Here at The MALESTROM, we love nothing more than discovering new brands, craftsmen and artisans who are blazing a trail and doing things their own way.
Those independent, free-thinking, creative souls with an entrepreneurial spirit and a determination to carve out a better, brighter more ethical future.
Which is why we’re delighted to bring you a group of Northern lads that turned a childhood obsession into a workable and successful business. Introducing ULLAC Denim…
The MALESTROM: Can you tell our readers a bit about yourselves and how this all came about?
Chris Lynd: Basically, the way it started, there’s three of us, my little brother Kyle and our best mate Gavin. As kids knocking about in Preston we always loved clothes and we always loved jeans and we’d go to each other’s houses and before we went out I’d be working on my jeans with a pumice stone or a razor blade shaving down the top layers to make them look genuinely old.
So it was something we always did, always dreamed about. Then we all went our separate ways, I went to London, Gav went off to Helsinki to do a course, he met a girl and never came back, and Kyle came to London shortly after me.
We all did different stuff, Kyle worked in music and I did all kinds of things, then it was around November 2016, we’d all had really weird years, and Gavin was coming to London and he called me up and said,
“I’ve bought this sewing machine and I’ve been cutting apart my jeans and restitching them back together, I’ve worked out how to do it, should I bring it over with me?” So I was like “yeah, definitely.”
I thought that could be a bit of fun. But that chat made us kind of think maybe we could do something together, why don’t we think about doing the stuff we talked about as kids.
So when Gav came over we started working out what we would like to be, if we were going to start making jeans and clothes how we would like to do it and the things that were important to us.
It was just going to be a side project, an extension of messing about in my parent’s house, that’s what the plan was. But it started to take a bit of shape, the first step was we found a pattern cutter in Paris that we got in touch with.
We definitely did everything wrong cause we were working out how to do this stuff and learning, and it was difficult. But we made a pattern which we were really happy with, the pattern cutter posted it to me from Paris and it got stolen from outside my house.
So I was expecting this parcel and weeks went by, then I got this phone call on the bus on the way home from work, someone called me up and said “Christopher Lynd?” I said, “Yes. ” He said, “are you expecting an orange box from Paris”? And it had slipped from my memory about the pattern.
He said, “I’ve found this box on the tube and it had your name and number on it, do you want to come and meet me and get it?” So I was like, “definitely” still thinking what it might be, then I realised it might be the pattern. So that was like magic, sort of a sign. That’s kind of where it started.TM: What are some of the pitfalls you’ve faced?
CL: Some bits were really easy, some bits were really difficult. Growing up being fascinated with clothes, obsessed with clothes, you’ve sort of been researching your whole life if that’s what you’re into.
I’ve collected clothes all my life, all different types, I don’t throw anything away, I’ve still got so many clothes from when I was a kid, so that’s sort of helped. We found people who made fabric, we struck up relationships with them, then the factories came from them as we wanted to work with people they liked.
The difficulty was understanding the production process and the time that things took, that was a very, very steep learning curve.
But it went very well, we started out with two pairs of jeans, we made a slim and a straight cut, which we still make. We did a relatively short run.
They sold really, really quickly and it was great, but while we were selling those jeans we were already expanding what we made, we’d made a load of new cuts in the works, jackets, shirts, and we misjudged how long that process would take.
We had a rapid start with the first few hundred which we just fired out, but then there was a big lag because we got the timing wrong and we were without stock for a period. What we hoped would arrive October/November all came at the end of December and into January, so that was a big learning experience.
There are loads of pitfalls, as I said learning the production was difficult and learning how to talk to people about what we’ve got, what we sell and who we are is tricky. We’ve learned some difficult lessons, we did some Instagram ads, some of which got panned and we got a load of these trolls that would come after us, so learning how to tell people about us has been steep, but fun too.
I think lots of stuff kind of falls into place when we knew the sort of company that we wanted to be in and the brand we wanted to be. That was really important to us, when we set off we wanted things to be super ethical and that was very important to us, it was important to us that we were only working with nice people and everyone was getting paid fairly.
So that leads you into having conversations with the right people. You’re looking for people who do things ethically so that forming of who we wanted to be really helped. But we’re all always learning, it’s really cool.
TM: What is your ethos? And how important is it to the brand?
CL: I think there are three big things that are very, very important to us. One is that we make dead nice clothes, really beautiful clothes, but we want to make them an accessible thing.
Growing up in the North it was harder to get nice clothes, to get hold of stuff because there weren’t the shops. Manchester and Liverpool are ace now, but when I was a kid knowing where to go and get stuff was hard, and then the internet came along and it got a bit easier. But if you kind of lived away from a city you were punished a bit on price.
You’re maybe paying more than if you bought it in a shop, cause you’re paying shipping and you don’t get to feel it or try it on there, so when we set about doing this it was really important to make something super nice, but something that was accessible.
