Videographer & Editor
Producer & Interview
Brand Insider: Represent Clothing
PAUSE headed over to Manchester to visit streetwear brand Represent Clothing at their head office. Founders George and Mike spoke to PAUSE about how they started, what goes down inside the office, doing a runway show at New York Fashion Week and how they built the brand to what it is today.
Read the full interview below:
Tell us your age each and what you do for Represent.
Mike: I’m 26. I handle more like the design side of things. (right on photo above)
George: I’m 24 and I do everything else that he doesn’t do. (left on photo above)
You both started the brand in 2012 right? What were you guys doing before you started the brand?
George: I was at university doing graphic design. I was in my first year when it started. Mike had literally just finished that same year.
What motivated you to start the brand Represent and how did you both come up with the name?
George: The name. I literally wrote down a list of names whilst I was at university doing a project where you got to choose what you wanted to do. I wanted to design a t-shirt at the time. All the band merch was coming out and these smaller brands were starting off and printing. That’s just how it began really. It was a list of names and I chose Represent out of it.
Mike: Because we were doing graphics at the time, we found it was a better way to sell what we were doing rather than doing it on paper or whatever.
As brothers, why did you decide to do business together?
George: It was a strange one really. Mike is a perfectionist whereas I like getting stuff done and make sure stuff happens.
Mike: It’s a complete yin and yang.
Has fashion or business been connected to your family?
George: Not really, no. I mean my gran, she actually took the first pair of jeans in which gave us our fit for our denim. Apart from that fashion hasn’t been a part of our family at all.
How did you build your team? It looks like a family here now.
George: We’re all from the same school, we all just grew up together from like the age of 15, 16. Everyone’s kind of got their own role but everyone just helps with everything. It’s all like a team effort, no one gets left out of anything. No one is subjected to one thing.
Mike: Everyone kind of says be wary of like working with your friends but in this case it really does work.
What are the roles here at Represent?
George: So it’s kind of split into two departments. There’s like the admin side of everything and then there’s the creative side. Mike kind of handles the creative side of everything with James, James is our main garment creator so the whole process of the actual creation of an item is: we draw stuff down, we talk about things, we choose fabrics, James then creates a proto-sample. That proto-sample then goes to the factory where it’s created with the actual correct fabrics and whatever the prints, linings everything like that. When it comes back from there maybe we’ll do adjustments and that’s how it runs.
When was the turning point for the brand and when did you start going full-time?
Mike: The turning point for the brand was really when we started making these key pieces that started to sell and that like propelled us ahead.
George: I mean we had a denim fit which is like our signature really. We never wanted to become a denim brand or never knew that would kind of happened but that just completely took over everything we did before. We produced more washes and used better factories and it became great. Recently we’ve been trying to catch up with that with everything else because we want to be a brand of everything, not just denim.
How did you come up with your specific signature denim style?
George: Well we had a pair of erm, I think it was Monkey Jeans at the time which I really loved the stretch fit on and you loved it as well didn’t you? (Asks Mike). And I gave it to my nan because she used to always take our clothes in if they were too big or whatever. So I asked her to just taper the leg for me, change a bit of the pocket on the back and then we literally sent that off to China, like at the start when we didn’t know what we were doing. Got the fit matched and then our friends would come in and buy it and everyone would say like “oh I can just buy your denim instead of buying other denim and getting it tapered” and word of mouth grew.
Mike: We found that, that was the best way to designing a product that’s going to sell. Because we’re actually like our target audience aren’t we.
George: Yeah we just make stuff that we want to wear.
So did you make the jeans for yourself or for Represent?
George: We made it for ourselves originally and then I had to send the denim off which I loved so much but that’s what I had to do. We wanted to be able to sell to everybody else.
Mike: You couldn’t get that kind of fit anywhere at the time.
George: And I think when you find a pair of denim that you love, you will stay with that brand.
When did you both get to a point where you both felt proud?
Mike: The point for me when I realised it was getting big was when I left university and I was making more money than I would get inside of a normal job. So I’ve been feeling proud to come into it from the start really. Then there’s obviously like release nights.
George: Yeah we’ve had some ridiculous nights like we can make stupid amounts of money in 2 hours.
Tell us about your creative process, where do you get your inspiration from?
Mike: Basically the creative process doesn’t start, it just never stops. It could be from wherever in the world where I would see something. I’m constantly on my notes and screenshotting things.
George: From that we will all sit down all day, every day, putting our ideas together. Checking will this work or not and making sure it does work.
Mike: Most importantly when we start a new season it’s about what would we want to wear.
Have you ever made any mistakes?
