Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Visiting Universal Works & An interview with David Keyte

Just before Christmas we visited Nottingham to spend some time together with the people behind Universal Works. As this was our first time in Nottingham we started out with some sightseeing.

We had drinks at the oldest pub in England.

We took pictures of the Robin Hood statue.

We saw the Paul Smith store where David Keyte of Universal Works started his fashion career many years ago.

Universal Works head office.

Looking in the other direction.

If you're planning to send them a postcard, make sure it's in black and white.

David Keyte, the man behind Universal Works.

A/W12 samples

Footwear of choice.

A check shirt for A/W12.

Books for inspiration. 

More books for inspiration.

A jacket for A/W12 - as always the outerwear is very strong.

S/S12 samples.

David at his desk - this is we're the magic happens.

2011 was a busy year.

We finished off at the best coffee place in Nottingham.

We also did a small interview with David Keyte.

Tell us a little about you background. How and when did you start out in the so called fashion world ?

I started as a Saturday shop assistant 100 years ago, then perseuded Paul Smith I could manage his then only store here in Nottingham. Then I spent 13-14 years working my way through retail, wholesale sales, buying, product development, production manager. At the time Paul's company was growing fast and it was a great education in the clothing industry, I was lucky to be there at a really exciting time. It was a similary exciting time after that to be involved in a more street brand like Maharishi, where I spent 6 years.

We know that your goal for the very first season was to have around 10 accounts but did you have any idea what was going to happen over a longer period of time, say after 4-5 seasons ?

I always hoped to take it beyond the UK and felt that Sweden, Denmark would be places where our style would work. I also wanted to show the collection in Japan and the USA, of course I did not know if the collection would sell in these countries, but I was confident the product would be understood and liked. The speed of the success has been amazing, but we don't want to grow too big, we like being small.

Of course you have lots of customers in UK and we know what customers you have in Scandinavia but what kind of retailers stock your collections around the world ?

We sell mainly to smaller independents, some great stores in the US, like Hickoree's and Union Made. In Beams, in Japan we're in their Fenica department along side Scandinavian furniture.

If you had your own Universal Works shop, what other brands do you think would sit well together with Universal Works ?

My taste is quite eclectic, so I would like to have a mix of things from fashion, sports and streetwear. At the moment I think Han have some good pieces and I might add YMC. I still love Comme and Junya Watanabe but who can afford it. Some good shoes would be a must, maybe Tricker's or Mark McNairy, some New Balance and perhaps Yuketen or Quoddy as well.

What is you favourite pieces from your own collections so far ?

I still love the Knit Work Jacket and the Bakers Jacket, both these have been in the collection from the start and they are still looking right 3 years on. For Spring 12 my personal favourites are the Union Jacket in Ventile, a simple worker style jacket in super quality waterproof cotton and the Angler Gilet in Chambray.

What kind of brands/designers do you admire and why ?

People who have always done their own thing like Rei Kawakubo, Dries Van Noten, 45RPM and Martin Margiela. I also love the Scandinavian product / furniture designers, perhaps my favourite is Finn Juhl. Patagonia is a great brand in their approach and the way they treat their staff and customers. I am also a fan of Mountain Research from Tokyo, closely related to COW books, surely one of the funkiest book sellers in the world. Anachronorm, also from Japan make some great 'modern vintage' piece. I love Kato denim, they're still making great denim and related garments. And Bag 'n' Noun, for some of the best simple bags you will ever see.

We know that you are very busy at the moment with the A/W 12collection, any special items we have to look out for ?

I hope a lot of great pieces, amazing coats (again) and jackets. There's an almost rockabilly feel to some jackets. Also a lot of indigo fabrics and great jersey with indigo over/dye.

Which are your 10 top tunes in you Ipod/ Iphone at the moment ?

It's mostly old school soul and Ska, with a few newer pieces. I have been listening to a crazy english folk singer called Liz Green lately.

You did a collab with Maians shoes for S/S12, do you have any other co labs in the pipe line that you can tell us about ?

We have a new bag co lab coming up for next Autumn with a UK bag brand called Millican. Really cool, small brand that makes excellent bags. We have done 4 new styles with them and we are excitied about that.

We know that you are really in to running. Is there any race that you really want to run ?

NY City Marathon is on my to do list, but I prefer 1/2 marathons really, maybe the Stockholm 1/2 in September would be a good one to run. I am running the Berlin 1/2 in March this year.

We also happen to know that you are in to nice food and wine. As its time for European (Berlin, Paris, Copenhagen & London) trade shows again is there any particular restaurant you can recommend in those cities ?

In Paris my favourite right now is Chez Janou in the Marais, simple honest seasonal food. In Copenhagen I love "Granola" for Breakfast, but Copenhagen is full of great places to eat.