job was to kind of work in machine shops. And I ended up working directly for Levi Strauss and managed a number of their biggest stores for a few years and then went into internet retailing approximately 10 years ago and started a web store called dungarees online, which, you know, had this lightbulb moment in the shower one day, I wonder if I could sell denim dungarees on the internet, imported some from America sold one pair month one that got me returned, sold nothing month two. And then, you know, over time, we build sales and but it was always the kind of back bedroom business for a lot for a number of years. We eventually, you know, the internet business grew, became a full time job became a limited company. And we like a lot of people were happily trading away on on our website, then we got into Amazon and eBay and all the big marketplaces. And essentially, we became a buyer and seller of other people's clothing. So used to buy lots from wholesale and so on. And eventually it just became kind of a bit of a race to the bottom. Hard to compete, the marketplace got more and more, more and more flooded. So I began to think about how we can, you know, diversify and how we could, you know, survive in the longer term and how we could build something that was, you know, for us, and I'd always had, we'd always sold brands like Carhartt and Dickies more on the ward where psi booth through the dungarees on bit online business. So I've always been familiar with work where, and I kind of like the simplicity of it. I'm not particularly a high fashion person, you know, and I'm not a particular follower of huge, you know, big fashion or, particularly trends, but, and that's what I always enjoyed about work was a simple aesthetic of it, you know, it kind of fit my personality and the fact that I didn't have to think too hard and, and I like the simplicity. So all skis came from that really came from a thought of creating something simple every day, something we could work you could work in, or you could go for a beer in or it was more around crane clause that he could work or have fun. And that was the starting point. Right? We are going to supply lines from from India. And we've been working with some organic cotton for some dungarees, and so on. We were doing so I have the supply. And then one day I had a friend of mine working in a building who had on a very, very simple Chinese working jacket that he got from a vintage store. And it was, I mean, it wasn't particularly glamorous, but it was a really, really nice simple core of a shirt. And as soon as I saw that, I thought right, that's it. That's it. That's what we can do. We can create clothes that will be fit for purpose and simple. That was the kind of dress and also I began to get a bit of an aversion I mean, I'm aware bursting were based in Manchester and one of the key areas of Manchester is is huge clothing, wholesale businesses, huge internet businesses. And I can't get i didn't i didn't look and I continue I don't like the idea of disposable clothing. You know, I don't like the idea that things can be thrown away after a couple of uses. And I really wanted to try and see if we could create something that encouraged, more make do amend achieve, really. And I think I think that comes from the fact that, you know, I worked in jeans stores and like, say, for Levi's, and so on, clothes used to be a thing you save up for, you know, in the same way that a CD or an album was something you saved up for. And it represented value. And, and I liked, you know, the idea that you'd buy a pair of five old ones or something, and you'd have to save up for it, you would then take them off, you would then you know, remove the packaging and plasters off the pockets and with great care knowing that this garment had an inherent value to you. And the idea of fast fashion, for me has been is a relatively new one. You know, I mean, I'm nearly 50 now, but you know, the idea that you buy and throw away is a relatively new concept. And I wanted to try and rally against that, and say, you know, buy less frequently, you know, I don't want to go down the whole environmental argument. And because because I don't think that's what I'm about particularly, I just wanted to create something that would encourage people to buy less repaired more fixed, more cherished more, and build a relationship with a garment. That's where it is, that makes sense. It makes sense. Because, I mean, you're making the clothes, you're kind of putting your heart and soul into the designs and making these clothes and you kind of want to have that reflected with the consumer I'm imagining. So you don't want to have to make something and then for someone else to wear it once or twice, and then go, you know, the seasons moved on, or I've had a change of heart. And now it's time to wear something else, you kind of want to have them sharing the same enthusiasm for your products and your brand, as I guess you have going into the brand yourself. Right? Yeah, yeah, for sure. Yeah, it's, it's the important thing of value. You know, I think it's the upon thing of just not disposing, you know, let's not dispose of everything we use so quickly. Yeah. And trying to get where you create several garments that grow old with you, you know, Paul took to be a I mean, that's, that's very true when you go on the website, and for people that want to take a look at a brand and I encourage you to do so it's ASCII, calm, the subtext is all about kind of fighting that fast fashion, but doing it through looking after the clothes and you have like things like free repair kits with every garment and a free repair service where clothes can be sent back to you. Do you mind just talking about that for a moment? Please? how that process works? Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think one thing I do I have not on and I'm very keen not to be is an equal warrior, because I can't profess that we take all those credentials, you know, I mean, I fly to India, to meet the manufacturers, I you know, there is travel, we, we do have to ship the garments, some big, big cargo ships, and all the nastiness that's that embroiled with that the garments are still made nice organic cotton it's made is still cotton, which is an incredibly thirsty plan, you know, so I was very keen that we didn't, we didn't try and become something that wasn't true. You know, I think and the idea with the repair kit was you know, was to encourage the idea that, you know, it's a bit of clothing all the time, if you were in off, there are things that are going to go wrong, you know, that maybe a bookmark come off, maybe you'll tear it off snaggy or, you know, maybe a scene will slightly loosen over time or so the idea with the repair kit was to say a lot is something to help you maintain this garment, you know, so, the repair service, again, was an idea that we said, well, we could we can fix things, you know, we can't make it new again. But we can certainly fix things and I really liked the idea of that that we could repair stuff and fix it and send it back out and and you know, and I'm looking forward to that that side of the business increasingly it'd be interesting to see what sort of things come out of that. But but to go to the just just the sustainability side, you know, people use the word sustainable and let's be sustainable and sustainability. And this is the reality, you know, the actual word sustainable means to replenish what you use. So, we don't do that, you know, I don't replenish the resources that have gone into the manufacturer of our garments. I can't say that I can't even pretend to say that. And the the term is misused a lot. We wanted to encourage sustainability or practice sustainability through the idea of buy less, keep longer repair it, and that's how we want it to interpret. So there is an environmental drive behind it, but it's not in there kind of in the arena of, you know, professing to be consistent on song because we're just simply not, you know, Paul taught me a little bit about some of the designs for the garments plays when I was having a look across the clothes. Obviously, echoes of the workwear gear, but large patch pockets seem to be a theme. fullness of cut specially around the trousers. Yeah, can you talk to me a little bit about that and, and what you were thinking of when you were putting these together? Yeah, yeah, I mean, simply with the trousers, you know, I've got a big gas pair of legs on the top of my thighs and I wanted to make sure anything we did, I could get my legs in so because I've got quite big legs to the top I'm not like john and Lumo or somebody but I've got chunky legs so that was that that's the only pair of them really stressed at the top of the pants. But the designs really were about I mean you know there's some classics in there that the over shirts are you know, they go hark back to the French work where and so on and those kind of boxy designs have been around a lot and interpreted a lot so there's that there's kind of nothing particularly new about some of the shirt designs because the classics I think where I've tried to what are the inspiration I've got for some of the for example the newer products the blazers and so on just goes back to the idea of the guys that would you know dig a road in a suit the guys who would work in shipyards in in a in a blazer you know we we had when I was a kid growing up behind us was a small fire farm small holder and it was you know, we were quite a wasn't a rural area but it was it was a guy a little bit of an A couldn't have been more Yorkshire than you could ever imagine this guy was difficult to understand he was that Yorkshire and he used to come around with but it come around in a blaze apparel well his suit trousers, a shirt and tie and sell eggs. And the whole idea that you would wear got you know something I've been equipped and feeling smart and but also practical for work. So I kind of like a better romantic to those ideas and those guys that are bigger, bigger wrote in a suit