Jenna Young is the creative force behind London based clothing label, This Is The Uniform. Opening up shop for a month on Kingsland Road as of last week, we caught up with her ahead of launch night to get the low down on what to expect.
How would you describe This Is The Uniform to someone who has never seen any of the garments?
We make garments that allow people to feel empowered, strong, sexy and comfortable. We work with shapes and styles that have an existing narrative, and then we subvert and explore this.
How did the label begin?
We actually started pretty much four years ago to date. I made the first collection in my living room at home! I worked as a stylist for a while after graduating, and created a few pieces for a designer to go with his knitwear collection. They were pulled for Vogue and it kick started something I was always going to do. I made a collection and a website in time for the release of the feature, and it spiralled from there.
Can you tell me a bit about the new store opening, and what to expect?
The store is the first event we've planned for this year. Each time we host we want to do something different. The event in particular is based in a pub - we wanted to be somewhere really accessible and relaxed, and create a comfortable atmosphere. We are taking residency there for a month, showing new collection pieces, with new and archive garments available to try on and purchase. We're throwing an opening party tonight (12/05/17) and we have a programme of workshops which concentrate on hand stitch and modern craft, which I am teaching myself. There is also a hand stitched monogramming service which will be done on site! It is really about allowing people to engage with the brand, and see what we're all about.
I just want to congratulate you on opening up a space - London is getting tougher and tougher for independent designers and artists. Do you find it challenging?
Thank you - and yes incredibly challenging! My rent has almost doubled since I moved to London ten years ago. Running a creative business here is hard. London is the most inspiring place, I wouldn’t ever want to think about leaving, but it is getting to the point where that could be a consideration. Saying that, I think that the creativity and spirit that London holds is like no other, and the way creatives here work together is special. It makes me happy every day.
If you had to wear one ‘uniform’ for the rest of your life, what would you choose and why?
Given the brand name I guess I should say mine! This Is The Uniform was a concept that was a little tongue in cheek. I have a love/hate relationship with uniforms. I am obsessed with the idea of the way clothing can unite or divide us, and how appearance is such a powerful tool.
Your website reads that you ‘celebrate working class identity’ Why is this so important to your designs and what you do?
I was once asked if my designs were autobiographical and I totally dismissed it, until my assistant told me otherwise. I think my own upbringing is very much there in my work. It’s my heritage and moving to London and experiencing something different really drove that home. For me it always comes loosely back to the idea of ‘uniform’ as a concept, how that can be a suit and tie or an Adidas tracksuit. It’s like your Sunday best - that was mine.
What advice would you give to new designers starting out?
I think that to be a designer right now, running your own label as I do, you have to be an entrepreneur, an accountant, a web designer, a sales agent - designing and sampling is a very small part of my job. So it would be to try and understand this, and learn as much about it as possible. I would also say to explore all the options. The industry can seem overly prescribed, we have calendars and roles and hierarchies, and whilst it is great to know about this, pushing boundaries and bending the rules can be really exciting.
What’s inspiring your next collection, what are you into at the moment?
We are releasing a new collection tonight at the event - and after that I plan to take a break, then small product drops over the summer, until our next event. This collection plays with themes of status, belonging, identity and value within clothing. This is something that I consistently have worked with since the beginning of the brand in 2013. I always start each collection in the same way, looking at way to elevate common shapes, and pieces of clothing that already have a narrative, a story - pieces that people have a relationship with. The tee, the tracksuit, the grey marl sweater. I look for inspiration in traditional fabric manipulation, like smocking, embroidery and a lot of hand stitching - basically techniques which imbue value into garments.
Where do you see the label heading in the future, do you have an ultimate goal?
Over the next year, we plan to host two more events - each one different. I want to really explore the idea of interacting with our customers. We will be dropping new product every month or so, in limited runs and also as one of a kind pieces. I also want to work on other projects and collaborations - steeping away from fashion week really allows us to work on projects that we couldn’t say yes to before. Watch this space!
Read more about This Is The Uniform, and visit them at 1 Kingsland Road, London, E8 8DA. Images courtesy of Camila Almeida and This Is The Uniform.