An Interview with Adam Creed of Uniformes Generale
Words by Calum Gordon and Mark Smith of ProperMag
‘Streetwear’ has became sort of an ugly word within fashion, often used with a hint of snobbery and the suggestion that what’s on offer isn’t quite sophisticated enough to be regarded as ‘menswear.’ And with the slew of poorly executed graphic t-shirt brands that have emerged of late, attempting to get a piece of the Huarache Generation pie, that snobbery is somewhat understandable. There are, however, newcomers that still ‘get it’ – and in the case of Uniformes Generale the term newcomer shouldn’t really apply. Despite Spring Summer ’15 marking only their second collection, it’s clear that there’s a great deal more substance and thought behind Adam Creed’s brainchild than most. It’s not his first foray into fashion, and it shows in both the fine construction of their summertime iteration of the iconic M-65 jacket and the rich storytelling approach of the brand’s website. Uniformes Generale retain elements of what you would typically class as streetwear, with graphic embellishments and an irreverent tone of voice, but it’s a brand worthy of far more scrutiny than the majority of the new kids on the block. We sat down with Adam Creed to satisfy our curiosity.
Macclesfield is a slightly strange place in that it’s pretty rural, yet still close enough to Manchester to pick up whatever radiates from there.
Yeah, I spent most of my secondary school education there. I left home when I was 16 though. We all used to gravitate to Manchester. As soon as I got to 12 I was influenced by all the casual stuff. Scotts in Macclesfield was the only place to get stuff but we always headed into the centre of Manchester.
When you’re going to be into that scene you’re consumed by it. I had older friends who went to the football and they were role models. I was into the football too. We had United season tickets for years but I got to the point where I was living in London and was finding it increasingly difficult to go to matches. I’ve always been into sport full stop, but my real passion is motorsport. I can sit and read a book on that sort of thing cover to cover. From the age of probably 3 I’ve been besotted with cars whereas football came along later but it was definitely part of growing up for me.
When we first spoke you were reluctant to pitch Uniformes Generale as some sort of continuation of Dupe. But since then you’ve mellowed a little and become more prepared to reflect on Dupe with a bit more reverence. Is that fair?
It’s done us pretty proud really. It’s been nice to see how people still appreciate stuff I designed almost 20 years ago. People might expect us to cash in on that and reprise some old Dupe stuff, but it’s just nowhere near our agenda. I’m older, and when we get older our tastes, our motivations and our outlook changes. We think the influences behind UG are a mix of several really timeless aesthetic elements. Stuff that will always look great, that’s our aim
So you’ve moved on, but how much has that era in Manchester shaped your outlook now?
Growing up in my late teens I’d moved away from Macclesfield and closer to Manchester. As 18 year olds we’d be socialising with people like Johnny Marr through friends who owned bars. When we spoke for Proper I said I thought teenagers always think they’re the centre of the universe, but as you get older you realise we actually were. Being in Manchester then was a huge influence, even if we didn’t realise it so much at the time. We were at the epicentre of something which was having a worldwide effect. I thank my lucky stars that I was there at the right age.
That influenced Dupe then?
I think there was a very strong look associated with it. I think after a few years of not really having any money, I got to a point where I thought “I’ve had enough of this. It’s not fun.”
I wanted to do something, to create something. I think even if I hadn’t been in Manchester at that time I’d have come to that conclusion anyway as my Grandfather was very much like that – an entrepreneur. He had nothing but ended up selling a power tools business for a lot of money. I remember my Grandmother saying he worked so hard he’d often pass out at his desk. Then he’d be up at 6am and straight into it. Real determination. People say we’re peas in a pod.
It took a while for you to realise that though?
I was shockingly bad at school, I was the class clown and didn’t take it seriously. But I was actually commended for my work in Art. So when I got to the point where I wanted to do something, that was the natural thing. I didn’t need to train for it, I could just do it. People had that attitude in Manchester at the time. A sort of punk spirit.
So myself and a guy called Rick Myers did a small run of t-shirts. He now lives in New York and went on to do all the album covers for Doves. We did about 50 t-shirts and they sold well.