jacket, you know, I like that. I like that. And and that's where I've tried to create things that you could work in especially the modern workplace has changed so much now, you know, I mean, my desk like this and then it's part of the shift in boxes and preparing artists to go out and and I like the idea that you can wear a garment this this fits the purpose, I guess. Yeah, no, that's interesting. I do like those old timey photos as well. When I was working on it in a cricket bat factory, my job to kind of chop up Word and make lifts. For the bat get I get to see these old photos of the old people that did it back in the day with the kind of x before we had it before we had like band saws or anything like that it was all done by x. And I remember looking at these photos and I said to my boss Crikey these guys are dressed better than I am on a Saturday night out I mean how does that work? And then she'll put up with for a living I mean it's just nuts. Right? Exactly. Now that's what we've tried to do is give the because we know we use quite a heavy cotton. we reinforce all the the you know the elbows are reinforced double double and that the idea being that you would live in it, working it and wear it and wear it and wear it. That's what we were trying and just going off the grass a little bit poor but Levi's was originally workwear wasn't made for the men in the minors that were wearing old denim back in the day. spot on Yeah, I mean, the original denim came from the old sell cloths from the well Dineen is in France, the sell cloth at the US they're all the miners took in the in California took the sale cloth and started making pants out of it because it was that heavy duty for the mining for the gold mining. And that's how Levi's came about. Yeah, you're spot on that. Yeah, I think I remember that. And also Lastly, just to finish off on the designs, I've only just had this for maybe you can help me out on it. But work where whenever I've worn work where I've always found the fit to be kind of like, loose and comfortable. You know, nothing's kind of slim fitting, do you find that easier thing to have to sell on a website, for example, because people aren't always confused about sizing, you don't often get a lot of returns. And yeah, I must be interested in do we get have not thought about it from that point of view of is it an easier garment to retail? The costs is less tailored, I guess is the question and yeah, I suppose it is? I suppose it is. And I think I think it is there's only a certain type of person who's really interested in worldway. You know, it kind of fits a certain a certain person or type of people. And they generally I would imagine a less, less concerned if tailored cuts. Yeah, yeah, probably, as you know, it's interesting if I'm not wrong, but is it an easier garment to read? Because I went when I worked in this into independent retailers, we had a number of brands under our umbrella. And we didn't get questions all the time before people would hit the purchase button of you know, what's the sizing like on this? Do I need to buy up the size downsize? I mean, famously, superdrive was just a nightmare for us because they make garments, twice as small as you'd actually receive. So you'd always have to go up a size, and then that would confuse them they'd like, well, then how does that work for the jeans? Is it the same? Do I need to go up a size in the January so you have to really help hold people's hands through the process if they're buying online. So just I just figured that if work were was that kind of more forgiving of a fit that people wouldn't have to deck. So we're definitely more forgiving of the fit. And it's the idea about layering. The idea that you can, you know, sling it t shirt or sweatshirt and under a work shirt, you know, that's the idea that you can layer it up for warmth. But yeah, I'm not thought of it is it is a Yeah, I would have thought it is an mucheasier garment to retail. But, um, I don't think the return rate is to suggest the return rates are below. Yeah, yeah, I think you're probably right. I'm not sure. Yeah, I'll have to crunch the numbers down there. I'll show you all of my old returns from 10 years ago and compare some stats. Well, what's next few posts, tell. Tell me a little bit about the brand as it is and how you see it for the next couple of months. pandemic people opening up shops coming open. What's in store for you guys? Yeah, I mean, we launched formally in February last year. So it was, you know, we've had a, we've had a great year, rarely, all things considered. We got all UK edging, we've opened up numerous wholesale accounts throughout last year, which was wonderful. So then they expected to do much so but we did pick up quite a number of wholesale accounts. were busy businesses building slowly, but it's we're starting to get our tribe, on followers, and you know, through Instagram and so on, we're starting to find our tribe of people, which is good. So this seems Christmas, I think things have been. I