George: Don’t really know about mistakes… Getting the fit right on something and then when it goes to grading like the sizes come back wrong. A couple of years ago when we didn’t have somebody making patterns then mistakes were made. Especially in the sampling process like it would take us so long to get the sizes right because we literally didn’t have a clue what we were doing. We were learning as you go along.
Why did you decide to do footwear as well?
George: It was a final touch to your outfit. We want to wear all Represent all the time so footwear should be in there as well, not just garments.
Mike: We were going to start doing shows as well and we didn’t really know how we felt about like 90% of the look being ours and then the shoes being someone else’s.
George: Mike is kind of responsible for that. We started with the Chelsea boot and the Dusk boot which was one of the major things, it became a hype really for like six months where we couldn’t get it made fast enough to be able to sell. Every store was knocking on the door but we couldn’t fulfill orders.
Mike: From that, I got a bit more confidence to design the next one and the next one and the next one.
As a brand, you guys are strong on representing British as your roots. Why did you decide to do a show in Paris, and now at NYFW on the official schedule?
George: Just because that’s where most of our buyers were going. Everyone from all over Europe and America comes to Paris, so it was good to do a little presentation from there. We were doing showrooms but it’s good to show outfits and get a bit of a buzz from it. Then two seasons ago, our accounts in America kept getting bigger and bigger and taking on more of the department stores as well. So we wanted to do New York Fashion Week. We thought it was the right choice and we did our Autumn/Winter 17 show last season and we just recently did our Spring/Summer 18 show at New York too. It was crazy really, it was good.
Where are you thinking of showing next season?
We’re thinking Milan for next season.
George: Because our accounts in Europe have really grown recently since we took on a showroom in Italy and we just feel like it’s time to move on from doing the New York show. We’ve done two seasons now, let’s try two in Milan.
Would you consider doing a show in London?
George: I mean it’s still between Milan and London.
There’s been a lot of brands copying the designs you make, what are your thoughts on this and how do you avoid it?
George: You can’t really, you can’t avoid it. Everything goes around on a wheel. The brands that use your images, they’re the ones that are an absolute joke but similar products and stuff that’s just how it is. It’s a dog eat dog world.
Your quote: “Represent is a brand by people, for the people” who are the people you’re representing?
George: It’s us isn’t it.
Mike: Yeah it’s kids like a similar age that want to wear similar things to what we want to wear.
George: We’re trying to give the best possible quality we can and put an affordable price tag on everything if it’s footwear or denim or whatever. We’re trying to get it made the best places but you can still afford it at the end of the month.
What are some of your stockists?
George: In the UK we’ve got Selfridges, we’re moving into Harvey Nichols for Spring/Summer, there are smaller boutiques like Autograph Menswear and a few others up and down the country. Europe wise, we just got into Luisaviaroma, Sugar in Italy. In the US again there are loads, your big accounts like Nordstrom and smaller ones.
What’s been the best moments for each of you?
Mike: For me, it’s probably the release night of the Dusk Boot. Because that was like my sort of baby that I created and put out there. It did really well.
George: For me it was securing stores. Like we’d always wanted to be in Selfridges, being a UK brand, British made and we wanted it so much and one day they just email you and next thing you’re in there.
When did you get your first cars? When did you get your Rolls-Royce and when did you get you Lamborghini?
George: Well, I had the Ghost before the Wraith which was just over two years ago. You’ve had your Lambo like two years as well actually. Back then it was like getting a car is a massive milestone but I’m not bothered anymore, we’ve got much bigger things to worry about.
Mike: Mine was like a print-out on the wall for about half a year. I planned to get it, I didn’t know I was going to get it but like I aimed to work towards it.
What’s next for Represent clothing?
George: Well we’re currently designing Autumn/Winter 18, see where that takes us. We want a much bigger warehouse and studios. We’re taking on a lot more staff aren’t we so we’re just expanding.
Describe Represent in one word:
What’s been the most stressful moment of running a business?
George: There’s quite a lot, supplier deliveries, making sure your product comes right and on time, making sure you’re hitting deadlines for stores, making sure everything is online ready for a release.
What advice would you give to a young entrepreneur who also may want to start a brand? What three advices would you give them to come into the fashion game?
George: Don’t go asking for advice, it doesn’t work. No-one wants to answer you, no-one will give you their secrets, I found that at the start. It’s going to be yours so if you believe you can do something, you can do it.
Mike: Be prepared to put your life into it, It takes over your life.
George: Make sure you get the right manufacturers or at least the best you can. Don’t just go looking on the internet, you should be going to trade shows, meeting up with people who are already in the industry if you can or even just say to factories you want to do this amount of product in this amount of time, what can you do for us and get the sampling process going.