We get sent a lot of info on a lot of new brands almost every single day and many times we turn them down, usually it’s because they haven’t established a story yet, or the product isn’t strong enough. However every now and again one comes along that we’re so impressed with that we can’t not feature them.
With that in mind, this is a world exclusive look at Kommon Universe, a brand new menswear brand from Manchester that has shot out of the gate with a fully formed aesthetic, message and collection. Sweats, headwear and even technical jackets are on show here and it’s great to see a common colour palette used throughout rather than something more haphazard.
We caught up with the guys to get the scoop on their story and what they’re trying to achieve with the brand.
Whats the story with Kommon Universe?
So Kommon Universe was our opportunity to bring something to the market that we didn’t really feel was being done the way we wanted it to be done and certainly not in the UK specifically. We’re in our early days as a brand and are trying to steer our products down an avenue that compliments what our clients want to see and the garments that we are really excited to create, but essentially we’re driven by the idea of fusing menswear with the technological and colourful elements of sportswear and the outdoors.
Who is involved?
We’re a team of creatives with different backgrounds in the fashion and creative industries, with specialties that range from graphics, design and product development, to more traditional marketing avenues and creative content.
The first thing you sent us was a brand book – why is it important to you to have the brand presented in that light?
It was really important for us from the very beginning to establish ourselves as more than just another brand name with no substance. The Kommon range is a reflection of the different elements of the team, so we wanted to communicate the fact that our DNA is grounded in the lives of the team that create it; we’re inspired by the creative network that we work with on a daily basis and each one of them has taken a completely different pathway into the industry… My background is in journalism, for example, but I pursued a pathway that better reflected my interests than my training. In the same way, it’s important for us to tell a story about our brand that emphasises the fact that we are more than just another budding start-up.
Is the book just lookbook images?
The book is a lookbook of sorts, but the emphasis is definitely on who and what inspires us, and inspired the range. We used the book as an introduction to the sort of content that we intend to shape our brand in the future. We profiled a handful of creatives that we worked with on the first range, and those that we aspired to work with too, and tried to use the brand book as catalyst for some beautiful work – Steph Morris did a series of incredible illustrations for us, Clay Hickson did some of his trademark designs for us, as well as a few local artists and illustrators who are doing great things who stepped up too.
Why start a brand in this climate and what have you got to bring to the table that other brands haven’t?
I think right now the climate in Manchester is an opportunity, more than anything. There are a few things happening in the city, but beyond the presence of Carhartt and the handful of active independents that are keeping the embers alive in the city, there isn’t the same level of saturation on the branded front that you might find in London, nor the same buzz or drive to create. We know that our range definitely sets us apart in the North, and we’re aiming to elevate and inspire those around us to really do the same. We’re trying to bring an energy back to the city that has simmered down over the last few years.
Talk us through the collection
The range showcases a variety of staple menswear silhouettes but with a sportswear influence. There are oxford shirts with distinctive jersey cut and sew paneling, and sports influenced pique bombers with a more casual execution. We were also really keen to play with textures and graphics so those are a feature for us throughout. Bursts of colour come out through details, and work their way into our statement pieces too.
For you, what are the standout pieces?
Personally, the Apex and Equator Coach Jackets are definitely some of the stronger pieces in the range, if not some of the most noticeable. The execution on the print is incredible, really vivid, and you really can’t go wrong with the silhouette either. It’s a staple that really slides comfortably between the menswear and skate/streetwear driven markets. After that, the Galileo Transparent Jacket is a great statement piece for Spring and definitely one that has already received a lot of attention for the cut and the reflective taping too.
What kind of guy is Kommon Universe aiming itself at?
Someone who is looking for something a little bit different. Someone who is aware of what’s going on in the market, but open to something new.
For you, how is the UK brand landscape looking at the moment? It seems the whole streetwear tshirt brand thing exploded a few years ago and that bubble has burst a little bit – is this the next logical step?
So I touched on this a little bit above, but I think it’s really important to recognise that the difference between starting another streetwear t-shirt brand and trying to really shake the landscape around you. A lot of decent illustrators take their work in the direction of clothing and do well with it, but those that struggle are often the ones who feel like they should just be able to have a piece of what’s going on, and their whole motive for starting in the first place is misguided. You hear the term ‘support your local’ thrown around this scene a lot, but in recent years it’s a phrase that’s said out of bitterness and resentment as opposed to loyalty. We took that phrase and drove it out with our ‘Local Roots, Interstellar Thinking’ tagline because while we might be rooted in the North, we’re really trying to drive things on.
Where are you guys based?
So we’re from and based in central Manchester. A city known for football and music. A city that is ready to rediscover itself. A city full of kids who look to the South and the US for inspiration, but just need the motivation to start something themselves and realise that they have the ability to create everything they want to see on their own doorsteps.
Where do you see the brand going from here?
Far and wide, we hope. We’ve had a good few seasons finding a foundation internationally on the tradeshow circuit, and we’ve managed to secure some really strong accounts for the AW15 season that will do wonders for visibility. But the thing we’re most excited about is introducing the brand to a domestic consumer, invite them to start something with us, and just see what we can create this season.
Words: Tom Kirkby