Nous got the opportunity to catch up with New Zealand-based clothing company I Love Ugly. I’m sure you have heard of ILU because of their eclectic styles or their famous Zespy Pants that took the streetwear community by storm and have been recreated by some of the hottest names in the industry. We spoke to their creative director and founder, Valentin Ozich on exactly what the brand stands for and what they are looking to do in the future. One things that resonated with us as we spoke to Ozich was his willingness to help smaller brands and how hard he works at perfecting his craft.
Read a portion of the Q&A below:
How did the brand start and what’s the story behind the name?
The brand started by accident. I never intended on creating a mens clothing brand. I had these words ‘ I Love Ugly’ which I really liked, and began using them as my artist name, and then as a name of a magazine I started, which interviewed other visual artists and designers from around the world who I found on My Space. At that point my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) and I unexpectedly had a little baby girl which really put the pressure on me financially. I felt that a magazine was going to be a tough form of media to scale and make money from, and thought the best way to monetise my art and creative skills would be through making t-shirts with my art on it. I decided to call my brand I Love Ugly, as it made people curious and developed that sense of wonder, plus, it was very memorable. From there, my tees became popular. People wanted more garments from I Love Ugly. I began developing a few cut ‘n’ sew pieces, found a seamstress, and the rest is history.
What’s something you would want everyone to know about I Love Ugly?
I Love Ugly is a digital-marketing company that makes great products, and our mission is to creatively inspire our customer to reach their aspirations. We have the goal of becoming the best brand in the world, and we want to redefine what a fashion brand in 2017 means.
Where do you get inspiration from?
I get my inspiration from being around hungry and driven people. People that are not afraid of change and that challenge me to become even better. I also have a few role models who I listen to via audio books and YouTube on a daily basis. These guys have taught me that by constantly living in a state of gratitude and acceptance, you will be able to tap into an internal flow of inspiration that you can turn off and on, no matter whats going on in your life.
The Zespy Pant is a bit of a game changer in terms of balancing style and comfort, how did those come about?
Quite a funny story. I was in Amsterdam with my wife on our honeymoon. I was super high riding around on bikes when I kept seeing these dope looking dudes rocking these crispy beige chino pants. I was so inspired and thought that it would be cool if they were more tapered around the ankle by having a zip closure and to be slightly more drop crotch, but still maintaining a premium, high end look to them. As soon as I got back to New Zealand I got my seamstress to mock up a prototype. The first 5-10 prototypes weren’t quite right, but we got there in the end. We have now sold over 50,000+ pairs, with many replicas popping up on the market. What makes the Zespy so iconic is we manufacture the fabric from scratch to get the perfect amount of starchiness and stretch in the fabric, we then dye the fabric to our exact colours, use YKK zips, and are constantly tweaking the style to make them better every time.
What differentiates ILU from other streetwear brands today?
We don’t just sell clothes, we create a lifestyle. We have a strong message that resonates with our audience. We have developed an emotional connection with our clients by giving them a lot of value that goes far beyond just clothing.
Where do you see the streetwear industry going in the future?
I feel there is a lot of noise in the market currently, making it a very crowded space. In times like this, either two things happen. Your brand dies, or you innovate your way out of the clutter. The cream always rises to the top. I feel, we are on the cusp of this bubble bursting and the brands that have been here for 10+ years will continue strong, a few from the last few years will stick around for the next cycle, and 1000s of these other soulless brands will disappear. Its important to anticipate change rather then reacting to it. People think that starting a brand is easy and that all you need to do is copy what Kanye West is wearing, begin selling it for cheap on a Shoppify website and that its going to make you a lot of money that will last forever. Unfortunately the consumer is becoming so smart and savvy and beginning to understand that the world doesn’t need another brand thats cheap, trendy, and lacks experience. People want to become part of something that makes them feel different and moves them emotionally. People want to support and become part of the culture around brands that actually stand for something and offer value to their lives. Brands need to understand that its not about falling in love with your products, its about falling in love with your customer. Its going to be exciting what happens in the next 24 months.
What’s next for you guys?
Theres a lot on the cards. We are toying with the idea of doing womenswear. Something in me is now saying that its time. We are restructuring our whole business, asking ourselves how we can we be different and how can we serve our customer even better. What problems can we solve? how can we reduce our carbon footprint? How can we make sure we are constantly innovating in all areas of our business so our customers become raving fans? We are putting a strong emphasis towards digital and mobile, and investing a lot of money into this. We have an amazing team working to bring some game changing strategies to the market. 2017 is going to be big for us. The last 4 years have been an education, forcing us to grow up quickly as a business. The next 12 months and beyond is all about innovation and making sure we stay focused and ahead of the curve.