Over the last few years independent or 'indie' fashion brands have advanced and transformed drastically. The growing popularity of Indie brands on social media has come simultaneously with a rising awareness of fashion manufacturing, ethical production, and fair working conditions. Bernadette Kissane, an apparel analyst at Euromonitor, stated “We’ve seen an uptick in these smaller, independent fast-fashion labels that have been able to successfully carve out a niche,” where she is talking about the growth of social media which has allowed opportunities for indie brands to grow and evolve. With trends coming and going faster than ever, will the current growth of indie fashion companies be a part of the sustainable and slow fashion sector?
Instagram is changing the fashion industry; a strong Instagram presence is a crucial component to any fashion brand that aspires to have any significant measure of success, especially since influencer marketing has become one of the most effective methods to build awareness and drive online sales. A great example of an indie brand that emerged through social media is Purrpspace, a London-based urban clothing brand that has grown immensely since its start in 2020 with almost 3000 followers on Instagram. This perfectly embodies how engagement has a direct effect on exposure and specifically for indie brands, this could be a way to become more than just a trend.
Purrpspace recently had a project called “Purp x LDN,” which entailed them going into London and introducing an unreleased item “AP11 Trench.” Seen in the image below.
Besides social media, Purrpspace distinguished their design with simple, oversized, and elevated designs, inspired by the creators Clinton, Alex, and Rena’s own street style, inspired from their own stories. Their ultimate mission is to create a brand that represents everyone, feels personal and provides high-end clothing that is unique not because of its name but because it looks and feels good on every individual. Recent designs revolve around the owner of the brand, Clinton’s story, and the inspiration behind the brand including purple and astronomical images (shown below).
Most recently, they were able to showcase their work at London Fashion Week. Images below show their oversized t-shirts in beige and grey.
Like all trends the popularity of indie social media brands will die down too. However, these indie brands have changed the playing field, they have brought sustainability and ethically manufacturing clothing, while also creating innovative and eye-catching designs. The fashion industry has been exposed and has become ethically aware of exploitative factory production and disposable materials which no longer appeal to the consumers of today.
Indie brands like Purrpspace, who are growing their success every day use their platform to express themselves and their value. Only time will tell whether it is their social media approach or their ethics that will be the ultimate reason why indie brands are here to stay.
Interview with Purrpspace
Please introduce yourself and your brand. Who are you, what do you do and what kind of small business do you run?
I am Clinton, one of the brand owners of Purrpspace, I make t-shirts, hoodies, accessories. What we’re trying to do at Purrpspace, is to create clothes that people want to wear; trying to bridge the gap between high fashion as well as street fashion. For example, our oversized t-shirts, are very street-oriented and very high quality, which you could find at Balenciaga at a much higher price. We are trying to create something super affordable while still maintaining high quality. I want to say we are a family oriented small business as our brand is very people oriented.
How did your small business come about?
We started a year ago, very generic I know, but I had the plans all laid out before. I used to work in Finance, and I was thinking about what my business would be. I always wanted to work for myself, as people I have worked with, didn’t know how to manage people and how to get the best out of people. The brand started back when I was in school, I wore very colourful stuff, I had my own style. I was different in a good way. My friends thought I was cool, but then there were people that questioned my style, the way I wore colours. They didn’t quite understand that I wore colourful stuff because I like to be vibrant, to stand out. I want to spark a conversation with people and when you wear something that makes you stand out, it becomes easier for people to spot you. So Purrpspace, really came from that. Also, I used to wear a lot of designer clothes whether fake or real, but I never really like the cut or how it fit. I just wore it for the brand name. I thought, if I don’t like this, I'm going to find out if other people thought the same. So, I was just trying to find out why people bought designer stuff, and like me they were only buying it for the brand. From that, I decided I wanted to make clothes that people want to wear and felt good in.
The name of your brand is very interesting, what was the story behind that?
