The full version of the following interview can be read in the current issue of Proper. Our stock have sold out but a variety of stockists still have copies available. See our stockist page.
Uniformes Generale began when freelance designer Rob Trigg was living in a remote, rural setting and invested in some t-shirt printing equipment to fill his spare time.
Strong designs and branding led to Uniformes Generale gaining a cult internet following, with tees being joined by the popular Action Mug and other cool ephemera.
The brand’s profile began to grow and it was soon attracting admiring glances from various quarters.
Adam Creed, a former colleague of Rob had followed the progress of Uniformes Generale closely and he suggested they join forces and make a go of it on a more serious scale. Adam cut his teeth in the industry with Manchester brand Dupe, while he was still a teenager. He has since spent time consulting for various celebrated streetwear and menswear brands, most recently with a well known high street name. But it’s his feel for the grassroots and a desire to make his mark as an independent once again that was his motivation behind teaming up with Rob once again.
Consequently, Uniformes Generale recently enjoyed something of a relaunch. It’s inaugural full season boasts a collection of adaptable sportswear aimed at people who will appreciate its everyday quality.
The brand looks set to go from strength to strength, with more established retailers onboard for next season. With this in mind, we thought it was about time we got in touch and found out more.
Dupe was the first thing you did? And you’re from Macclesfield originally, not too far from Proper?
I was born in Birmingham but we moved up to Cheadle in Stockport then we lived in Wilmslow in Cheshire.
What sort of age were you at when you started Dupe?
It feels so long ago! I think it’s important to say, we’re certainly not trying to launch Uniformes Generale from the ashes of Dupe. I’m proud of that period of my life, but the new brand is coming from a totally different direction. So much of that era could be associated with the whole Madchester thing and in 2014 we couldn’t be further from that if we tried.
I must have been 17 when I started Dupe. I was never into fashion in terms of sitting at a sewing machine. My background was more as a mod, scooter boy, breakdancing. I was a proper little B-Boy back then. I’d always had an interest in clothing purely from a desire to look sharp. When you’re young your life is pretty much about music and fashion. Manchester at that point was the ideal time and place to grow up, wasn’t it?
I’ve no problem talking about Dupe. I think it must have been around 1990-1991. At that point, I had left college, had no money and I was frustrated at the lack of opportunities. I guess it was in my genes to get off my backside and follow in the footsteps of my father and grandfather who were both pretty entrepreneurial. I don’t suppose I realised it at the time but that must have been in me.
At the time we were surrounded by music and fashion, and I knew I couldn’t do music. I think at that point, streetwear had really started to become a thing. If you wanted to have a street look, it would have come from somewhere like Hurleys, via the football casual route with big Italian sportswear brands.
There were a few brands which appeared and inspired me. Gio Goi being from Manchester was prominent, Stussy was big and a few other skate brands that began to appear. It struck a chord with me because looking at the owners of these brands it dawned on me that if they can do it, maybe I could. Prior to that, setting up a clothing company wasn’t something lads did. That was probably the spark that ignited the first round of Dupe clothing.
How did it all start then?
We’d take t-shirts out in a car at weekend and after a couple of days they’d all be gone. There was a captive audience. We even did sock hats and did really well out of them. Proper ravey jobs, they were very much of their time. By that point I’d really started to appreciate outerwear so it was the natural progression. Brands like Henri Lloyd were a staple, and obviously the likes of C.P Company, although I didn’t own anything because of the cost.
My passion to this day is outerwear. There aren’t many garments in life that can make you look quite so charismatic and moody as a nice jacket. I felt jackets could make that statement better than lots of smaller items. At that time it was pre-internet and we’d distribute our catalogue by fax!
You knew what you wanted then?
Even back then, I wanted the best. Ri-Ri zips were the best I could find. They were Swiss mountaineering zips and they were like £7 even then, which was really expensive. I just had to have the best though. I found these small factories and made the contacts. We made a small run initially, something like 25 of each style, two styles. We talked through the process bit by bit. I’m not sure whether my sketches were helping at that point!
It was hard but I loved the act of creating something like that. Outerwear more than any other item of menswear is the closest to architecture or product design. There’s so much to it. I think my naivety was what got Dupe to where it was. If I’d known how hard it would be I’d never have done it. That’s why I have taken so long to start a brand again. I needed to be convinced it was worthwhile and thankfully I’m now at that point with Uniformes Generale.
You’re doing some bold images with Ben Lamb?
Proper switched me onto Ben Lamb. I was working in a consulting role with a huge high street chain and we got some copies of Proper and loved it. The Hikerdelia issue made a big impression on us and it was Ben’s artwork that provided the visuals for it. We actually did a trend presentation within the business called Hikerdelia. If you’ve seen that cover once, it’s ingrained on you forever.
So you began with your own brand but have worked for other people since. That must have been a tough transition?
My biggest problem when I started off was I thought I was the boss. I’d been the boss and had only ever worked that way. I had a massive difficulty adapting into not being in charge. I didn’t go in to be purposely bolshy, I was fully aware that things had to be commercial. It was just a contrast for me at the start! I’ll always appreciate what the high street has provided for me and my family. It’s paid the bills and it’s all part of the journey to where we are with Uniformes Generale. I learned a lot, but I always felt I’d want to start a new brand and put that into practice.
Over the last ten years I’ve sat and considered where I’d pitch a brand. A lot of the time that thought process has ended with me thinking we needed to do a huge company with a real commercial feel. Make lots of product and lots of money. That’d be the sensible thing to do. But obviously that was never inspiring enough for me to take the next step and do something with it. Part of things progressing to the point of making a real go of Uniformes Generale was meeting the right people and realising we could create real quality at the right price. When Rob saw the early samples he said he’d never seen samples of that standard. They were perfect.
Everything we ask for, we get and that counts for so much. Back with Dupe everything was such hard work, but manufacturing has developed in the factories in China to the point where they just get it.
Obvious question this, but who is the Uniformes Generale customer?
The brands which I respect are the likes of Norse Projects and Cabourn. Norse have nailed sportswear and Cabourn’s research is mind-blowing. I guess we’re aiming Uniformes Generale at the type of people who appreciate that level of quality. Discerning people who know what they’re looking at. We’re able to offer it at a really good price. Our jackets should probably be closer to the £250 mark but our network and our factories enable us to be more competitive I just feel fortunate to be in a position where I’m doing exactly what I want to do. The freedom to create stuff that I love to bits. There’s no compromise on quality and we’re just hoping people cotton onto it and appreciate we’re offering premium clothing at a fair price. We want to be accessible. We want to be honest.
The full version of this interview is roughly twice as long. Get a copy of Proper 16 to read it. Stockists here.