‘This is Warwick’: we interviewed the founders behind Warwick’s new streetwear brand Unifit

The team tells us about their Chicago influence, juggling business and studies, and their upcoming collections

A few weeks ago, Unifit popped up on our radar, with its Warwick inspired streetwear pieces tapping into our pre-pandemic nostalgia.

So, we decided to sit down with them and find out what they’re all about – between their ideas and designs, they encompass all things typically Warwick; from the Grid to Q Jumps, they’ve got all you need to connect to our beloved uni culture.

“We could feel we were really onto something”

Unifit Warwick is the brainchild of Maxime Cacaly, a fourth year student of International Management, and Natasha Thérèse Syed, also in her fourth year studying Management.

Both founders were born and raised in London. Maxime, originally from France, is the Head of Finance and Strategy for Unifit, and Natasha, who is of Asian and Irish heritage, is Head of Marketing and Strategy.

Talking about how they first met, the pair had several mutual friends, but only met properly after a group project in Term 1 this year. They were fast friends, working well together and sharing interests in start-up culture and other business ventures.

A cushion design mock-up, designed by Unifit’s team – ‘Yet another photo opportunity’.

Natasha explained, “Maxime pitched Unifit’s concept to me after we’d completed our group project, I really believed in the idea and we started developing it over the Christmas holidays. We could feel we were really onto something.”

They are now a diverse team of eight talented students, who joined the project gradually as it evolved over the last few months. “We’ve built our team based on our connections and friends, who we knew could come together and complement each other’s skill sets,” they explained.

Along with Maxime and Natasha are: Alexia Bucher (Head of Operations and Strategy); Léna-Lou Simon Virolle (Head of Design); Lana Aribi (Product and Marketing Design); Olivia Brecque (Product Design); Rosie Judd (Sales and data insight); and Tulika Khosla (Marketing Strategy).

Top, left to right: Natasha Thérèse Syed, Maxime Cacaly, Rosie Judd, Alexia Bucher. Bottom, left to right: Tulika Khosla, Léna-Lou Simon Virolle, Olivia Brecque, Lana Aribi.

“We wanted to show our love for some of the best memories we’d had at Warwick”

When asked about their inspiration for the collection, Maxime and Natasha spoke about how they missed Warwick experiences whilst on their year abroad, such as nights out, seeing friends and society events, but also how the effects of the pandemic had halted all social life indefinitely.

“We wanted to show our love for some of the best memories we’d had at Warwick and create collections around what encapsulates our experience there.”

Maxime explained where his initial idea stemmed from, describing his experience living in Chicago while abroad in his third year. “A lot of my friends were people going to colleges in Chicago and I really loved how students were wearing their school, frat, sports team merch and thought that was something missing at Warwick. We have so many societies yet nothing tangible that links the whole university community.”

He also went on to recount how the pandemic had furthered his idea. “With Covid and inability to do any events, the idea became even more relevant as it was a way for societies to monetise their influence. Having done some of the backend research for suppliers and logistics, I brought in Natasha who had a really clear vision of how we could market and expand the concept.”

A hoodie mock-up designed by Unitfit’s team – ‘The Covid Generation – 2021 Graduates’.

“We try and come up with ideas that can cater to different types of students”

 The pair gave insight into their creative process, narrating each stage of their product design and development. “The first step is brainstorming the theme (Smack, Neon, Lib, Grid, Leavers etc.) and trying to come up with idea that can cater to different types of students.”

The following step is then to work on designs and benchmarks, identifying current trends for inspiration and adding their own little touch. Following this, the garment decision is made, with items ranging from hoodies, sweatshirts, phone cases, pillows, and more.

“The final stage is pricing and product description,” the pair explained. “We assess profitability for us and societies given the different costs incurred.”

A hoodie mock-up designed by Unitfit’s team – ‘Another sunset at the windmill’.

“We have a strong working culture where we support each other”

An important question for the pair was how they and their team managed the balance between uni and work. “The dedication each of our team members have shown has made the balance easier to manage. We have a strong working culture where we support each other when work starts to pile up, we respect university work comes first. We are all open and honest about our deadlines, so we know how to fairly distribute the work.”

They also spoke of how Unifit kept them motivated to keep going and get their work done, saying, “this is also something we all do for fun and are creating for our friends and fellow university members, so it doesn’t feel like work.”

During the pandemic, the way we do everything, from learning to socialising, has changed dramatically, and starting a business is no different. When asked about their experience starting up during Covid, Maxime and Natasha explained that it had been an exciting experience for them.

“We knew Covid was going to be a time where some new and inventive ideas were going to be created and we’re proud to say that Unifit has been one of them. Being able to connect people worldwide by shipping internationally has allowed us to connect students to Warwick even when travel restrictions haven’t allowed them to come back to university.”

The Unifit team is currently spread out all over the world, but they didn’t feel that this was too much of a challenge. “I think we’ve all become experts at using Zoom and Teams over the course of the year so organising meetings to stay in regular contact hasn’t been an issue. The precedent we’ve set is that we’re always available to talk and brainstorm when one of us has a brainwave, so the regular and open contact has made it easier to manage.”

A mock-up of a new phone case, designed by the Unifit team – ‘Warwick 2021 – I’m outta here’.

“Unifit is for students at Warwick, and we encourage you to tell us what you want to see”

When asked about upcoming collections, Maxime and Natasha described their upcoming ‘Leavers’ collection for graduates of 2020 and 2021. “We know so many of our friends didn’t get their graduations last year as well as us this year, and we want to show that Unifit is a platform for past and current students at Warwick and give them something to honour their degrees!”

There will be a wide range of styles for the ‘Leavers’ hoodies, suited to every taste, featuring everything from classic to artsy designs, and will be releasing soon on their website.

In a bid to maximise student involvement, the team want to encourage fellow Warwick students to reach out with ideas. “If you have drawings, design ideas or suggestions drop us a DM or email us.”

Unifit’s up-and-coming ‘Leavers’ hoodie, created for the graduates of 2020 and 2021.

Unifit’s founders stated how they hoped to collaborate with student groups and societies, in order to create exclusive collections. Recently having collaborated with Protect Warwick Women, the team of students who have been protesting for the last month on the Piazza, Unitfit Warwick designed and launched a collection whereby profits would go directly to their cause.

“Whether you want to generate a passive income for your society or raise money for charity, we would love to help you! If you are a society and are interested to hear more just send us a DM on Instagram or drop us an email.”

The pair also divulged their up-and-coming campaign, dubbed ‘What’s your Unifit?’. “We want to hear about the moment you realised you fit into Warwick University, whether it be the unexpected friend you made or chaotic night out that you had!”

“Tag us in a photo capturing the moment at @unifitwarwick and use the #whatisyourunifit hashtag, with a sentence or two telling us more! We’ll be giving our favourites a leavers hoodie of their choice!”

As well as this, Maxime and Natasha mentioned that they wanted to encourage new talent to join the team, saying “if you have skills including graphic design, videography, social media/marketing experience or think you align well with Unifit, we’d love to hear from you. Slide into our DMs whenever!”

Check out the Unifit Collection here or drop them an email on [email protected]. Follow them on Instagram @unifitwarwick to receive updates and information on new releases and previews of the up-and-coming collections.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Someone’s created a Warwick Uni inspired streetwear brand and we’re living for it

UPDATE: ProtectWarwickWomen in talks to escalate protests following meetings with the uni

• ‘We wanted to do something they couldn’t ignore’: Protesters occupy Piazza for over 27 hours