What does the term 'streetwear' mean?
Functioning as an all-encompassing label often slapped onto most graphically driven clothing, the essence of the idea becomes diluted at best. But in the hands of Valentin Ozich — founder of the Auckland-based clothing company I Love Ugly — the term is served up with a crystal clear definition: Purveying a lifestyle and school of thought, on top of bold casualwear with a laidback 'tude.
Much could be said about the fact that Ozich hails from a different background unlike most of his fellow fashion counterparts. The illustrator-turned-designer places a distinctively disparate value above all — that is, having a voice, which the brand has expertly fine-tuned over the half decade since its inception.
As Buro 24/7 Singapore welcomes I Love Ugly into the Buro pop-up, we tap Ozich for his take on the importance of affordable streetwear, the benefits of social media, and ultimately, the ethos of the I L0ve Ugly lifestyle.
Our campaigns contextualise the environment in which an I Love Ugly customer fits within. We highlight Furniture, books ANd artists we recommend them to collect.
'I Love Ugly' is such a unique and impactful name. What is the story behind that, and what were your reasons for launching the label?
They were honestly three words that I felt summed up my illustration style. This was around 2008 while I was studying graphic design at university. At the same time, I thought it was an intriguing name for a fashion brand, so I started printing T-shirts and selling them. The rest is history.
Does your background in illustration give you a different perspective when it comes to clothing design?
I think that's what gave us a real edge and point of difference in the first place. Most illustrators usually do generic prints on T-shirts. However, I was always interested in cut and sew silhouettes that were more unique. Fusing that with illustration resulted in something different that people really loved.
The brand encourages the questioning of norms. In your opinion, how does I Love Ugly go against the grain and what sets you apart from other streetwear labels?
We definitely feel like we're the voice of this generation. So with that said, we encourage questioning everything and figuring out whether or not it has a positive impact. Most people, and businesses, are very impressionable — being dictated by what someone has said. We don't look at things like that. We first figure out what's the best for our brand and customer and then implement it, regardless of what anybody else is doing. I think this is what sets us apart from others, and we will continue to turn over every stone to make sure that there are no missed opportunities or better ways of doing something.
What caught our eye were the hidden quotes on the outerwear. What sparked that idea, and what message do you hope to convey to the consumer?
To achieve their aspirations. Our brand's goal is to creatively inspire our customers with our garments as the canvas. It's so important for us to stay inspired, and we believe that the same goes for our customers too.
Tell us about the brand's logo. What does it represent?
The triangle, for us, is the strongest of all shapes. We liked that, and also just how it looks visually. The plus sign in the middle is a marking for our brand, so whenever somebody wears our products with a visible logo, they are representing the I Love Ugly ethos.
What were your key inspirations for the aesthetic of I Love Ugly?
Since the words I Love Ugly has such strong visual connotations, I thought it was important to make our aesthetic clean, but graphically driven. People love the juxtaposition between our name and aesthetic. This has continued to be the key driver for our designs today.
There are many streetwear brands out there that attach hefty price tags to their clothing. Is it key for you to keep I Love Ugly's products affordable for the consumer?
Absolutely. Affordability is key. We are reasonable people, and we are also customers of our own products. We know the cost of living and how much disposable income people have to spend on clothes every week. Also because we have such a strong online presence, we know that people get a little skeptical buying from a new brand online for the very first time. It's important for us to position our products at a really fair price point to inspire confidence in the people buying from us.
The label does not follow the usual retail timeline for release of new products. How often can fans of the brand expect new designs, and why format your timeline this way?
Fans can expect at least a new collection every three months which consists of around 40-50 SKUs, and in between, they can also look forward to a small capsule collection of around 5-10 SKUs. The main reason why we do this is to keep people constantly engaged in our brand. It is very difficult to implement, but it keeps things fresh and gives people the constant opportunity to purchase something.
I Love Ugly has such a strong presence on social media. How important is it for the brand to connect digitally with its customers, and what do you achieve that's different from traditional advertising campaigns?
Definitely authenticity. The content on these social media platforms (@ILoveUgly) comes from me directly, which I believe people can feel. It's an important tool for our business because people become invested in what we are doing, to a point where they become part of the story. You can't achieve this through traditional advertising.
Your campaigns also underscore a lifestyle aspect to the brand. What are the beliefs you seek to convey through this imagery?
It's a great way to build an aspirational lifestyle for our consumers, but at the same time, in a way that's still achievable and within reach for most people. Our campaigns contextualise the environment in which an I Love Ugly customer fits within. We highlight furniture, books and artists we recommend them to collect. People want to be exposed to new ideas and forms of creativity to help improve their lives. We have taken on the role of being a tastemaker for our customers, not just through clothing, but through many different aspects in their lives.
I LOVE UGLY AT THE BURO POP-UP STORE
To explore the label in person, head down to the Buro pop-up store for a curated selection from I Love Ugly. Available now till 31 March.
The Buro pop-up store is located at 6 Scotts Road, Scotts Square #01-06/07. Open daily from 10am to 10pm till 31 March 2016. Tel: 6443 4771