Purrpspace, means purple space. People used to mock me about wearing purple, asking me “why don’t you wear black?”, so I thought I am going to create a brand name with Purrpspace, as everyone was calling me ‘Purrs,’ as a nickname and would call me “oh Purp!”, “Oh look at him the purple guy!” So, I decided to make something positive out of it. The ‘space’ in Purrpspace is from this idea that I want to create a space where people can be themselves in my clothes, and even if it isn’t their style, they still feel comfortable in it.
What have been some challenges as a small business owner?
Finance is major factor, and self-belief. As a small business when you look at other people doing the same, you can easily fall into self-sabotage. Questioning yourself: “I'm not doing well enough.” “They’re sustainable, I am not.” Also exposure, it is a huge problem if you don’t know how to market your products and you don’t reach the exposure you need. If you’re not sociable, as it would be harder to communicate your brand to different people. You need tough skin too. With a lot of small brands, they don’t have self-belief and get swayed by others easily. Industry is tough too, as not everyone is here to help. Some people only look after themselves and look at everyone as competition.
Do you have a vision for your business or any goals you want to reach?
I want my brand to be global, way bigger than the U.K and Europe. I want to tap into the African and Asian market. Though they are seen as not very fashionable countries – they are, most fabrics and materials come from there. I want to take it back home. We have started to become global already, now in we are in 10 countries: U.K, France, Italy, Germany, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria and Jamaica.
I want this is to be seen as high-class clothing, as I believe we have the potential of being way bigger and the reason for that is: when you look at what has been put out recently, you’ll see a lot of street fashion made by designers who know nothing about the street. And I don’t mean street in a negative manner, but I mean where I come from, or like anywhere that is working class. As that is what street fashion really is – it’s for the working class, not for designers who don’t know the street.
What’s your favourite item from your own brand?
I love the oversize t-shirts, the splinter Grey. I love oversize, anything that makes me feel comfortable in. I made these oversized t-shirts for myself and for everyone.
What’s the process of designing and making clothes like? Where do you get your materials and inspiration from? Who are your inspirations, if any?
In terms of designing, I don’t design but I am part of the process. For instance, the trench coat, I drew everything, and I run it through the team. I ask them what they think, they make changes and approve it. I believe I am more like the creative director than the designer. Materials’ inspiration I get from all around me, if I someone’s clothing I will ask can I see the tags and the do a lot of research into the materials and where it came from, how good it is, can we get the best quality of the materials etc. I mainly get the material itself from Asia, those are the countries where people get them from but also place in the UK.
My inspiration for designs is simplicity, like our t-shirt. Anything too much might be confusing to people. So, keep everything simple but detailed too. And within people, my mum is the biggest inspiration and why I started to brand. My mum pushed me a lot to do this brand, and so when she passed away, that was the one of things that really inspired me to follow my happiness. People around me constantly inspire me, especially my team: Alex and Rina. But in the industry, itself, I’d say Kanye West, Jerry Lorenzo.
What have been some challenges of running your own business with a partner?
Not having the property, but we’re not marketing graduates and not e-commerce managers. We’re creative directors. Making clothing is one thing, selling is another. So, we need the right people to communicate our clothes through a screen.
What is one thing you would like others to know about your business?
That we’re going to be really big. We’re here and we’re going to stay, so whether Purrpspace succeeds or not, we will rebrand and still be making clothes. We’re going to be here a long time, for generations.
What fashion purchases have you made recently that you would recommend/or love?
A vintage True Religion hoodie from TK Maxx, I love them because they really put effort into quality.
If you could change one thing about the fashion industry what would that be?
Remove all gatekeepers. There should be no gatekeepers in the fashion industry, everyone can create and no one’s special. Anything I have done; someone might have done it before and vice versa. Give people equal opportunity, just because someone went to fashion school doesn’t mean they’re more qualified. I take on interns from London School of Fashion and I didn’t even go there and give them experience. It goes to show, that you don’t have to pay money for an education – in my opinion it’s good if you can but it is not needed. We’re in a world where we can go viral tomorrow and make it. Everyone should have equal opportunity and it should be about your talents and not who you know.
Edited by Bo Nguyen