Starting a fashion brand straight out of uni: Meet the founder of gender neutral streetwear brand Androgyny UK
Interview & styling by Francesca Salisbury | Photography by Maria Serova | Models are Anna Jeffrey & Josh King
Androgyny UK is a British gender neutral streetwear brand. Francesca Salisbury talks to the founder, Peter Bevan, about starting a fashion business straight out of uni and what the future holds for androgynous clothing.
I love the concept of androgynous fashion. Is this something you had been thinking about for a while?
I came up with the idea at the beginning of my second year at uni. I studied philosophy and media, and I did a lot of gender studies in both topics, which showed me that gender is a social construct. Everyone thinks they have to behave a certain way or do a certain thing because society dictates it. But, particularly when I was doing these gender studies, I really felt that people should be able to dress as they want and act how they like without someone judging them for being ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’.
And how did the business get going?
I asked my dad and my sister what they thought of a gender clothing brand, and they found the concept cool. And then from that moment I just developed the idea at uni. I worked on the brand story and the logo so that I had it ready to go when I graduated. Then I concentrated on its loads. In the year after uni I developed samples and I was good to go by the following August. It was hard work, and I was learning on the job.
Who is your client base?
Initially, I said customers aged between 16 and 30, who were interested in fashion and generally concerned with equality. But I’ve been to lots of markets selling my products and so many of the customers are people I wouldn’t normally associate with my demographic. So I think I’m still working it out. I want it to be inclusive for everyone.
“I THINK AS OUR GENERATION BECOMES OLDER, PEOPLE WILL BE ABLE TO BE WHO THEY WANT TO BE.”
I think what some people don’t understand is that androgynous is not necessarily girls wearing boys clothes; it’s just about having no restrictions on the way you dress. And that’s what I like about your designs - they’re basic, but they’re bold and proud of being unisex.
Yeah, that’s something I really don’t want to lose. For my first collection I wanted to embody the brand story. I started with the name. And then I went to a branding company in London and developed a logo. I showed them some brands I liked and I told them I was really interested in Plato’s Symposium. He says that androgens come down from the moon, so I thought a moon was really important for the logo. The triangle in the middle represents the traditional two genders and breaking down the division between them, as do the use of blue and pink in the actual clothes. I want to add something authentic to the world, something that’s striving for better.
Where are the products made?
They’re all handmade in Milton Keynes. I met the women who do it and it’s such a nice company. It’s all quite low scale at the moment but I want to keep that handmade concept. I think slow fashion is so much better than fast motion, it’s better for the environment.
That’s something I wanted to ask you about, actually. At the moment there’s a massive clash between the demands for fast fashion and slow fashion. Do you think that as a designer you have a responsibility to be sustainable?
Yeah, I think so. I read somewhere that the fashion industry is the second biggest polluter after the oil industry. So I think as designers it is really important to make clothes sustainably. I use certified organic cotton for my tee shirts and vests. I also think fashion should not necessarily have to follow the seasons, as it leads to a lot of waste. The fashion industry needs to slow down just a little bit. Cheap products don’t last well either. With my products I really create them to last a long time - I want them to wash well, wear well. I went through quite a lot of samples, and although it’s an expensive process I think it’s so worth it because it means the final product will last.
What’s your opinion on sizing? Is it hard to cater to a large audience with only a few size options?
Sizing was quite difficult. For my first collection I wanted to be all inclusive for guys and girls to the best of my ability, so I went from XS to L, because XS is probably a girl’s 6 to 8, and a large is probably a 12 to 14. When I was sampling, I tried the tees on my girl friends of all different sizing. Going forward, I think trousers and that kind of thing will be straight forward because it’s just a matter of inches, but more form-fitting stuff will be challenging.
“I WANT ANDROGYNY UK TO BE AN ALL-INCLUSIVE, WELCOMING BRAND THAT EVERYONE CAN IDENTIFY WITH. ANYONE CAN WEAR WHATEVER THEY WANT, REGARDLESS OF WHO THEY ARE.”
Are body and ethnic diversity important to you?
Yeah, they are really important to me. With my products I would like to offer big sizes as well; at the moment it’s quite difficult because of scalability but that’s something I definitely want to do in the future. My branding obviously stands for the gender spectrum and breaking down gendered norms, but I think it also represents breaking down the barrier for people who have different sexualities and body shapes. I want Androgyny UK to be an all-inclusive, welcoming brand that everyone can identify with. Anyone can wear whatever they want, regardless of who they are.
What’s on the horizon in the immediate future?
Well, at the moment I’m looking at going down the streetwear/sportswear route. I want to develop some trousers with taping down the sides, perhaps tracksuit bottoms and a jacket, and long-sleeve tops as well. I’m trying to stick to things that would be a little bit cheaper to develop at first, and then build it from there. Longer term, I want to create some more ‘controversial’ gender neutral clothing, like crop tops and skirts.
Is there one big piece of advice you would give to someone who has just come out of uni and wants to start a business?
I would say just go for it. Whatever your idea is, just try it. There’s no better time.
Androgyny UK products are available on ASOS Marketplace and Student High Street. Visit www.androgynyuk.com for more information.
See our photoshoot with Androgyny UK here