Things evolved fairly quickly. People loved it because I’d turn up in their shop with stock, there were no complications. When you’re young and you don’t have overheads it’s even better. You don’t know the limitations and you’re not cynical. A few years down the line when things had moved on, I did a fashion trade show in Paris. We were on a stand next to a brand called G-Force from Nottingham. On the other side was the owner of a shop called The Custard Shop. He said Dupe would go down really well in Japan. He referenced Paul Smith and convinced me I needed to find a Japanese connection.
Quite early on I positioned the brand as a Manchester thing and that’s what sold it in Manchester but also in Japan.
It took time to build but seemed to end abruptly?
People assume it fell apart but it’s fair to say it didn’t go bust. We were doing better than ever. A number of inappropriate deals were done that threw a number of spanners in the works and it left things unworkable. It was really sad. After that I’d pretty much had enough.
That must have been a challenging time?
I was lucky in one sense, I was living in a nice place in London but I spent about a year not wanting anything to do with the fashion business. I did a number of things to occupy my mind more than anything, but eventually my partner at the time told me straight that I needed to get back involved. She suggested I work in the high street and said I could do well out of it. I’d always wanted to work for myself but at that time it was nice to get some money back in my pocket. There was an almost cinematic moment where I was keeping busy as a bike courier, standing in the rain and I saw some former associates looking very pleased with themselves and not quite as wet as me! Eventually it motivated me.
Pretty quickly I ended up as the design manager at one of the UK Highstreets biggest brands, probably due to the experience I’d had prior to that. It was quite a unique way to learn and it stood me in good stead. It helped.
Eventually after working my way through the high street, I realised the itch to create a new brand wasn’t going to go away and I had to scratch it. I also had a catalyst in the shape of my daughter. I’d been offered a number of roles elsewhere in the country and overseas but I couldn’t do that. I wanted to be part of my daughter’s life. The best way to do that was to start a successful business on my own terms and be there for her.
What else motivates you?
When you buy yourself an amazing jacket, your frame of mind changes that first time you go out in it. It puts a spring in your step. That’s what we want to do. Clothes have this ability to change your outlook.
The M-65 jacket has had a fair amount of love this season. What made you take on the challenge of doing a new take on something so ubiquitous?
The Japanese are experts at taking the original and remaking it without compromise. Other brands work on a price point basis and will scrimp on fabrics here and there. We felt able to strike a balance between the two. At the end of the day it’s a design classic and there’s always room to reinterpret it through our own eyes, with our own influences applied.
You’ve talked about the Porsche 911 in the past, and how the original shape remained pretty constant for over 30 years, but subtle improvements were made along the way. Is there a correlation to be made between that as a design classic and this?
It’s about taking the best of what has been and adding what we now know. Techniques, fabrics. Nothing is totally new, but you can apply elements of modernity to historical garments.
So we’re now motoring through the second season for the brand. What comes next?
One of the things we’ll do in the future is an expansion in the size of the range. It’s just the natural thing to do. We’ll also look more to phase things in separately in multiple drops. We’re lucky that we can do that comfortably with our manufacturer and from a customer point of view it makes sense. Two very defined collections a year seems a little outdated now so although we’ll still work broadly on that basis, we’re being much more staged in how and when we drop things.
We’re looking at staging a number of events towards the summer where you’ll be able to get a real life look at our product. We’re mindful that for all the convenience and progressiveness of the internet, you still can’t fully appreciate the quality of something until you see it. And the feedback we’ve had from people who have seen it is it exceeded their expectations. That’s really gratifying because as I’ve said, we’re working on this with no budget beyond the sheer essentials, we’re spending hours on phone calls between ourselves every week, constantly living in a whirl of ideas and problem solving. So when people say nice things it helps us keep the ball rolling in terms of enthusiasm. Social media has been great for that. People on Instagram have been really positive
We’d like to get to a point in the future where people who bought from us early on can look back with a degree of smugness that they were onto us at the start. We’ve a long way to go before we can get to that stage but we’ve been there ourselves and it’s a good feeling.
When all is said and done, when we set out to do this brand we asked ourselves a simple question; Can you do something you love, you’re passionate about, do it well and get yourself the lifestyle you really want? And our answer was simply… Well, let’s give it a go and find out.
Thanks to Adam for taking the time to speak to us. Check out the brand’s collection here.