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Banking on success

TOP TAILORS: (L-R) Alan Adewale and Vidal Bull

FROM A clothing line formed whilst studying together at university, fashion designers Vidal Bull and Alan Adewale are pushing the traditional boundaries of street fashion with their lifestyle brand Visual Artist Garments, also known as VA-G.

The brand has been endorsed by the likes of Ozwald Boateng, Chris Brown and Melanie Fiona and having already worked with names such as G-Shock and I LUV LIVE, their latest collaboration with Barclays Bank PLC is expected to propel their line to new heights.

The two designers spoke exclusively to L&S about fashion, Hackney and breaking into the corporate world.

What inspired you to link up and form VA-G?

Vidal: Alan and I met in 2008 whilst at the University of Bedfordshire and we both shared the same vision about starting our own fashion label. When we were at university we felt we could achieve more than just a degree and by the time we left we had something to continue to build on. It was a lot of fun; we worked hard together, saved our money and put everything into the business.

Alan: The vision from the start was to create a lifestyle brand where each piece of clothing was accessible and affordable and to connect with people on a personal level.

How did the collaboration with Barclays come about?

V: The VA-G offices are situated in Hackney, east London and the council were supporting local businesses by helping partnerships with pre-existing companies. They were interested in what we do so we met with the marketing team at Barclays who already have campaigns like Barclays Bikes in London, and came up with some ideas of how we can print clothes for them to build on their existing sponsorships.

A: We’ve also had the opportunity to collaborate with various other brands. But working with Barclays we came up with specific design based t-shirts that would be worn at several functions across the UK by consumers and Barclays staff. We’re really happy to be a part of it.


RAPPER’S DELIGHT: Tyga sporting a top with VA-G co-founder Vidal Bull

What makes VA-G different to other clothing brands?

V: We’ve been able to tap into the student market and the younger generation. We started before the explosion of Twitter, Instagram and all those different avenues. We’ve had to adapt from being psychically visible to promoting online. We’ve been able to reach out to other countries, like the US and all over Europe. We’ve had well-known musicians like Wale, Dappy from N-Dubz, Trey Songz and Chris Brown endorse VA-G, but also managed to stay relatable to everyone.

A: We’ve been able to break away from the stereotypical urban trends affiliated with
London. We wanted to change perceptions and break barriers of what was seen as socially acceptable. For example, with our menswear garments we wanted to be futuristic and experimental to give a fresh alternative to the norm. We researched Russian art and Aztec print but fashion changes every day. We’ve tried to stay relevant to what is on trend and in season.

When did you discover that fashion was your calling?

A: From an early age I enjoyed painting and drawing. I had a good eye for colour and texture and I always wanted to design something different to what I saw out there. Fashion was something I picked up as I grew older, like many teens. I stopped wearing baggy jeans and hoodies and moved to fitted clothes.

I stopped wearing all black when I started to break up my outfits and thought about what I wore as a whole before stepping out my house. Although fashion was something I loved, designing was my true passion so I when learnt I could fuse the two; the sky was the limit.

V: Growing up in a Ghanaian family fashion was always a way to express yourself. I think I’ve always had a decent sense of style so for me VA-G was about continuing what I felt I always had, knowing how quick trends change and wanting to expand it beyond myself.


BANKING ON IT: VA-G’s Barclay’s sponsored t-shirt

Have you suffered any set backs along the way? If so, how did you overcome them?

V: We face challenges every day, we started the brand with nothing but faith and even when people doubted us, we had to work hard to make people believe in the brand. Being new in business and not having the experience you need when doing a project of this magnitude, we constantly faced difficulties.

We had issues dealing with our clients overseas, getting the right people to believe and work with us, the right ideas to go with our concepts and even getting models. We feel the most important thing is we did it our way, it was hard but we did it.

I think it’s a good thing and I hope we can inspire other young black men and women to believe in their dreams and aspirations. As black people we need to support each other more though. I find that other races all support each other and we should too.

A: We didn’t want to rely on investments and we’ve built the brand ourselves with our own money. We had jobs on the side and worked to put the money back into the business. We’re fortunate now to get regular sales from the online store. When people find out about the brand they are really impressed.

At times there can be an initial shock when they see us face to face, but we have to show them that we are two professional black men who are building a future and are passionate about what we do. We do this through the way we dress, how we carry ourselves and through our work ethic. More than anything we, including other successful black men and women, should be known for what we achieve. As Vidal said colour shouldn’t be seen as an issue, we should all support each other.


ALL THAT HE WANTS: VA-G electric blue zip up jacket

What advice would you offer to other up-and-coming designers and fashion entrepreneurs?

V: Speaking at workshops like a recent one at the Stephen Lawrence centre with an organisation called Inspirational U we’ve seen different people trying to break into fashion and find it hard to translate their passion into a reality. I would say firstly you have to believe in what you’re trying to do and never give up.

Building a network of people that also believe in you is also important. Having celebrities wear our clothing has been a case of doing our research and arranging meetings. You have to try and stand out and think about how it relates to the person you want to represent your brand.

A: Chase your dreams. Trust in your struggle. The problem is not achieving goals; it's setting them so go for it!

For more information on VA-G visit, www.va-gltd.com

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