BEHIND THE BRAND: RUDE – PART ONESeptember 8, 2014
With our new and exclusive RUDE X UO collection now unleashed upon the world – we saddle up for a two-part retrospective ride spanning through 15 years of this compelling illustrative design brand.
Taking excerpts from their new book Time Flies When You’re Being Rude, founders and designers, Rupert and Abi Meats, talk us through their brand adventure so far – a very RUDE awakening.
With sketchbooks, a borrowed Mac and no clue as to how to start a fashion label, Rude was born. Rupert and I met at a London design agency in the late 1990’s and quickly realised that our design aesthetic and attitude perfectly aligned. Our desire was to start something new and experiment with different mediums to create our own unique products.
Over a few pints in the pub we decided to join forces a small start-up and combine my meagre client list with Rupert’s handful of recently secured clothing accounts. We registered the name Rude (Which is an abbreviation of RuDesign) and split our shares 50/50. We pooled our limited funds to fulfill the handful of orders we has taken and our life as a brand had begun.
During this year we entered a competition run by Shell to find the young entrepreneur of the year; the format was quite similar to Dragons Den. This process brought real focus to our business – for the first time we had to write a business plan with financial projections and a working cash flow.
We were funding the brand through supplying graphic services to various clients and trying to build Rude at the same time. It was becoming a juggle and we made a decision to focus more on less by choosing to put all of our energies into Rude and make it pay its own pay.
As our company rapidly expanded, we moved our studio from Great Portland Street in Soho to the East End’s Commercial Street. While this area is now fully established, back then the pubs shut at 9pm and very unsavoury characters hung around our new studio premises.
This year would be one of international travel, introducing Rude to new countries and finding agents in multiple territories. We visited Japan for the first time, where we found a huge appetite for our label.
After a few years of establishing the style and attitude of Rude, we embarked on our first full collections for men and women. To help us do this, we employed a fashion graduate from Saint Martins and a production manager. We split the collections into two brands, Rude T-shirts and Rude Clothing.
Up until now we had relied on simple starting blocks, like, tees, A-Line skirts and basic shirt shapes. Now we were thinking more about trends, our customers and they would expect Rude. We replaced our logomania of the past with subtle bindings, discharge printing, embroidery and applique. We embraced silks, velor, denim and seersucker. In a nutshell, we were growing up, in a Rude sort of way.
This was both a very exciting and taxing year for Rude. At the beginning of the year we opened a concept store called Let’s Make T-Shirts (LMTS) in Hanbury Street just off Brick Lane, London E1.
The rear of the shop featured a screen-printing workshop, where we printed bespoke T-shirts for customers while they waited. The tees were then folded into pizza boxes, ready for collection.
One year started with the birth of our first son Billy Meats. His arrival was a surprise, one that pulled our craziness into sharp perspective and got everyone involved. Our shop staff Helen and Kim became carer’s as well as our PA’s, shopkeepers and wholesale account handlers and mail order department. The parcel courier would walk Billy round the block for parcels and the landlady from our local pub bought a playpen, so he became the centre of attention on the shop floor.
The following year was a really difficult one as cash flow hit an all time low. Shops were closing and retail seemed to slow right down, clients were taking longer to pay while suppliers were demanding money up front. We were looking desperately for a financial backer and fire fighting at the same time. By the end of the year, we would release the final Rude collection and be forced to make our staff redundant.
After a difficult trading year in 2004, along with a baby to care for, we decided to scale back our company and take stock of our situation. Rather than compromise the brand we took another tack. We weren’t in a position to take financial risks so decided to play it safe and look for fee paying work rather than buying and selling in an unstable market.
Over the previous years, we had built up a good client base and illustration portfolio, which we decided to turn into our core business. We joined forces with an illustration agent Blunt, whose endless enthusiasm propelled Rude into the advertising sector.
In retrospect this year was a real mix of our core strengths: designing product and illustrating for both clients and ourselves. The great thing about this approach is having the creative freedom to push yourself to new directions but also getting commissioned for doing the work you love. It felt as though we had reached a happy medium – one where we were regaining our confidence with producing our own product again, but on a much smaller scale.
The year started with an unusual commission by kitchen product design company Joseph Joseph. We had worked with them since the launch of the brand, designing various prints for them over the years. This time they wanted something more unusual, so we came up with iconic portraits made from fruit and vegetables. The first one was Elvis who had aubergines for hair.
Return to the UO Blog next week as the RUDE journey continues.