When it comes to sportswear, the world of fashion is cautious. There have been many fashion faux pas committed over the decades where sports brands are concerned (Adidas popper track bottoms and mesh crop tops anyone?). However, the Team GB Olympic kits designed by Stella McCartney last summer seem to have had a major influence on runways at recent fashion week collections on the runway; indicating that the world of sport may be something that haute-couture is beginning to explore.
It has also given the creatives among us an idea for a business venture. Ex art school student Grace Stubbs has recently launched the first line of her sports fashion label Don’t Talk To Strangers. Branded as DT2S for short, the label sets out to incorporate graphic design and print with some cool colours to create a fun and unique brand, with the range constantly expanding and new logo designs are always being created for future lines. DT2S seeks to represent alternative sports such as ski, snowboarding, surfing and gymnastics, with items such as beanies, hoodies and jumpers in the initial range. “My inspiration did not specifically come from my course, it came from the alternative atmosphere and 24 hour buzz around art school. I really like statement clothing but I can’t pull it off myself. So I wanted to create a fashion range that suited my personality as well as the art school fashion trends. In a way, the idea is creating sportswear with an art school twist”.
With an interesting name, it seems appropriate to get some background on where that comes from. Grace explains: “I wanted to have a catchy name. ‘Don’t Talk to Strangers’ is the brand name but when on clothes the main slogan is ‘DT2S’ or ‘Stranger’. I came up with this name because the world is now more social than ever before. Almost everyone is a member of at least one social network. But how well do you actually know your 300 friends and the people in your 1500 photos? We are all strangers and because of the social networks you now know more strangers than you did before”. A touch of irony then?
Developing the social media idea, Grace has also capitalised on a key social media trend that has exploded recently in the celeb world; that is, naming your fans, or followers, a name that cleverly incorporates you or your brands name. For example, Twitters most followed person, Lady GaGa, call her fans her ‘Monsters’ in reference to those fans that attended The Monster Ball Tour, and so the trend kicked off. By hash-tagging themselves as a ‘Monster’ on twitter, fans were led to believe that GaGa could see the fans directly by searching for said has-tag (yeah all 35 million of you). Since then we have had hundreds of efforts to try and emulate the success of this trick, such as ‘Spearleaders’ (Britney Spears) ‘Barbiez’ (Nicki Minaj) and, eh ‘Bagels’ (Panic at the Disco!). So what did DT2S decide to go with? Well the brand website (dont-talk-to-strangers.com) states: “We are very supportive of our ‘Strangers’. Once you have purchased a jumper or beanie you will appear on our website and blog”. A clever PR trick this works out to be; the more people buy and wear DT2S and are photographed, the more exposure on social media platforms the brand gets, and drives traffic to the website.
As a member of her university hockey squad, Grace knew exactly what athletes require to remain comfortable while being able to give their maximum on their field of play- DT2S has kitted out BMX Riders, Surfers, Ski and Snowboarders, Boxers and Gymnasts, and as the brand expands, Grace hopes to increase the range of sports she can accommodate: “I like sportswear. I think it represents different personalities well. You don’t necessarily have to be able to run a mile to wear it. “The style of Sport” has always been around and is a hot trend right now. I do read a lot of sports fashion blogs like styleofsport.com”.
Grace initially had no intention of entering fashion design, having studied Graphic Design Communication at the London College of Communication for a year. However, the techniques she learned as part of the course have been invaluable to her product development: “University taught me how to screen print! Which was the guiding light towards creating fashion prints. Right now I am not at UAL but I am always looking at the latest news and exhibitions. I am currently designing websites for Signum Designs, where I help with company branding and marketing.”
When asking Grace for some advice to fellow budding fashion entrepreneurs, the first thing she states is the level of stress that starting up comes with: “Setting up a business is not as easy as people may think, especially a fashion company. The designs have to be right but the materials have to be right as well.” And with just a logo design when starting out, she also realised that she had to be open to adapting her business idea: “I produced the designs first knowing that I wanted to put them on jumpers. But now as the range is expanding I am choosing the garment before the design. So my designs fit more around the individual styles of each garment instead.”
And, what about the future? “I will hopefully be fully established with a firm place in the market. I want to have more than one range by then, may a collaborative range with another designer or photography student, to give it another dimension (and also to give someone else the opportunity I didn’t have). I’m hoping to expand the product very soon. I am working on some designs for flat caps, vests and jog pants. I am also looking into styling a smarter sports range like shirts and blazers too”.