WORDS AND INTERVIEW BY BEN FREEMAN
Any creative process requires belief. Belief in the concept of what you’re doing, belief in your ability to execute the matter at hand and, perhaps most importantly, belief in a greater vision. Without this vital essence of confidence, the first steps will forever remain little more but a plan.
Young By James is an up and coming clothing brand captained by homegrown designer, James Benson; someone who has certainly consolidated his vision. James has began to reveal his work, recently unveiling a campaign tee which sold out in hours.
The campaign tee (the first physical product of the designer’s imagination) sold out instantly. The tees weren’t only favoured locally, but internationally too. If you look through the brand’s shipping labels, you’ll find addresses in Denmark, Switzerland, France and the Netherlands. A sure sign of great things to come for a brand still in its infancy years.
Let it also be said, James and I have been a close friends since we were 12 year olds stunting in G-shocks and Diamond Supply snapbacks, so seeing him succeed feels just as much a success for me too.
Here’s what he had to say…
Introduce yourself – for those that don’t know, who are you and what do you do?
Hello everyone, my name is James, and I express my ideas and opinions through design and visual language. I am currently working on a concept/construction of a brand entitled ‘Young’.
Are there any designers you look up to?
Despite becoming more mainstream, I have to appreciate the work of Virgil Abloh, the pioneer behind Off White. The reason being, he holds the same values as I do when it comes to his outlook on fashion. He understands the importance of the youth. A large aspect of fashion is marketing. The guy sold screen prints on Ralph Lauren blanks at a 700% mark up; aka if you have the tools (marketing + youth culture backing) you are in powerful position. Others- Samuel Ross, Jim Longden, Shayne Oliver, PRE 2006 Raf Simons and Shane Gonzalez.
*Architecture- Zaha Hadid, check out her work!*
How long have you been serious about fashion?
I have always heavily relied on fashion as the primary source of expression. Being a quiet guy I prefer to listen and process surroundings as opposed to being overly expressive through voice. I have, however always been overly expressive with clothing, whether it is elongated sleeves, weird looking pants or some other head turning piece of clothing; I have worn it with little care of background comments. There are times when my outfits become ridiculed but that’s simply because it’s different and it’s something you just have to accept.. It’s just how people are. For me, I was always into fashion as it was the most appropriate outlet for me; therefore I feel there are no boundaries.
Fashion is seen as a prestigious industry that can be very exclusive; did this provide any obstacles in getting to where you are now?
I like this question because this is the exact reason my project was created. I didn’t want to fall into the norm where businesses make garments with no resonating meaning between the lines. There’s nothing worse than something that holds no relevance to the project ethos. It was extremely hard for me, a 17 year old male with no previous experience in fashion. It took me 2 years to finally gain the smallest of confidence through amateur outlets which allowed me to do what I am doing now. The 3 main barriers were, start-up capital, language barriers and my age. It’s impossible to benefit from overseas designers when they don’t speak the language; and 5am conversations with Chinese suppliers gradually got the better of me. Most UK suppliers don’t give the time of day to people my age, which was the motivation for me to go forward with my idea. Respect to Jacob, my supplier and mentor, for taking me under his wing!
What was it that made you wake up one morning and just go out and do it?
As with a lot of people, Its late in the night when I become creative- and so I was sat with a pencil and an art pad when I got an email from my (now graphic designer) explaining how the designs I had done were torn down by some higher up ‘established designers’ or so they call themselves.. I was so mad, and that’s when I drew up ‘Young’- a project that is put forward by under 21’s; mainly as a f**k you to every older person that said that I’d be left with dead stock and not be able to connect my vision with those around me. A year later I have released a campaign tee which sold out in under 2hrs and I have a reserve list for my next drop at the end of this month. To answer the question, those that laughed about my ideas and didn’t trust the process are the reason I am here. That and the fact I love design.
Where can we expect Young By James to be in ten years time?
I want to be successful within the brand I am trying to construct now. I want to be youth orientated and design clothes; NOT for the profit but for the ability to provide a platform for young people to have an outlet. I feel that young people most definitely have the knowledge to really leave their mark on whatever it is they excel in. Albeit what good is knowledge without an outlet? As long as the buzz of people wearing and enjoying what I create stays with me; then in 10 year’s time I will be the same guy doing what I love to do whilst fighting young people’s corner.
what have been your most rewarding accomplishments to date?
For anyone scared to take that first step, what would you suggest?
It’s an understatement when I say that it takes a lot of time, reading, planning, designing and getting it wrong before you really come up with something that you believe in. the harsh reality is you should never decide to start a clothing project if you don’t have a set concept or idea- everything will become meaningless and your business will have no direction. From my past experience, I entered cut and sew way too early, I made the mistake and rectified it. I spent 2 years on the t shirt releasing in a few weeks as I didn’t have the following: platform or money. It really is just believing in the process and forecasting the longevity. Lots of people have messaged me asking what to do and my only advice is to invest time and money (where necessary) and never feel belittled by what anyone tells you. Feel free to message me if you are in need of any questions as this is part of what I’m doing it for!
I just want to use this platform to thank everyone that has stuck by me through the process so far and I hope you like what is coming at the end of this month! Also, love to No-Abbott, a platform giving a voice to young people.
Thanks for reading.
Don’t forget to hit up the brand on Instagram: @YoungByJames