Aloof aims to shine a light on the best brands and companies operating in the independent market right now, from all over the world. Those under the radar of the wider consciousness but with great stories to tell and a unique perspective on the nuts and bolts of building a brand.
Scotland. Home to some of the UK's most beautiful scenery, textile mills, and as it turns out, some of the most exciting homegrown brands. First we brought you Dangerfield Mills, then there was Whitehill Mercantile Co. Now here's Devana, another champion of Scottish manufacturing, doing things their own way, responding to the immediate landscape around them. We managed to get some questions in front of their noses, and their responses make for a great read. Enjoy!
Aloof Studio (AS): Could you introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about what you do?
Devana (D): We are Devana, an outdoors lifestyle brand from Aberdeen, Scotland. We thrive to make products designed to cope with the testing environments found in Northern Scotland.
AS: You join the list of brands we’ve talked to with Scottish fabrics and manufacturing at the core of what you do. As we’ve asked them, we’ll ask you too - What makes Scottish manufacturing so good?
D: Scottish manufacturing has great heritage. For example, Halley Stevensons, whose waxed cotton we used in our Summer collection, have been operating out of the same factory since 1864. We find this absolutely incredible, but also we know that there has been over 150 years of knowledge passed down from generation to generation. For this reason, we trust that the fabric is made with some of the best expertise the world has to offer. This doesn’t just apply to Halley Stevensons either, there are countless other mills and factories with similar histories.
AS: We’re massive fans of Halley Stevenson’s waxed cotton but we’d never have thought about putting it onto footwear. What was the development process like to get it adapted to footwear and how does it perform compared to its more popular water-repellant counterparts?
D: Because their fabric is such high quality, it's very adaptable. Through the sampling process we found that it performs well, as it is not only water-repellent but breathable too.
AS: You’re obviously inspired by the wild Scottish landscapes, from sea to mountain. How does this inspiration manifest itself in your design process?
D: We like to look at specific locations, or conditions, and design with these in mind. This allows us to create products that perform well in certain situation – conditions that we know well from years of experience. For example, the North Sea Pullover from our Summer '21 Collection is designed with the exact conditions of the coast of the North Sea in mind – lightweight and breathable for warm summer conditions, but also providing relief from the cutting wind that is ever-present from the North Sea. Working this way makes it easy for us to really nail down exactly how products should look, feel and perform.
AS: How did you end up deciding to start Devana? Was there a series of events that led you to branch out go for it? Any background in Menswear or Footwear?
D: Devana has been a concept which has been growing within us for at least five years really, with it all coming together in the past two or so years. Through our work outside of Devana we work with lots of major brands in the outdoors fashion sphere, creating content and engaging experiences. Through this we get to see a lot of what is up-and-coming in outdoors fashion. Naturally, this inspired us to get the ball rolling with Devana, as we felt we had a lot to offer and could bring something slightly different to everybody else in the market.
AS: You describe Devana as a project rather than a brand or company, which maybe feels quite impermanent. Does Devana have a limited lifespan in your eyes? Or is that it will continue to morph and develop as it moves along?
D: We definitely don’t foresee an end for Devana. The project is still young, and we think it would be very close-minded to say we are a clothing brand, or we are a menswear brand etc, and stick with it. Naturally, Devana will evolve, and new opportunities and inspirations will arise. You could say Devana is a group of core principles more than anything.
AS: How has the response so far been for Devana? We see you’ve sold out in both your T-Shirt styles already!
D: It’s been great! It’s always nerve-racking before the release, and you have nightmares that nobody wants to buy your clothes. But the response has been greater than we expected. We actually had to print extra T-shirts as the initial stock sold out so quickly, too. And we’ve more in the pipeline soon!
AS: Starting a company is almost always a steep learning curve for those involved, and the ability to be nimble and make quick adjustments is key to early success. Have you learnt any lessons throughout the process you would share with people looking to start their own project?
D: Without a doubt. So many things happen, and some things you couldn’t even dream up, never mind prepare for! I’d say the most important thing, when developing products – clothing, footwear etc, is not to settle for anything less than the best. By this I mean, if a factory sends you a sample and it’s a bit shit, take the time to work out why. Is the product good enough? Is the factory up to scratch? Once you commit to selling people products, your reputation is on the line, so make sure the products are the best you can possibly make, even if this takes longer than you’d hoped.
AS: As far as we can tell, Devana is operating on a Direct to Consumer basis. Going forward, are you looking at partnering up with retailers or is it important for you to keep it tight at this point?
D: We’ve had a few conversations already. We’re keen to get our product out there, especially as we only sell to the UK at the moment too. But we want to make sure we are 100% ready for wholesaling and dealing with a global audience before we do anything. At the moment, we are just focussing on growing the brand and improving our products. When the time is right though, we will definitely expand, in one way or another.
AS: What can we expect to see in the near future from Devana?
D: We’re constantly developing products, working with new materials and innovations to constantly improve what we have to offer. There will be a couple more releases this year, and we’re already quite far on with next year’s plans too.