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.
In truth, Figurments have been on our radar for quite some time. Their growth is evident, with each drop and new collection refining the quality and graphics that have come to define them. Proudly from the North West, surrounded by other incredible makers, some of whom we've had the chance to interview already, it's our absolute pleasure to introduce Figurments to the Aloof website.
Aloof Studio (AS): Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do?
Figurments (F): We are Figurments, consisting of Rob and Gre, two lifelong friends who grew up on a mutual love of punk rock, skateboarding and tattoos. We’ve been doing this since 2018. We now exist to produce the highest quality garments and accessories made locally, ethically and sustainably, by the finest craftspeople.
AS: You proudly represent Manchester through designing,making and printing in and around the city since your inception. How has the manufacturing history and cultural attitudes of Manchester influenced what Figurments do?
F: Well Manchester was the centre of the global cotton trade during Victorian times and most of the mill buildings in the city bear testament to that. Unfortunately, during the 20th century a lot of this industry stopped and moved overseas, but we worked hard to build relationships with those that remained, so we can proudly say we make our garments in Manchester with a company that imports Supima cotton from the USA, spins the yarn themselves, knits the fabrics in Leicester and then cuts and sews the garments all within the same building.
Despite living on Merseyside growing up, we were always in Manchester for gigs, to skate, or get tattooed and then we lived together here a couple of times, so we’ve always been quite in tune with the vibe of the city. The creative scene has grown really strongly over the last ten or so years. People in Manchester love their clothes, they want something that looks good but also has a bit of a story behind it.
AS: Throughout Figurments collections, there’s been multiple references to Japan and a use of Japanese iconography. Do you feel pressure to honour the history and legacy of Japanese illustrations, and how do you navigate this in the design process?
F: We’ve both had a longstanding love of Japanese culture, Rob has been lucky enough to go to Japan a few times, and we’re both covered in Japanese tattoos so it seemed a natural process to have these influences in our garments - not only from a visual aspect, but also that attention to detail that the best Japanese brands have, and a real interest in the fabric and construction methods.
We spend a long time deciding on the graphics for each collection, and they have to have a story behind them and a context to work in, and we ensure we pay the utmost respect to the traditions of each visual we use. For our recent Ikebana designs, we researched historically correct pairings of flowers vases, the stands they sit on, the scroll positioning etc. So we don’t feel the pressure as such, because we are already embedding that respect and honour into each design.
AS: Adding on to that, are you working with illustrators to produce your graphics or is it all done in house?
F: It’s all done by Gre based on his own ideas. We’re careful to not just use popular Japanese tattoo designs like Koi, Dragons and Samurai, because as obviously cool as these all are, there are already brands and other tattoo artists putting these designs onto garments, so we need to be a little different.
We’re sure there's space in the future of Figurments for other illustrators to play their part in our designs, as collaboration is key to how we operate and it’s actually one of the most fun parts of doing this, meeting new people and bouncing ideas around.
AS: You’ve just launched Collection 6, which to us seems like a development of a brand becoming more cohesive with each drop and really finding their feet and direction. Was there a particular narrative or theme that you worked with in mind?
There were two main themes for us, the first one being the idea of rebirth and renewal. As we all went into lockdown over the last year, a lot of people started to slow down and think about their direction in life, some of these people decided to do something completely different so as they came out of lockdown, it felt like a new start. We also liked the idea of rebirthing the cotton industry in Manchester, so the image of the phoenix coupled with our new manufacturing path just seemed to fit so well!
The second theme was around appreciating nature during lockdown or spending time in the garden, planting flowers and hearing the buzz of insects. We got together one day during the summer and started work on the Ikebana designs and just kept reading up about all the rituals and rules involved and it fascinated us!
AS: Something that’s noticeable when looking at Figurments clothes, is that for a brand largely driven by graphics, the technical garment specifications are celebrated and are of equal importance to you. Has this always been a focus for yourselves, or did this come through research and development when starting the brand?
F: It has been a focus from quite early on! We decided to make some long sleeve T-shirts in 2018 and that kickstarted our journey into manufacturing our own garments. Neither of us has come from a fashion background so we had to learn everything from the ground up, from creating a pattern, what GSM means, the difference between woven and knitted fabrics, and just how to work with manufacturers. We needed to know this stuff and as we’ve grown, we’ve gotten more and more into the finer details of each garment. We find it all fascinating, dissecting designs and how an inch here and there can totally change the fit and feel of something. It’s a lot more hard work but it feels necessary to achieve the highest quality garment.
AS: We’ve had the opportunity to share and talk to a number of North-West based brands over the last couple of years. Are there any people or brands from up North that you think deserve more attention?
F: There are some incredible Manchester based brands and institutions - Proper Mag, Oi Polloi, Good Measure and so on! We always want to big up Mike at Long Shot Exp, a Scouse milliner making incredible hats in the suburbs. If you like leather goods, get at Millshed operating in Stockport and if waxed cotton backpacks are your thing, Mat from Both Barrels is your man.
AS: How are things shaping up for 2022?
Any plans in place for your next collection?
F: 2022 is looking good! We’re always quite fluid on our plans and tend not to get too far ahead of ourselves! Let’s just say some new things we haven’t done before and some reimagined old favourites are in the works, whilst we continue to support British manufacturing.