Welcome to Brand To Watch , a new bi-weekly style column from COMPLEX UK. Here, we’ll be spotlighting the best emerging brands out of the UK, asking them what makes them stand out from the crowd, how they’ve navigated through unprecedented times and determining their vision of fashion and the future.
For emerging brands, establishing what will set them apart from the crowd can be an arduous task, especially when it comes to relaying that unique selling point to the masses.
However, for Benjamin Adofo and Victor Egunlae, founders of London-based clothing imprint
VSMINE, their ethos is very much worn heart-on-sleeve, so much so it’s in the name of the brand itself. “VSMINE is the moment you truly realise you are in competition with nobody but yourself,” says Benjamin of the brand pronounced ‘Versus Mine’.
Taking that feeling of self-determination and putting it at the core of the creative medium both creators wanted to push, VSMINE has gone from a limited run of tees to organically growing piece by piece, where they now offer a full collection that reflects both of its owners’ personalities.
Getting to know more about the brand and why they should be on your radar, we got Benjamin and Victor to break down VSMINE’s early beginnings, their influences, challenges, and goals for the company moving forward.
COMPLEX: What were your main inspirations for setting up VSMINE originally?
Benjamin: We get inspired by what we see in our day-to-day lives. An idea could come from something unexpected, and that could inspire a shape or a palette. We’ve learnt over time to be open-minded and challenge ourselves to think differently. Growing up in London, there’s a blend of different cultures and inspiration all around us, so we’ve used that to shape and mould our own identities. Our personalities also play a big part. One of us is usually a bit more casual and the other tends to be a bit more formal. So, often, we do look internally for things we want to bring to life. We also both like to switch it up and have an appreciation for really clean design, which tends to help. It is in those differences that we found our sweet spot and have been pursuing it ever since.
Naturally, we’re both quite reserved and I think that’s reflected in our designs. We’re not the loudest in the room but, just like when you get to know us—as with most people—you see and realise that there are layers. We often ask ourselves: is there a way you could wear this piece out on a date, to the office or different scenarios and still have something about you? It’s only when you asked this question we realised it translates directly to the pieces that we design. What might come across as unassuming at first, but on closer inspection you realise there’s a lot more going on that first meets the eye. Whether that be the textures of the fabrics, the internal piping or even the subtle tonal embroidery.
What did you want to achieve with the new collection?
Victor: If we were to sum it up it would be ‘Simplified Sophistication’. We tried not to overdesign or complicate things and only make pieces that we love. Whilst designing, we created each piece with the idea they be interchanged, paired, or layered together with minimal effort. With it being our first full offering, we wanted to make sure that we delivered a really clean cohesive vision, look and feeling. One of the ways we try and achieve this is through consistency and ensuring quality remains at the heart of the collection. We do the absolute best we can with what we have, whilst focusing on the craftsmanship of each piece and ensuring they’re made to last beyond the season—in both design and function. We also wanted to make sure the customer remains the most important part of this while we grow, by building on the customer experience from start to finish and ensuring it’s one we can be proud of.
Where do you run the label from?
Victor: We’re pretty mobile and run VSMINE from home in London—in and out of our factories based in the UK, too. In this new age of technology, it’s a lot easier to do stuff on the go via our phones and laptops.
How did you navigate through 2020 as a business?
Benjamin: 2020 was been a crazy year for everyone. At first, in the earlier months, just like everyone else, we didn’t know what we were going to do but it seemed like there was a message in there. It allowed us to slow down and really think about what we wanted to do. Fortunately, we made the decision to move manufacturing to the UK at the end of 2019. Yes, it’s more expensive, but it meant that we were able to continue working, build closer and better relationships with our factories and have greater control of the final products. We’re still a new brand so it allows us to be flexible and adaptable to situations and direction. Managing a business with a big supply chain, we understand the path isn’t a straight line and in this industry you will have problems to solve everyday, whether that be with suppliers, logistics, fabrics, planning photoshoots etc. You build up your resilience getting through each day and ready for the next.
We just kept pushing and grinding even when nobody was watching or expecting anything from us. We used the collection as a small form of escapism from everything that’s going on, giving us a real sense of purpose. It’s that drive that keeps us going; the highs are high and the lows are low, but passion keeps us going. It’s that relentless pursuit that gives us energy after a 14-hour day, staying up with the pattern cutters until 4am to make sure it’s right, waking up in the morning and going again. It’s those things that drive us throughout the process. We’re really grateful to even be in a position where we can continue. We’ve seen shops open and close in the space of three months! There were times when we were down and would give ourselves a hard time, but never abandoning hope really kept us pushing through. We’ve both made sacrifices so the business could continue.
What’s the ultimate vision for the company?
Victor: The vision is always to be better than who we were yesterday. Although we have the same vision, we are quite different in our approach; celebrating those differences really helps bring a sense of balance to the team. We’re literally just getting started—a couple brothers from the ends trying to make it happen whilst creating a legacy. We want to be able to look back at our collections created over the years and be proud knowing that we stayed true to who we both are and didn’t allow our vision or integrity to be dictated by trends.
Benjamin: We’d also love to open a flagship store one day and be in a position where we can give back, but we also understand that all good things take time. We’ve set a good personal benchmark for ourselves; just like our brand message, we’re only competing with ourselves and aim to improve day by day. Who knows where that will get us, but one thing is for sure: we will always move forward, never backwards.
Head to the VSMINE website to cop the brand’s 2021 collection now.