Universal Works


Since 2014, we’ve been involved in celebrating Nottingham-based Universal Works’ new seasons collections. Last week saw the launch of their SS17, ‘Revolution‘.

We’re interested in ideas around change and heritage; The Botanist was originally something of a radical departure by a single malt whisky distillery, though our principles of local flavour and being resourceful are clearly as old as the hills.

Here are some of David Keyte’s thoughts – designer, director and co-founder of Universal Works.

How much would you say that your revolution draws on the past?

This collection is called ‘revolution’ as we explored plenty of reference points for the design: mid-century Cuba, the influence of the anti-establishment Beat movement in the USA, and the graphic design work of Saul Bass. A huge influence was drawn from a book by Burt Glinn, a Magnum photographer who in 1959 documented the Cuban revolution. He travelled from New York to Havana and captured the turning point of the revolution: the leaders, rebels and the local people. The pictures he took of the people and the city formed the foundations of our inspiration: a mix of military and workwear style, trousers with smart jackets, four pocket and point collar shirts and oversized pleated trousers like the clothing worn by Cuban rebels and Havana locals alike, a cobbled together blend of army supplies and oversized but well tailored civilian clothing.

Viva la Revolution! So, even though SS17 draws from the past, it’s looking forward and is our version of it, acknowledging the past but moving things forward. Like I do need a pocket to fit my fat iPhone because phones have got bigger. I want to acknowledge that and move with it, because I think it’s a more interesting way to design, and a more interesting way to live.

What would you like to change about your industry?

As far as the industry, there’s a lot that I like. It’s enabled me to make a living doing something that I love every day, and it’s introduced me to some amazing people. Though if I could, I would change peoples ideas about fast and throwaway fashion and the huge negative effects it’s having on the world.

Can you say a bit about global/local, in terms of the inspiration and translation of your ideas?

This is a bit of a hard one… I suppose a lot of inspiration and translation of our ideas are global because I’m lucky enough to travel the world as part of doing my job. It sounds naff because everyone says it, but inspiration is around all you, wherever you are. And it also feels local because here is where I’m from. We try and make products here in the midlands and around the UK because those are the people I have worked with for years and we want to continue to support and sell these great products from the UK. And we also work with skilled makers internationally because we want to work with the right people for all the different products that we design. Both are equally important.


Read more on the Universal Works Blog >

Find Universal Works Stockists on their website >

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