mean, certainly the last few days things feel much better. But I think the first part of January, February, we're very sad. So it's darkest before the dawn. And I think I think that's certainly true of this last couple of months. You know, I think people have been, you know, battening down the hatches and wondering if they're going to get a job at the end of all this, and there's a lot, but I think, you know, from the budget, and, you know, the fact that it's lighter in the day and the vaccine rollout and so on, I think things are feeling more optimistic. And I'm, I'm optimistic for this year, perhaps from May onwards that we're going to start to see some spending some pent up aggression and getting out there in some money and going crazy for a bit, then I think it'll settle down again, for us as a brand. We've kept things very tight this year. We've not expanded the range too much, purely because I didn't think we'd have the audience for it. But for the longer term I'm interested in I'd love to do Some wool garments and finding some recycled wool and I'm interested in doing wool. again back to the blazers and so on some big bigger wool jackets blazers, I've got some nice organic corduroy on their eyes. Oh now you're talking I've got lovely organic corduroy which we're working on which we should have for August September time this year. But apart from that we're keeping it quite tight keep the range under control make sure we've got some good depth from stock for for retailers and build from they're really looking and people wanting to know where they can shop obviously online. But you have concessions all over the country as well. In London, what do you have any shops in London in terms of Yeah, we have meat Burnett is one of our stockists sees in Dulwich. We have natterjack stone in Kingston. We then Brighton we've got Kapil in Brighton, I think two in London. Brighton got a couple of accounts down in Brighton. I think we've got about 24 wholesale accounts at the moment. We seem to be falling into this nice area of the kind of concept retail in the people who are selling a bit homeware coffee bar. And you know the garments is sitting well in there, which is really interesting. So I think that's the way retails going to develop, it's going to have to do really insert Yeah, and more. It's got to be an experience, I think, for people to go and maybe grab a few other things at the same time and not just coffee. We were talking OFF AIR about how I went into a retail shop the other day for the first time it felt like in a year. And you're right. I think people I think people miss going out and it's not just for tailors. You know, we'd always exceed assume it. It's an experience shopping for clothes at tailors because you'd sit down and have a bourbon get measured. You know, get your balls fluffed. But you know, it's all kind of menswear. It's every shop, you know, it's feeling the garments, trying them on. I mean, I'm I'm weird on both sides. I mean, like you've got kind of chunky legs and not much else going on. So can't buy jeans online. I can't buy trousers because it all comes out really crazy. So I have to physically see them and try them on and it's just driving me nuts that I can't. I've been wearing one pair of jeans, but it feels like the last year. Anyway, I digress. Paul, thanks so much for coming on mate ASCII calm place where people can shop and on Instagram. We can follow you guys at Huskies underscore clothing. Where did the name come from, by the way? Well, it comes from the name of our fridge in the office is quite a long story. But essentially, the fridge was called Husky. And a very, very long drawn out story. But we ended up with our skis. And we The reason we wanted that was we needed something that was that didn't really kind of mean anything. Because we saw you know, we sell in France, we sell in Germany, we sell in America, and we wanted something that was kind of meaning less like that. Yeah. Sophia is one of those that kind of is kind of happened and is there a mess? And it's growing and it's taking on its own meaning now which is good. And he can do you know? Yeah, is but yeah, that's the truth of it. It came from the fridge in the office. I love it even more now that like the oddball nurse of the name is kind of reflected in the obscurity of its origin server. Yeah, taking that. Anyway, cool. I'll let you go. Thanks again for jumping on me. pleasure talking to you. Good to touch free. Thanks very much for your time. Thank you, Paul. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of The menswear style podcast. If you like what you hear, why not leave a review. It does help my ego especially Don't forget to check out the show notes for this episode and all content pertaining to fashion watches grooming lifestyle over at www. menswear style.co uk and we're on the social at men's wear style. And if you want to be a guest on the show, tell us about your brand and your journey. You can email us here at info at menswear style.co uk and until next time