When it comes to the fashion industry, there’s a lot of talk about the finished product but not so much banter about the process. Universal Works has always wanted to have an open conversation with customers about how we do what we do – which is the reason behind this new series that unlocks the journey of our garments, from design to delivery.
In order to get the inside intel, we picked the brains of UW founder, David Keyte and asked him to walk us through the thinking behind part two of the story.
For David, design starts at the Kitchen Table.
“With so many fabrics out there, I find it hard to choose. I’ve got eclectic taste and I love the expensive stuff (which I need to curb!) but whatever I pick from the fabric fairs informs my plan for the next season collection. The fabric drives the direction – we’ve never done themes, so it’s about deciding which is the best shape for each fabric. Colour-wise, I’ll take inspiration from films and books to get a feeling or a mood. It can be the washed-out colours of a photographer’s work or the bold summer colours of an Italian movie.
At the start, there’s no great vision of the overall plan, it’s more about putting a few styles into work and seeing how they look when they’re put together. It’s normally at this point that I need my trio of non-negotiables: a clear head, a clear desk and a large coffee.
When I started UW 12 years ago, there was no studio, no office space. Everything was done from home, at the kitchen table. I suppose some might ask why I’m still doing the same when we have a HQ, studio and a warehouse – well that’s because it’s more about the head space than the physical space. It's hard to get that in the middle of a busy studio with so many brilliant people running around needing answers to questions, which means my fabrics and paper patterns get rolled up and taken back home to where it all began.
Spoiler alert is that it’s still the same kitchen and the same table – I did get a fancy new coffee pot though. Fresh coffee = fresh designs! Of course, even when I’ve cleared the kitchen table and it’s all done, I’m never happy with it. I always think I can do better, keep developing, keep improving. But the reality of the job is that there are always deadlines to hit, whether that’s from the pattern makers, yarn suppliers, fabric mills, shirt makers, jacket makers, sales agents, distributors or the stockists. I always have to accept that there’s a point when the creation of every collection is ‘finished’ so we can get it in front of the buyers and ultimately the public. At the end of the day, that’s the part that matters.”