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.
We've been intrigued about Lite Year for a long time now. As dedicated hatsmen, we love their range of headwear, be it cord, nylon or tie dyed in collaboration with master dyer Emersin. Although their accessories would be enough to cement themselves as a brand to watch, Lite Year is also an agency with fingers in a whole plethora of pies. From launching Uxe Mentale alongside artist Gustavo Eandi to running showrooms with some of the most exciting emerging brands, Lite Year have seen, and been through a lot. We couldn't possibly squeeze everything about them into this small paragraph, so we'll let them take you through what Lite Year is all about.
Aloof Studio (AS): Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do?
Lite Year (LY): Thanks so much for taking the time to put together these questions!
We’re Yuri Sin and Andy Enness, and we’re partners in Lite Year and Uxe Mentale. Yuri recently just moved to LA a few months ago but was living in NYC for 11 years prior that. Andy has been in LA for a few years now after moving from NYC.
We spend a lot of time between LA and NYC, our agency focuses on a few different pillars in fashion: wholesale/partnerships, production, a strategy. We work with a wide range of businesses, from brands, retailers, restaurants, and other agencies as well.
AS: Operating on both coasts with some very polarizing fashion viewpoints, who dresses better, New York or LA?
LY: Haha, there will always be some healthy competition between NY and LA. The biggest difference is the lifestyle aspect of the two cities. By nature, LA has a more casual and laid back aesthetic and NYC is definitely a lot more high-fashion. The people in NY are generally more committed to dressing up given the fast pace professional work environment and seasonal weather. We’re lucky to be able to enjoy both!
AS: Following on from that, Andrew, you’re from Australia and Yuri, you’re originally from DC. Do you feel like coming from outside of hotspot fashion destinations like NY or LA has given you a different perspective on clothing?
LY: Yuri - growing up in the DC area, the diversity and exposure to different cultures and communities provided a lot of insight on what people are interested in wearing and what subcultures they want to participate in. Having access to a large city at such a young age, taught me a lot about consumer behaviors and why brands/products/clothing need to come from an authentic place.
Andy - My experience of growing up in a coastal region of Australia has given me a different perspective. I was more interested in other activities and design outside of clothing. I worked in a skateboard/surf/snowboard retail store as a teenager, which was the extent of my interactions with clothing. It didn’t take up much of my head space prior to moving to NYC in 2009, so I feel like much of my perspective is informed from that time point onwards.
A lot of it has changed in the past several years with social media and globalization. People now have easier access to information which was a lot harder to obtain when we were growing up!
AS: Lite Year appears to be a jack of all trades, from running your own line, to consulting on collections and heading up wholesale & distribution for brands. What are your backgrounds in the industry? To provide so many services with a relatively small team, you must have a real depth of knowledge!
LY: Our careers in this industry have primarily consisted on launching a wide range of brands in the market place, some have worked, some haven’t, each one has been an opportunity to learn
and gain experience. We’ve also been fortunate to work
with and learn from some really talented people.
Working in small teams with limited budgets, we’ve had to wear so many different hats with a wide range of responsibilities and experiences which we’re now able to call upon. We do a lot of the unsexy work! We feel confident in our instincts and abilities when looking at a new brand or considering a project, though there are so many factors that can still catch you by surprise, good and bad. It’s definitely not the easiest route to take but it’s the most rewarding!
AS: With the vast amount of consultancies around, how does Lite Year set themselves apart from the others?
LY: We try not to focus on our “competition” or what other agencies work on. It’s important to stay focused on what we’re passionate about, and we just do what we believe in. We don’t really know what others are up to, so we can't be sure how this differentiates us in a traditional competitive analysis sense, though our business is very reflective of our experiences, personalities, beliefs and interests, which probably differentiates us at the core.
Bigger agencies probably want to chase larger projects, given their head count or staff size. We’re a small team and want to support young talent and creatives where we can. It means a lot to us when we can team up personal projects or work with independent businesses like ourselves.
AS: Could you talk us through the process of how you come to work with creatives and brands?
LY: Sometimes, it’s an introduction from a friend or a colleague in our space, or it’s a cold call or e-mail that we send out when we’re interested in a brand or the work an artist is working on. Generally speaking, if it’s constantly on our minds and we keep talking about it, we know we need to approach the person ASAP and start a conversation on how we can work together. We think about compatibility as well. It’s so important to have good chemistry with the person you’re working with. There are many other filters that we apply when considering new opportunities, though they seem to be based on instinct and experience without us necessarily giving them much consideration.
AS: There’s really not too much online about yourselves. How would you sum up your approach to your own line? Any guiding ethos to what you do?
LY: Haha! We love that! We’re both really introverted people and not big into being in the spotlight.The projects, brands, and creatives that, we work with are generally the focus and we want to make sure we highlight them first and foremost.
AS: Why did you use hats as your starting point to introduce a Lite Year brand? It seems more unconventional than the standard T-Shirt route most would take?
LY: We think hats are a great canvas to explore and have fun with, whether it’s fabrications, print, color, embroidery etc. Hats have always been fun, Andy has always worn hats and he wanted to make some hats for himself to run in. We felt like we could be a bit more exploratory with the design process and we really enjoy it.
AS: What music are you guys currently listening to?
LY: This varies quite a bit between the two of us.
Yuri - Khrungbin, Hope Tala, Arlo Parks, Onyx Collective are a few that make the list, but I’ve also been getting into a lot of classics like Sister Sledge and Donnie Smith because of my fiancé!
Andy - A lot of NPR Radio, I seem to spend a lot of time in the car now I’m living in Los Angeles. Listening to NPR is probably the most enjoyable part of that experience!
AS: You often spotlight retailers that you admire or work with. How do you see the future of bricks and mortar retail in a post-pandemic world? Does it have to evolve?
LY: For a long time, a lot of retailers were following what we call a “formula”, based on what got the most hype online, but with the post-pandemic world, speciality retailers that we admire or stand out to us have a strong point of view, are community driven, take risks by trying something new and introduce young talent. We’ve always been excited for independent retail and we’re so excited to see a new age of retailers thriving right now.
AS: We love a hidden gem, it's why we do what we do. Are there any places, brands, creatives that mean a lot to you that you’d like more people to know about?
LY: All the creatives we partnered up with this past year mean so much to us! Spacehose, Emersin, 1733, Small Talk Studio, Franchise, PRMTVO, Satta, And Austin, Bobby Engvall and lastly our partner in Uxe Mentale, Gustavo Eandi. Big shout out to Gustavo who is just the most incredible designer. The best part of all is this “list” continues to evolve and we continue to be able to find newness to be excited by.
AS: You currently run showrooms in New York and Paris. When are we going to see a Lite Year showroom in the UK?
LY: Covid obviously put the physical showrooms on pause. In early 2020 we had quite a few plans for more in person events. We’ve really missed the in person aspect of our business and we can’t wait to get back to that. We’d love do something in the UK, it’s such an important market and hopefully when the world re-opens, we can visit soon.
AS: What can we expect to see from Lite Year in the near future?
LY: We’ve got a few more collaborations and creative partnerships coming out the later half of this year that we’re really stoked on! These are the things that we really enjoy working on. We just completed a project with NYC based artist, Nick Williams of Small Talk Studio that released recently that’s on our website now!