I think we were thinking of ourselves as kids in Preston, so by being our own shop and doing mostly online, that lets us do that. It also means we can have a relationship with everyone who comes through our doors and we really like chatting.
We’ve got all these new friends all over the place, so making our brand accessible is really important. Two would be gender neutral, that’s super important, although I’m not mad keen on the words ‘gender neutral’ but it’s kind of a useful signpost.
I think with clothes you should be able to wear what you want and that’s just the way it is. But we’re still in a place where society says this is the uniform for this gender, and this is the uniform for this gender, and so until we’re at a place where everyone is happy with everyone else wearing what they want it’s a good signpost for us.
We don’t want to make things that are any more masculine or feminine than anything else, we make the clothes we like and want people to feel comfortable wearing them. Point three is being as ethical, as green as possible.
So the mills we use are super, super green, the one we use is the greenest in Europe. A lot of our cotton if from the better cotton initiative, that’s really important. The buttons on the shirts are made of Ecuadorian nuts, everything really has got an independent supplier and that again is really important to us.
TM: Do you think it’s that kind of attention to detail that sets you apart?
CL: Certainly at the price point that we’re at. I think that people generally are ace and they’re becoming more aware of the cost mass production has on the earth.
There’s a growing awareness and that’s great, but all of these things, the attention to detail and caring about fabric, how they’re made, who had made them, all of that is more expensive than if you made the jeans out of very cheap mass produced fabric and didn’t care where they came from, or if the people making them were paid properly.
So I think that kind of attention to detail and our ethics combined with us controlling how things are sold sort of sets us apart. Because if you were going to buy our type 2 in the shops it would be a very expensive jacket. I understand that £140 is a cheap jacket, but it’s far more accessible the way we’ve done it.
TM: Do you see the future as being totally digital sales?
CL: I think it’s going to be increasingly important. The old fashioned retail model is wasteful in lots of ways, there are big markups and that’s understandable because shops have to pay rent and pay people to work in them.
But also the older models work on a seasonal model where they’ll buy a load of stuff that they either shift or don’t shift but it’s kind of wasteful because you can end up with a load of stock no one wants, it’s just generally an archaic, wasteful system.
So I think digital is going to grow and grow. I also think retail models are going to change, I think we’re ready for a big shakeup.
TM: What does the future have in store for you guys?
CL: We’re really young, we just want to grow, to make loads and loads more mates. The plan is just to keep doing what we’re doing now but with more friends and more people wearing our legs.
It’s also our job to explain why things cost the way they do, how you can get one shirt for this much then another shirt at a fraction of the cost in H&M, so that’s part of our job too.
TM: What’s the most popular item right now?
CL: There are two I think that are most popular. Our straight jeans, pattern 01 and slim, pattern 02, they’re very popular. But we have quite a broad customer base, cause we make dead nice jeans as super lovely staples.
Then we’ve got some wilder silhouettes, our Painter Suit falls into that category, that’s really popular, the Painter Jacket especially. That can be worn in lots of different ways, we see lots of different people buying that, it’s a lovely casual jacket, then you wear it oversized and it takes on a very different vibe.
I’ve always loved clothes that can be worn differently, or look different on different people.
TM: What advice would you have for anyone thinking of starting their independent business?
CL: It’s really important to know exactly who you are and why you’re doing it, to work those things out before you go into it. It makes it fun but also makes everything you do honest.
I think that’s the biggest bit of advice, know what your DNA is from the beginning. That makes it honest but also makes it worthwhile for you.
TM: How important is it to engage with other like-minded brands? Do you do that?
CL: We definitely do. I think it’s great. Community is so important to us and that extends in so many different directions. I think we’ve built a pretty ace little community already or people that like our stuff and buy our stuff, we chat constantly.
So with all of our clothes we want them to get a lot of use as they get better with age, we want people to live in them. So we say with anything we sell if you post 300 pictures, so if you post a picture every time you wear anything then we know it’s getting used, having a lifetime its not something disposable.
With this little community, you see all your new mates commenting on each other’s photographs and it’s people we get to talk to every day, it also extends to other like-minded brands that are doing stuff similar to us, even other suppliers.
I talk to other brands quite a lot, it’s all about sharing knowledge, finding out where the fabric has come from or if these guys are any good. We’re big into that.
TM: What’s your favourite independent British brand? Who would you nominate for us to feature next?
CL: There’s a few I really like, I wouldn’t put us in the same bracket as us, but I love what they’re doing, there’s Black Horse Lane, they’re in East London. They make amazing, really beautiful well-made jeans, a different vibe to us I think, but they are fantastic and they share a lot of knowledge, they’re real craftsmen.
TM: Black Horse Lane it is then, we’ll give them a shout, and hopefully get their story…
TM: How can people track you down?
CL: Through our website and our Instagram, that’s the best way. And we’re pretty much always up for a chat, we have a chat function on our site that we use heavily. That’s pretty much it.
Visit the ULLAC website at www.ullac.com
And check out all their Instagram loveliness HERE.
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