Style Q&A: Vancouver design duo Reuben and Lévi Uwi




Q: How would you describe the Uwi Twins Fashion Label esthetic?

A: Our clothing is for the ones who dare to be different while staying hip and classy. To be more specific, many looks in our collection are made to showcase versatility, enabling the wearer to dress up or dress down any look. Don’t be afraid to ramp up the vibrancy with the use of electrifying magentas and rich purples. We’ve added a few instances of blocking in our arsenal in this collection that elevates it to that “wow” factor.

Q: Who do you design for?

A: We design for men and women who are ambitious enough to create their own paths. As a result of our own experience and creating this fashion label, we are looking to inspire the underdog. The goal is to motivate them to believe that no matter where they come from or what they’ve been through, that they can overcome any obstacle and that they should never give up on their dreams.

Q: You have distinct personal style, so a menswear line seems obvious, but why do a womenswear line too?

A: In all honesty it all started when we were young. We would always give style consultations to our friends and family on what outfits they should wear and how they could make them look better. We’ve developed an eye for style from a young age and always had opinions on what our girlfriends should be wearing. From there, we always knew we wanted to create a line for women to look their best.

Q: You’re launched a pop-up shop this weekend in Vancouver. Where will it be held?

A: The pop-up shop will be held at Studio 730 (730 Richards Street, between Robson and Georgia streets). It will be open from Friday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and we would like to encourage everyone to come by and check out our collection.

Q: What can shoppers expect to find at this pop-up?

A: Shoppers can expect to find some of the hottest and one-of-a-kind pieces that were first showcased on the runway of Vancouver Fashion Week earlier this year. On our opening night we’ll be releasing our behind-the-scenes video of when we first premiered the SS14 collection at VFW. We believe that style is a reflection of oneself. We are trying to help those who our brand speaks to so they can connect with their inner style while wearing our clothing.

Q: Being Vancouver fashion designers, how would you describe the state of the industry here?

A: There are many designers who are small and trying to make it in the industry. Big retail companies have taken over, which is very evident with American retail chains coming into the market. We see a lot of retailers that don’t support local designers and would rather import overseas brands, which in our opinion, aren’t better than the talent we have here in Vancouver and across Canada. Just like in the music industry, designers have to be recognized in the U.S. or Europe before Canada finally takes notice. That being said, this is our second fashion label. The first one was picked up by the Hudson’s Bay Company for four seasons. The challenges that we face in the Vancouver fashion industry just motivate us to be better and to stand out among the crowd.

Q: What’s new for spring/summer 2014?

A: What we’ve seen in spring/summer 2014 are bright hues, splashy patterns and colour-blocking, which can be seen throughout our line. Metallics are definitely trending in SS2014 and we have used them discretely in one of our men’s pieces, the UTFL Leopard shirt. The black and white colour contrasting is very popular this season, which can be seen in our women’s skirt and shorts. Leather is another trend that has graced the runway in SS2014 and truth be told, it’s so versatile that it can work for summer and fall. Leather plays a bigger part in a few pieces in our collection, for example the women’s shorts; in other pieces it’s been subtlety added to the details. Lastly, not new but always a classic for the summer, is the chic white garden party dress.

Q: Do you make your products yourself, and if not, where are they manufactured?

A: We design everything in-house here in Vancouver and manufacture in Asia. We’ve travelled all the way there to check out the space, to make sure that it’s up to industry standards, to meet all the workers, and to ensure quality control.

Q: How did you get into designing?

A: We started a clothing brand called R & U Styles back in 2006 right after high school and pretty much jumped into the ocean to swim with sharks without any formal training. A year and half later, we were fortunate enough to land a deal with the Hudson’s Bay Company. We learned a lot from that experience and that is why we decided to launch our second fashion venture, which we are very excited to bring to market.

Q: What inspires you?

A: Our mom inspires us; if it weren’t for her we wouldn’t be here. We believe that you can’t chase ideas, they have to come to you. We try to simply enjoy life, experience new things and, by making new friends from different backgrounds and understanding their stories and cultures. For example, our 1987 T-shirt in the collection tells a story about birth and survival. The faces on this exquisite cotton shirt are shaped in the form of 1987, which represents the year in which we were born. The images on the shirt are pictures of us at age seven, when our mother drove us out of the terror we faced in Rwanda during the genocide of 1994. This image captures the vision behind brand: to encourage individuals to persevere beyond the hardest challenges.

Q: Where do you design? Do you have a studio, workshop, or work out of your home?

A: In today’s age you can work from anywhere as long as you have a laptop, so we decided to work from home as a lot of our operations are done online and overseas.

Q: What is the price point of UTFL pieces?

A: The price point of our clothes is anywhere in between $40 to $350, depending on the piece.

Q: Finally, what are your ambitions for your label?

A: We hope to eventually take the brand across Canada and have it recognized internationally.

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