Creative Director, Penny Armstrong, of Manchester brand Native Youth had a chat with us about her small team up North coming together and building up to catch the attention of international retailers, like ASOS and Urban Outfitters, artists such as Jake Bugg and us here at Spindle.
Penny says of Native Youth’s ethos to build a brand that stands out amongst other high street retailers, how fashion design was sewn into her family history, and we talk about the brand’s first womenswear collection that launched this SS15.
Native Youth has been around for three years, however you’ve already got your claws deep into the industry with celebrities such as Jake Bugg, Zayn Malik and George Ezra all wearing your designs. Are you super natural?
No supernatural powers here unfortunately, we’re pretty lucky that a good selection of celebrities have shown an interest in the brand! As a designer, it’s really nice to hear that people like wearing your clothes and it’s even better when you see someone like Jake Bugg wearing your designs on stage.
What makes your brand unique to all of the others out there?
We focus on bringing a premium edge to the high street that doesn’t come with the premium price tag. We’re a British brand combining influences from all over the world.
Fabrications and finishings give the collection a premium feel that stands alone on the high street. I like to design styles that I would love to find on the high street myself.
What inspires you to design? Do you think that this is reflected in your collections so far?
I’ve always wanted to be a designer, even as a child. I’ve got a family history in fashion as my Grandma owned a couture dress factory in Manchester and I was brought up learning how to knit and sew.
I think my family heritage and interest in fashion comes through in Native Youth’s British way of doing things.
You started your menswear line in 2011 (which is great by the way), so we’re keen to know what made you decide to do a womenswear line? Why now?
We’ve wanted to launch our womenswear line for some time now (especially me). Our aesthetic and ethos suits womenswear perfectly and I think its something that isn’t readily available on the high street.
Who is your target customer? What are they about? Where do they hang out?
For men: Native Youth offers a stand-out collection which meets the demands of the style conscious male, a guy that’s trend savvy but wants a little more from what’s on offer on the high street.
For women: I think the collection appeals to a wide range of women and girls. When designing the range, I thought of a famous quote by Alexander Wang,
“Anyone can get dressed up and glamorous, but it is how people dress on their days off that are the most intriguing”.
The collection has been designed with a relaxed feel so that people can wear it anyway they want. The Native Youth woman is interested in trends and fabrics and wants something a little different from the high street.
Who would be your dream brand ambassador’s male and female?
I think the beauty of Native Youth is that it can be worn by anyone. I think the existing recognition and fans of the brand such as Jake Bugg, Zayn Malik and George Ezra highlight how wearable the collections are. I also loved seeing the collection on David Gant in our SS15 lookbook. I can’t wait to see girls wearing the collection but I would personally love to see someone like Suki Waterhouse wearing our pieces.
The brand ascetic is so strong within the menswear and womenswear lines, how important do you think it was for the womenswear to attain the same aesthetic?
I think it was very important to keep the handwriting of the men’s collection. However, we didn’t want this to be too literal and therefore used fabrics and prints in new ways to suit the feel of the collection. This concept is something that will evolve further for AW15, as keeping the balance between androgynous and feminine is something that we see as integral to the Native Youth Women collections
Your Menswear SS15 lookbook is titled, ‘In youth we learn, in age we understand’. The concept for it is so amazing tells us how you thought up the idea?
We wanted to come up with a concept for our SS15 shoot that was bold and fun. As soon as I saw David, I knew that I wanted to cast him but was torn between his look and Jake’s. I think the idea of using the two models together was a fun way of showing the brand coming of age also.
We’re a small team based in Manchester and love coming up with concepts and campaigns in house.
We’ve learnt a lot already in our three years of Native Youth and we can’t wait for many more.
We adore your use of Scandinavian influences, nautical prints and simple Japanese silhouettes within the collection. What is your favourite piece?
For men, I love the matching prints on the short sleeve shirts and swims but I think my personal favourite is the rainbow loopback crew, the fabric is incredible!
For women, the Japanese silk blend suit.
A lot of creatives are moving out of the capital due to struggling with the extortionate rent and start up costs. Do you think being based outside of London’s creative hub has made it harder to promote and market your brand? Or do you feel that being Manchester based has given you an advantage?
I grew up in Manchester and love the city’s music and fashion scene. I think being based outside of London could have been difficult but due to the strong team and brand ethos, it hasn’t been an issue at all.
Well it looks like your set for world domination, where do you want the brand to go next?
World domination would be nice, but right now we’re focussing on our AW15 campaigns and setting up our Native Youth website that will finally go live over the next few months! As a designer it’s great to see something that you work hard on thrive and grow. Hopefully this continues with Native Youth.