Q and A: David Keyte, founder and designer, Universal Works

    David Keyte founded Universal Works in 2008 with a mantra of good honest British design, based on classic military and workwear detailing. “Clothing you will look good in,” the website calls it, so what’s the thinking behind it? Keyte tells all…

    Q What are you up to today?

    Trying to work on a few last pieces of the Winter eleven collection, some Harris tweed pieces and quilted jackets we are working on  with a maker in Lancashire

    Q We love the socks. What's next for Universal Works?
    Yeah, we are pleased with the first hit of socks, they are really quite "outdoors" influenced mainly, very rugged and wearable I hope. What’s next is more hard work, making garments and accessories we are happy with and proud of, trying to give the customer good honest, simple design and great quality. We are always looking at new areas but we don't want to expand too quickly and we don't ever what to get too big or spread ourselves too thinly. Any new parts to the growing collection will happen as and when we right the right makers and the time to work on it.

    Q That certainly sounds ultra sensible. You worked at Paul Smith - what did you learn from that?
    Everything!  I grew up there, I left some years ago now but back in the day it was really the best place in the UK to learn menswear industry and I have great respect for Paul.

    Q And then you had your own thing as a consultant - who did you work with then, and what did you get out of that?
    I worked with many designers in the UK, not designing but on sourcing and product development, I also worked with retailers too. At the time I really wasn't trying to "get anything out of it" I was trying to earn a living and give my experience but you are always learning. Hopefully every day brings new experience and you certainly never know enough.

    Q So why did you feel moved to create Universal Works? We're guessing you saw a need....?
    I guess the need was in me,  the world really does not "need" any more clothing collections, but I wanted to get my take on menswear out there, but not for an egotistical reason. It was more about doing it for me for a change, rather than for someone else.  Maybe I should have done it a few years back but I am just a slow starter, and now the time seemed right. As I say, I was not trying to big up my ego, I just wanted to put some well-made, simple menswear with a good fit and good quality out to the market and see what happened. So far guys seem to like what we are doing.

    Q What, to you, are the key elements of branding?
    I want Universal Works to be a clothing company more than a "brand"  I don't want to logo the outside of any garment and I don't want to brand something we are not involved with completely.
    I want someone to buy UW because they like it, it fits well and it lasts, I hope they feel it is well made and has a certain style, but I don't want them to buy it just because it is a "brand".

    Q There is a feeling of a new sort of luxury in menswear now, based on authenticity, heritage and workwear, military derivations - rather than, say, the showy old types of luxury. What do you think? Universal Works seems to feed into that new definition...
    Well, all those words are the words of the moment I guess, and certainly our style is based around the classic elements of workwear and military wear. Men's garments often are, but we also have to keep up to date and not just make replica garments from the past. I prefer to use the knowledge of that past, and stay true to the function and simplicity of workwear but also make it relevant now.
    Right now heritage and authenticity are very over-used words.  UW is only two years old so we can’t claim either of them.  But I think you are right, there is a new luxury as you say, not based on simply show and over-design and logos and everything. Count me in.

    Q What do you make of the menswear landscape at the moment - if you were to open a shop, what would it look like and what sort of product would it stock?
    here are some great new retailers out there right now, and some established ones doing well too, those looking at the right product and making an interesting mix for their customers. Whilst it would be great to have a store really showcasing the UW collection and handwriting,  personally the stores I mostly like are the ones which reflect some individuality, some character and a mix of product that is their own, smaller stores with owners and staff who have good knowledge of the product and give a great service.  We will get round to a store one day – when we have some spare cash maybe!

    Q Where do you look for design inspiration?
    The same as everyone else, the past. You need to know the past to know where you are going, so: old films, my granddad, often random old guys on the bus wearing too many garments at the same time, all of them worn out and mismatched. I often wonder if they know how cool they look.

    Q What are you proudest of in the current UW range?
    That guys are prepared to spend their hard earned money on buying it. If I had to choose one item of the collection it’s the Knit Work Jacket, it was in the first collection and still looks great this winter, I live in it!

    Q And what's next from Universal Works?
    Scented candles and logo T-shirts........ no, just more of the same and hopefully throwing in a few surprises too as we go along. I want to add shoes at some point and that will happen if only I can find a few hours on a spare day!
    Source URL: http://icip2idayusof.blogspot.com/2010/11/q-and-david-keyte-founder-and-designer.html
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