"ESCAPE ROUTES" AN ODYSSEY OF MEMORIES words Filipe Phitzgerard - images courtesy of Ullac at SANE
Headed by proud Northerner, Chris Lynd, British streetwear label Ullac is the one in the block making "dead nice gender neutral clothes" that perfectly merge a great deal of personality and uniqueness while approaching design and production from an ethical point. The combination of quality, fashionability, and functionality are just some of the many strong elements found in every piece created by Ullac as Chris and his design team are deeply motivated and invested in creating durable clothing that tells a story while helping to write new ones.
Creative individuality is one of the aspects that we see flooding through Ullac as Lynd will later share with us that his aim is to allow the consumer to wear any and every piece they make however they want to. Chris has been able to create pieces that are current with the demands of the consumer while preserving his own creative authenticity which, at the end of the day, becomes an added element of connection with the wider consumer.
With the release of Ullac's latest drop, titled "Escape Routes", we had the pleasure of talking to Chris to find out the ins and outs of this new collection. Chris spoke candidly about the creative process and his influences by giving us deeper insight into his own childhood and how memories play a great part when it comes to his work as a designer.
Filipe Phitzgerard: Why "Escape Routes"?
Chris Lynd: I grew up in a really small town in the North. Actually, I grew up in a really small village outside that small town in the north and I felt really trapped a lot of the time.
F.P: When you say "trapped" do you mean figuratively?
C.L: Trapped in a certain life or trapped by certain attitudes. It was a bit ‘hills have eyes’ at times maybe. Physically trapped because there’s really nowhere to go. I think a lot of people from small places feel a bit like that. A bit claustrophobic and stifled. I think that’s why I get really into stuff and obsess about it. It could be anything; clothes, music, books, magazines, drawing, films, comics, video games, making stuff and occasionally breaking things.
F.P: That sounds like an exercise of freedom and liberation.
C.L: Yes. Anything that mentally puts you outside those four walls, or takes you away from hanging outside the Spar, which wasn’t without a bit of jeopardy because Greg Spence could turn up any minute in his Saxo VTR and really ruin your night. So all those things that occupied my mind were my escape routes from that feeling of being trapped. This collection is an interpretation of those escape routes.
F.P: In your approach to design do you see a specific demographic or consumer you find yourself focusing on?
C.L: I really struggle with working this one out as we don’t really look too much beyond the things we are making. I’m so locked in on what I want that piece to say, feel like, fit and fall on whoever wears it; I feel like if I focused on a certain demographic it would restrict me too much and we wouldn’t be making what we want. I would love to just say people but I’m sure that would sound pretentious.
F.P: What is your personal relationship with the concept of clothing? I know that at first glance this may sound like an odd question but designers tend to have a completely different, or perhaps, deeper even perspective of that relationship "person x clothing".
C.L: I think clothes can be really transportive. They can make you feel like your someone else, or somewhere else and that can apply to all people regardless of gender, culture or subculture uniform requirements. So I like to make things that can be worn by lots of different people in lots of different ways.
F.P: And with clothing is not just about one strict way of wearing this and that piece; there are options when it comes to the styling which is also very personal to each person who is wearing it. The same piece can be worn differently by different people to express different identities and I feel like Ullac definitely caters for that, especially when looking at Escape Routes.
C.L: Escape Routes definitely introduces our interpretation of tailoring with some new sharper, smarter silhouettes like the PEOPLES DRESS COAT – it’s somewhere between an overcoat, a shirt dress, and a massive shirt. There are so many ways to wear it, and it can look totally different from person to person. Or our AGGRESSIVE CORD pants. I love this silhouette, I think this shape is one of my favourites and they’re made in a dead bold, lovely baby blue needlecord. Nice and big up in the top block, but they’ve got this really aggressive taper, and the leg is slightly cropped. Because they’ve got a really deep rise, and a drawcord waist they can be worn in so many different ways, by so many different people and body shapes. If you put them with the CORD CARDI (in the same fabric) they’re somewhere where PiL meets Ivy League. But if you wear them dead low with the BABY HEADOVER JACKET, they’re a totally different thing.
F.P: That's brilliant. And I think the younger consumer is looking for something like that. More versatility in one piece. The collection is pretty solid and the silhouettes are fresh and youthful. Do you have a specific point of inspiration you are drawing from?
C.L: There are so many points of inspiration for Escape Routes. It’s a tapestry of pop culture and memories, music, art, films, video games, people and memories of memories. It’s an interpretation of the people and the stuff that I threw myself into as an escape from Preston.
F.P: How did that effectively and practically translate into Escape Routes?
C.L: It translates in all kinds of ways. A lot of it is from memory. What I mean is that, when I’m drawing it’s usually a feeling or a memory that I’m chasing down. So I might be remembering someone from a music video, or a film, or a game. But I really don’t want to look too closely at the truth of that memory, because that might spoil the picture I have in my head.
F.P: That's cool! So what we see is a memory re-written and worked into a garment with the references woven into it.
C.L: Like the red Gen Pop Suit. There’s a scene in Beetlejuice when Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin are in a waiting room waiting to find out their fate. There’s a zombie sports team in that room too and one of the players asks the coach if he thinks they survived the crash. I kinda based the suit on that team. But I re-watched it and it turns out I misremembered it. I got the sport completely wrong. Maybe I was thinking of the Warriors?
F.P: It still worked, though.
C.L: When I was a kid we used to go to my Nana’s in Liverpool every Friday night for tea. My uncle Ian, who was about 19, had just left home, he was the naughty one and he had flavour. His bedroom was still full of all his stuff. I used to raid his wardrobe and sit on his bed wearing his clothes. I remember sitting there in his boots that were way too big and listening to his Adrian Mole tapes on his stereo. He had this stack of True Crime magazines that I used to read. They were full of pictures of all kinds of spooky stuff and stories from all around the world. Serial killers, and the occult and all that. When I made the PEOPLES DRESS COAT, I was chasing down that feeling that I had staring at those grainy pictures. It’s hard to put a finger on why the PEOPLES DRESS COAT lives like that in memory but it does.
F.P: I find this brilliant. Being able to know what fuels the mind of a designer is just fascinating for me. I also love the contrast between the sober pieces and the brighter bolder colors; there is a playful feel to it without becoming too much. What was the process of working with this color palette and getting to this balance?
C.L: I think a lot of that is quite unconscious. When I’m putting together sketches and mood boards, they’re all part of one big visual story I’m telling myself in my head. So the colours in the images that make up the story all come from the same place too. Some of them might be moody and soberer and some of them brighter and poppier but because it’s all part of the same thing that’s why they balance. Once we had sampled everything and the collection was all together in one place, some of the colour pallets had to evolve, not a great deal as it was a big part of the early vision but touched up and tuned; What’s that Giggs line ‘Add a little bass, you better leave those synths’ that sort of thing.
F.P: You mentioned the presence of movies or video games as part of the inspiration process; if this collection could be described as a movie or video game, what do you think that would be?
C.L: Scream 7 and Sidney dies, the killer is Sub-Zero and Ryu who was Billy’s favourites characters from Mortal Kombat & Street Fighter. Last line - ‘I’m going to blame it on Video games, pretty cool huh? it hasn’t been done before’.
Ullac's Escape Routes is now available at Ullac.com