Meet the York students who design and sell clothes in their spare time
You wish you were this edgy
While you've been wasting your student loan down at Salvos or spending all day in the library, these guys have been busy designing the next season's hottest clothes.
We spoke to three of them to find out more about what they do. Ranging from skater clothes to fur coats, their clothes are as varied as the stories behind why they make them.
One of them's a medic, another gets her identical twin to model, and another has their own company car.
John James – Second Year, Medicine
John is a second year medic who runs the brand Simpleboy, selling t-shirts and sweaters inspired by the music he listens to.
So, what's the brand all about?
The brand is about teenage attitudes towards love and heartbreak where Simpleboy is a fictional character who is looking for love. So it’s not clothes that he would wear, but based on events that might happen to a typical teenager.
How do you go about making your clothes?
So, I get the majority of my inspiration from music and I’ll sketch ideas, or write down notes on my phone. In my head, I have 20-30 t-shirt ideas at a time and in my bedroom I have loads of sketchbook pages stuck to the wall filled with concepts which I’m thinking about making.
When I started, I just printed one-offs and it was really messy and unprofessional and I sold like five doing that. Now, I generally print small runs and they sell out quickly.
How do you market the brand?
I tend to post on Facebook groups like The Basement, but I also get a lot of traffic through Instagram from the hashtags I use. I'll do maybe half an hour an hour of social media stuff a day, and then occasionally I'll do a photoshoot.
The more I promoted through social media, the more international it got. So I sell about 90% of orders to people I don’t know, for some reason Denmark buys a lot of clothes from me.
How do you go about photoshoots?
I have friends who model for me which is really helpful. I think generally, if you ask people to model for you, they’re flattered and happy to help. I can’t pay them, but I like to buy people lunch to say thank you.
What do your friends think of the brand?
I made a bet with my housemate last year that if Simpleboy reached a point where it could pay for my tuition fees, I would drop out. But for it to do that, I’d have to do it full time, so that’s not gonna happen. I'm pretty sure I’ll just become a GP.
Have you made much money?
In the past year I’ve turned over about £2k, and any profit from that goes back into the company. After all, the strapline for the company is ‘boy makes clothes, not money’.
What do your parents think about it?
My parents think I dress like an idiot, but they’re quite supportive of it being a creative outlet for me. I don’t think they ‘get it’ though. But they don’t want me to drop out and go to art school or anything.
Do you plan to expand beyond the website?
I've actually already sold to a vintage shop in York called Expressions – I just went in and asked if they wanted to stock one of the shirts that I released earlier this year and they were like yeah sure. I’ve also had some shirts stocked in Brick Lane Vintage in London.
Sophie Lincoln – Second Year, English Lit
Sophie is a second year who sells her handmade clothes on Depop.
Tell us about your brand.
I’ve just finished a collection and it took me all summer, and there are thirteen pieces. Basically I’ve been designing and selling clothes for two years under my name, and this summer I decided to take it a bit further so I'm making a website. All my new stuff has taken a lot more time, as I’m trying to do it as professionally as possible.
Why did you start making your own clothes?
I was just bored one day, and my twin said why don’t you make a top. They used to be horrible! It was literally just a square of fabric and I’d tie it round, and I’d hand-stitch everything.
I started sewing tops for myself like that two years ago, and gradually people saw what I was wearing and said they wanted a top like that. Eventually, a top turned into a dress, then into a pair of trousers and so on.
Where do you make the clothes?
I make the clothes in my bedroom. In my room at uni, my desk has got some books on for my course, and then my bookshelf is just full of fabric! My room at home is much worse, I’ve got two mannequins and loads of patterns and stuff.
I’ve also got a pink sewing machine, named Fiona. In Derwent we have a Derwent Development Award, where they give you £300, and with that I bought loads of bits of kit and even a whole book about pockets.
How do you know how much to sell them for?
It’s hard to know how to price an item, because after all it’s an original hand-made item. However, I try and hit the average of a high street shop, so I've sold dresses for about £40.
Have your clothes actually ever broken before?
I’ve only ever had one incident of something breaking, and that was when I wore a jumpsuit to the library and it split all the way up the bum!
How would you describe the style of the clothes?
I try to cultivate my own unique style. I want stuff that people can keep for ages, and wear for loads of different occasions. On the whole, it’s quite feminine, but I also like to think of it as quite unapologetic clothing – a lot of it is bright two-pieces and attention-seeking in a good way.
Do you have advice for any budding fashionistas out there?
Avoid copying what’s happening in fashion magazines, and just go with what you think looks good, and always be original. I think it’s because I’m a twin, and that’s why I’m so determined to be original. I hate it, it’s the worst thing ever when someone is wearing the same thing as me! Just be original, be yourself and then you’ll look good.
Toby Cannon – Second Year, Computer Science
Toby is a second year who started his clothing brand just before he began studying Computer Science at York.
How did you start out selling clothes?
I started working on my brand, Blurred Edge Apparel, nearly two years ago, but it really came to realisation last summer when I did a big order. It was all small scale before that – selling to friends and things. Since my friends liked it, I thought I may as well push it out further.
How did you manage to afford all the extra stock?
I saved quite a lot of money through working after finishing college. I was just blitzing the hours. I spent a few thousand pounds, which is a lot of money when you’re 17. I’d just sold my car too, so I invested that into it. I thought, I’m going to uni so I won’t really need it.
What sort of stuff do you sell?
We mainly sell t-shirts and sweats at the moment, snapbacks too. Longline tees. I quite like the longline range, because I’m 6’6”, so it just feels like a normal top on me. I wear my clothes a lot to be honest.
Where do you keep all the clothes?
Obviously university rooms aren’t good for space, so I've got all the stock sat in my bedroom back home at the moment. You walk in and there are boxes everywhere. My little brother is ‘warehouse manager’ at the moment, so when the orders come in, he just ships them off from my house in Derby.
Do you make any part of the clothes by hand?
On one order, I had to change out all the labels in the tops and I didn't want to pay to get them done, so I just sewed them on myself. I spent about two weeks solid on the sewing machine at hime, despite never sewing in my life.
I tested for quite a while on bits of fabric I found, and there were a lot of cockups at first. While I was doing it, I was just thinking ‘why am I doing this’, but when the last box is done, it’s such a satisfying feeling.
What did your parents think of it all?
My mum wasn’t happy with the dining room being a factory for a week or two. The family was eating off their laps for the whole time!